Saturday, July 16, 2011

Does money override a newspaper's morality al la News of the World?

Dear Mondli Makhanya, Editorial Chief of the Avusa Group (Sunday Times etc),
          The News of the World was in the business of holding others to account. But it failed when it came to itself. That’s what James Murdoch; chairman of the British arm of News Corp said when he announced the closure of the 168 year old paper.
          Well your Johannesburg based Sunday Times; South Africa’s largest national paper with sales of over half a million a week, is doing the same thing, albeit on a much smaller scale.
          What’s more, as you know, it blatantly advertises its guilty conscience by telling its readers to watch out because the Sunday Times cannot vouch for the claims made by advertisers. This is what it says in ads headed WARNING in large black letters and it goes on to say Readers are advised to carefully scrutinize advertisements offering investment opportunities.
          Does it believe this will make it blameless when some pensioner or other investor loses their life savings after putting it into some dodgy scheme promoted in your paper?
          I would love to know why these warnings, which The Paper for the People had apparently carried for years, suddenly stopped some months ago. I liked to believe that this was as a result of my on-going campaign to get it to stop taking the dubious advertising that these warnings were presumably referring to.
        However the warnings have recently reappeared and needless to say the suspect ads have never ceased even though Thabo Leshilo, the previous internal ombudsman for your Avusa Group, wrote a Sunday Times article some two years ago saying that ads, like the rest of the paper, should be believable. The article was in response to my complaint.
          Is this kind of claim believable Mondli? Earn R60 000 per month. No selling. No effort. Totally passive income. Capital required R295 000(money back guarantee). That was conveniently parked on a page that did not have the warning.
          For an investment of R15 000 another one promised a return of R60 000 per month between months 3 and 6. This was said to be the truth about making money. As if anybody could possibly not believe it.
          Then elsewhere those, who are even more gullible than the people at your paper who accept these ads, were told they could earn 24% P.A. with a minimum R25 000.
          This was at a time when none of the major banks or the Government’s Retail Bonds was offering more than 8%. And to get that the investment would have had to be tied up for two years or more.
          Your warning does not refer to any specific type of investment opportunity so in its present form it casts a slur on the type of ads I have just referred to as well as whole page, colour ones from reputable banks and other financial institutions
       But like the News of the World it seems that making money takes precedence over morality even if you are, like the News of the World, in the business of holding others to account.
       And we all know now where that policy got that newspaper.
          Yours doggedly,
          Jon, the Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman
P.S. I don’t know if you remember this, but a recent Sunday Times Editorial, right next to your usual column, had this to say. We are open to criticism. More than that, we welcome it. South Africa’s media will not improve their standards if they ignore what their critics have to say. Well so far this critic hasn’t exactly been ignored on this subject. The only trouble is your paper made an undertaking which it never stuck to.
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