Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sunday Times' phoney morality

Dear Joe Latakgomo Ombudsman for the Sunday Times and The Times,
          This must be unique. How often does one Ombudsman complain about another one?
          As the Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman I feel I have to congratulate you on the one hand and reprimand you on the other.
          In a spat between Radio 702; Yusuf  Abramjee, head of news at Prime Media the owners of 702; Katy Katopodis the station’s News Editor and The Times and its big sister the Sunday Times you made a ruling for once. Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t this the first ruling you have made since you were appointed the Avusa newspaper group’s Ombudsman or Public Editor as they fancifully dubbed you, more than a year ago?
          You took up an entire page of The Times to tell us that in an editorial and a subsequent column in the Sunday Times by Phylicia Oppelt, the editor of The Times, there was no justification for the attacks that had been made on Abramjee, who also happens to be Chairman of the Press Club, Katopodis and John Robbie, one of the station’s presenters.
          They had been accused of behaving unethically in connection with a story about a police unit having been disbanded, although it had had some success in curbing the activities of car hijackers that were masquerading as policemen in the Johannesburg area.
          In giving your decision you said that journalists must always be fair and honest in their reporting and dealings with those with whom they interact. You added that they must rise above their personal perspectives.  
          This prompted me to ask: Have you lived up to these high ideals yourself in dealing with my complaints to you regarding the Sunday Times.
          I’m referring here to Jim Jones, the former Editor of the Johannesburg based Business Day, who as a freelance has been the willow-the-wisp of the business section (Business Times) of the Sunday Times ever since a damning Noseweek article in October 2009.
Now you see his byline now you don’t.
Noseweek's Report
This investigative magazine revealed that he had been fired by Alec Hogg’s Moneyweb and had then written a scathing article in the Business Times for which the paper had to apologise.
At the time Hogg had this to say: The full might of the Sunday Times was brought to bear on our small company with falsehoods published as fact and not so much as a suggestion that we be asked for a response to some outrageous claims.
My initial thought was to ignore the nonsense. Surely people would see through the axe grinding of a former employee who was forced to repay R200 000 that he stole from our company.
At the time of the Noseweek article Jones’ reports were all over the Business Times together with his impressive byline. Then it got smaller and smaller and disappeared for a time only to reappear now and again at bigger and bigger intervals, but still in its hardly noticeable form.
In one of your general columns in the Sunday Times of 1 July this year you told readers that the Media must stick to nothing but the truth and that it derived its moral authority from being trusted.
It was ironic therefore that in the following week’s Business Times the Jim Jones byline should reappear.
And in an email to you I asked: Is this the kind of standard the Avusa Group sets? Can one trust a newspaper that continues to employ someone it knows has a record of this kind, especially in the Business section of a national paper?
You didn’t even have the courtesy to reply to me. Do you only consider complaints when they involve big names and ignore all the others?
So much for that reliance on that moral authority to be trusted that you talked about and being fair and honest with those with whom you interact.
There’s one thing about being a journalist from which there is no escape. You can’t claim you were misquoted if it’s there in print under your name.
So if you are going to continue telling us how the ideal journalist behaves in Heaven the least you can do is practise what you preach.
That’s my ruling.
Yours suspiciously,
Jon, who once thought he was wrong, but he was mistaken.

P.S. As you know the Sunday Times doesn’t easily admit its mistakes as my post noseweek exposes dearjon letter shows. So that’s why people have to rely on an Ombudsman, who should be impartial.

NOTE: Before I posted this I sent it to Joe in the interests
of FAIRNESS so he could make any comments he wished.
I got no reply.

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