Friday, June 20, 2014


Dear Readers,                                               

Mathatha Tsedu
  My campaign to get the Johannesburg based The Citizen newspaper to stop carrying adverts that even its own editor agrees are not believable led me to the South African National Editors Forum (SANEF).
         My posts The Citizen’s Aladdin’s Cave of unbelievable adverts; Ridiculous Advertising Standards Authority; Print & Digital Media’s appalling hypocrisy and Caxton Bosses duck dubious advertising issue didn’t make the owners of the paper blush even slightly.
            So I took the advice of Ingrid Louw the CEO of the Print & Digital Media SA (PDMSA). This has as its members all South Africa’s major newspaper publishers including Caxton, the owners of The Citizen.

        As these decisions on what content to included or not to include is taken by editors, she told me, I suggest that a discussion be held with the South African Editors Forum who could address it as a strategic industry imperative.
         SANEF is a voluntary forum of editors, senior journalists and journalism educators from all areas of the media industry in South Africa.
         Its current director is Mathatha Tsedu a journalist of considerable standing who was SANEF’s Chairman in 2010. He was recently seconded to this position by his employers Media24 which is part of Naspers the country’s biggest media empire. There he headed its Journalism Academy.
He has a very impressive CV. Last year he was awarded Media24’s All Time Legend Award. He has won a host of other awards including the Nat Nakasa one for courageous journalism. A Nieman fellow he is a former editor of City Press and the Sunday Times and he was also the deputy editor of both The Star and the Sunday Independent.  
         He was fired as the editor of the Sunday Times after less than a year because Johnnic Communications, the owners at the time, accused him of not sticking to his contract with the result that the paper lost circulation and consequently revenue.                                               
         His version was that the management and staff had not supported his efforts to Africanise the paper, which was denied by the owners.
         So as somebody who was prepared to put his job on the line for the African cause I thought he was the ideal person to back my crusade to get rid of these adverts that are designed to rip off less sophisticated Africans.
         Attached to my email was a letter in which I gave him the history of my campaign with links to all the posts and I said that it was Louw’s idea that I contact SANEF.
         I mentioned that on its website SANEF claimed to have ideals similar to all the organisations that I had so far contacted.
         This is how my email continued:

         It says that ‘SANEF is founded on high ideals in an industry that around the world is often maligned for its lack of integrity.’
         This is understandably when you have papers like The Citizen that is quite happy to publish fiction for profit with nobody in the industry prepared to do a thing about it.
         Your website goes on to tell us under a Vision heading that you aim to ‘promote quality and ethics in journalism’.
Some Commitment???
And under your Values heading you claim to stand for ‘integrity, tolerance, accountability and the public interest.’
         Well it certainly can’t be in the public interest for any newspaper to carry advertisements that are clearly not true and are designed to rip off people particularly the less sophisticated and poorer sections of our community.
         It remains to be seen now if SANEF will live up to the ideals it sets and be ACCOUNTABLE.

         What follows is the sad story of my email conversation with this legend of the profession.
          JOURNALISM might not be a crime but what about some of the

10 June: This, my first email with my letter attached, was mistakenly addressed to a previous SANEF director but sent to the address  I said: Hopefully your organisation will do what no other one has been prepared to do so far. And that is to take a stand against newspapers that carry extremely dubious ads. When I got no reply I phoned SANEF and the lady who answered alerted me to my mistake and told me that Tsedu was now the director and he would still have got my email.

13 June: In this email which was addressed to Tsedu I referred to my mistake and said that my previous one had probably been given to him, but just in case it hadn’t I was attaching the letter as if it was addressed to him. I ended with, Please let me know what you decide.

17 June: I would be much obliged if you could reply, I asked.


It was like trying to get a reply from Caxton’s top executives all over again.

         When I still got no reply I phoned Tsedu’s office several times but he was not in. I finally managed to speak to him on 18 June. And this is how the conversation went.

Jon: Are you going to answer my email?
Tsedu: At some point.
Jon: When will that be?
Tsedu: When we are finished with what we are dealing with.
Jon: What are your immediate impressions?
Tsedu: I haven’t looked at the attachment, your link.
         I am not holding my breath waiting for a reply as I don’t expect to get one.
         But I do have this observation and you readers may or may not agree with me.
         I am sure you will agree that if you started speaking to me while you were standing in front of me and I completely ignored you I would be regarded as being very rude.
         Well my belief is that not acknowledging an mail when the sender knows you have received it is the technological equivalent of this.
         Jon, the Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman and Consumer Watchdog, who does his best to right the wrongs that the establish Media is happy to go along with.

P.S. Before posting this I sent it to Tsedu and invited him to correct any factual errors and to make any comments he wished.  I GOT NO REPLY.

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