Sunday, April 21, 2013

Can Swearing on Twitter & Journalism mix?

Dear Newspaper Readers,
Carien, ever the child

         Do you think it’s reasonable for journalists to play a dual writing role in the belief that the one can’t affect the other?
         What I’m talking about is hacks that are employed by newspapers and voice their opinions on social media at the same time using language that their papers wouldn’t countenance.
         For example I had a bit of an altercation on Twitter with Carien du Plessis who bills herself as a City Press political reporter. She claims: Love the job. In fact married to it.
         In my newspaper days political writers were in the top echelons of the profession, who you would not have expected to behave in a childish way; using attention seeking foul language for all to see. It would have damaged both their own and their paper’s credibility.
         But nobody seems to care now, least of all the City Press. This is a national Sunday paper with 1.6 million readers that claims to be the second most quoted paper in South Africa.

      Over a period of about a week I tried to get hold of City Press’ Editorial Policy. I got shunted from one person to another; given a wrong email address and then just when I thought I would get the answer from Gayle Edmunds, the Managing Editor, she referred me to somebody else.

      But not before confessing I don’t have a copy. How shameful. Needless to say I heard nothing from the person she asked to give me the information.
         Does the paper actually have one, I wondered
         Like a good journalist, as I don’t know what it contains, I will have to guess or better still quote an anonymous ‘source’.
         My source tells me that City Press journalists are not allowed to use swear words and any type of foul language to colour their reports.
         So if this is the case is it reasonable for Carien, who is actually their Senior Political writer, to spice up her Tweets with unnecessary words like crap, fukkit, shit and pee in my pants.
         My tiff with her on Twitter began after she Tweeted: Oh crap. I’m not good at this Lotto thing.

         The Twitter conversation then continued like this.

Jon - A lady doesn’t say ‘crap’. But then I suppose female journos have to keep up with the boys.

Carien - May be ladies don’t, but fortunately I’m not a lady. So I’ll say crap if I want to.

Jon - Thankfully some ladies are extinct because they keep saying ‘crap’ in front of your mother & they are proud of it. 

Carien - It’s my mom who raised me to be a woman, free from the crap that limits ladies to behave lady-like.

Jon - I’m surprised because in my limited experience Afrikaans vrous are extremely lady-like. And they would be shocked to have a daughter who craps on twitter for the world to see where she’s come from. Hopefully they’ve got good editors at City Press because people often complain that there’s a lot of crap in the papers.(That's two Tweets in one in case you are mystified)

Carien – Welcome to the 21st century, grandpa.

         Evidently I’m not the only media grandpa around who believes that foul language is not appropriate.
    Yusuff Abramjee the Head of News & Current Affairs Prime Media Broadcasting and Chairman of the National Press Council no less Tweeted this about Jackson Mthembu, the ANC party’s spokesman, Your language is a disgrace. Using the word “pissing” in not appropriate.
         I put this question about Carien’s language on Twitter to Ferial
Haffagee, the City Press’ Editor in Chief. Is it ok for your political reporter to crap on Twitter? Does that not reflect on your paper at all?

         And I added, Ferial don’t’ tell me it’s alright because she did it in her personal capacity, because reporters can’t divorce their Twits from their work.
         Has Ferial’s staff perhaps taken their lead from her? When she tells us about her background on Twitter she says I tweet what I like in my own capacity.
         I assume that means that whatever she says on Twitter will have no bearing on her work as the City Press Editor.
         What do you readers think? My view is that journalists on the staff of a newspaper are very much in the public eye and have a duty to behave themselves in a dignified manner especially when it comes to the very public medium of social networks.
         And they can’t expect people to believe that it is alright for them have split personalities that allows them to write all kinds of garbage in their own capacity on Twitter and in another capacity for their newspaper.
         Yours truthfully,
         Jon, the Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman 

P.S. I noticed that Carien changed the Twitter picture of herself after our set-to. Is this her new, cleaner image? My mistake here's her latest Tweet   (the @ Jon is not me)

                        Who is her admirer in the background?
Note. Before posting this I sent it to both Ferial Haffagee and Carien du  and invited them to comment if they wished. Haffagee, who is also a board member of the International Press Institute and the International Women’s Media Foundation replied: Our editorial policy is guided by the Press Code which you can find on the website of the Press Council or I could mail you a copy. I’m sorry you had a run-around finding it. You will notice that journalists around the world add the rider that tweeting is in their own capacity. The Press Council has not yet included social media in its remit, though it may do so. Best wishes, Ferial.
Carien: I'll let the Tweets speak for themselves.


  1. much ado about nothing. if you had your way twitter would be a lot more boring - more machine-like corporate PR. your blog post itself, with all its garish (aka crappy) neon highlights reflects, I think, your inability to recognise good taste from bad - but that's me shooting from the hip. I think your tweet to Carien was mischievous and insulting and unnecessary. grandpa sounds right to me.

  2. Fucking sexist crap, this.

  3. I cannot take your opinion seriously because of your shitty choice of font colours. You want to be taken as professional with a website that looks like this? Please.
    I hope you don't have a daughter. No one deserves to have their mind filled with this crap about what a 'lady' can and cannot do.

  4. WTF are you doing with text in this post? It looks like a 13 year old's MySpace page in the 90s. O_o

  5. What's up with the rainbow colours in your post? Between that and your insistence that "ladies" can't say "crap" you really come across as a 12 year-old, not a grandpa.