For those who have the same warped sense of humour this Letter can also be had in French.
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Monday, October 6, 2014
PRESS OMBUDSMAN THROUGH ROSE COLOURED GLASSES
Dear Rob Rose,
In your column in the Sunday Times you told us that the media
is kept on a tight
Africa by the Press Ombudsman Johan Retief who is the main adjudicator for the Press Council.
Well I’m sorry to have to tell you that’s not true.For a start he only considers complaints,
so if a newspaper misbehaves the Ombudsman does nothing unless he gets one.
The other disturbing aspect is this. In
my experience complaints get put
into two categories – those from the
somebodies and those from nobodies.
If you are a somebody
such as a member of the government, a prominent
businessman or a member of the legal profession he is far more likely to find
in your favour against an offending newspaper than if you are a nobody like me.
What happened when I complained that the business section of your paper
(Business Times) that you write for continued to use a freelance after he had
been exposed as a crook under a Noseweek magazine headline High on the Hogg:How Jim Jones ripped off his website employers and then spun
JIM JONES FORMER BUSINESS DAY EDITOR
Worse still he spun the story in your
Business Times to make his former employer Moneyweb look bad (See Press Council’s Brand of Justice – Parts I
answer is nothing. My complaint was
dismissed by Retief.
What happened when I complained that the SundayTimes continued to publish clearly dubious get-rich-quick
advertisements? Alright I know that the Press Ombudsman conveniently doesn’t
deal with advertising complains ,
but in this case your paper’s internal ombudsman
had given an editorial undertaking that something
would be done about these.
I was vindicated completely when people responsible for some of the ads were subsequently exposed by Carte
Blanche, the TV investigative channel for defrauding investors out of millions.
The answer again
is nothing. My complaint was
dismissed by Retief.
And when I tried to appeal against his
rulings former Judge Ralph Zulman, head of the Council’s Appeals panel, decided
my cases did not merit further consideration.
You mentioned a perfect example of how
a somebody gets treated. In winding
up the estate of Barry Tannenbaum, who perpetrated the country’s biggest Ponzi
scheme, the lawyers and liquidators took more than half of the R100-million
collected as their fees and costs. As you know the lawyer for the liquidators complained about the general tone of the Business
Times report headedLawyers gorge on Ponzi cash.
The Ombudsman dismissed most of the complaint but decided that the use of the wordgorgehad been inappropriate. His absurd
explanation, which you reported was that even though the trustees may have been ‘gorging’,it was not for the paper to state this
as a factwhen the phrase ‘drained money’ should have sufficed.
Talk about splitting hairs. It appears
that he felt he had to give the lawyer something.
In the column he used to write for
Business Times Steve Mulholland
accused one of the somebodies the
Deputy Director of the Department of Public Enterprise of wrong doing without
giving the proof. After the Director complained to the Ombudsman your paper was ordered to
I’m not criticising this decision, but
what I am saying is that basically this complaint
was no different from my ones which
were dismissed. In all the cases what your paper did was obviously wrong.
In your puff for the Ombudsman you
wrote If apublication errs even in one tiny respect the
Ombudsman forces it to publish a prominent
this is not true as my complaints
alone show and I’m sure there are many other examples.
what I’ve seen apologies are seldom
if ever given the same prominence in
papers as the original story.That in itself is immoral. Publications usually do
their best to place them where as few people as possible will see them.
main part of the Sunday Times had the correction below tucked away on Page 4
whereas the So Many Questions column
that it appeared in took up about a quarter of a page on Page 21 the previous
week. As this is a regular feature my feeling is that this correction should
have been in the column.
I know this was not something the Ombudsman ordered, but it illustrates
how corrections are often handled.
Your high handed assumption that it’s a common refrainfrom halfwits and crooks that the press is
unaccountable and sensationalist, a third force bent on abusing its
self-appointed position as the fourth estate,suggests that it’s perfect.
Well I’m not a crook so there’s only one
other category I and anybody else like me who has a beef about the way the
press behaves can fit into, in your opinion.
In the days before blogs and social
media the only avenues available to the average person who believed a paper was
abusing its position was to write a letter to the editor, complain to the Ombudsman or in extreme cases take costly legal action.
Letters however could be easily censored or
not even published. And anybody who tried the Ombudsman’s route had to bear in
mind that the Press Council’s slogan is: Effective self-regulation is the best system for promoting high standards in the media.
They would think that wouldn’t they? It’s
like appointing and paying the judge at your own trial. How they have been
allowed to get away with this as long as they have I don’t know.
If that’s not abusing its self-appointed position as thefourth estateI don’t know what is.
Now halfwits like me can take to a blog
to tell the world about the shenanigans in the newspaper business that papers don’t
want anybody to know.
Like the results of my complaints to the Ombudsman that I have already mentioned.
Like Johannesburg’s The Citizen that is
making money out of cock (literally) and bull advertisements that even its own
Editor agrees are not believable (See The
Citizen’s Aladdin’s Cave of Unbelievable adverts).
Like the refusal of the Caxton Group,
the owner of this paper; the Print & Digital Media SA, to which most
newspaper publishers belong and the South African Editor’s Forum to even
acknowledge that this abuse of the press exists, even though I have brought it
to their attention (See Caxton’s Bosses
duck dubious adverting issue; Print and Digital Media’s appalling hypocrisy and
Editors’ questionable ethics).
Like the Advertising Standards
Authority, the adverting equivalent of the Press Council, that refused to take
my complaints about the Citizen’s
ads that are exploiting the poor and unsophisticated with promises such as penus enlargement and instant wealth
(See Ridiculous Adverting Standards
Halfwits like me can even extend their
blog tentacles across the world to tell everyone who is interested what the
dicey members of the fourth estate are up to in Britain.
Like the National Union of Journalists,
that claims to be the largest organisation of its kind in the world with about
38 000 members, that has given up policing its bad eggs. It did take complaints
from the public about its members some years ago until they became so numerous it could
no longer afford to do this (See National
Union of Journalists’ protection racket).
You can understand why it was that in
this environment the 168 year old News of the World that was once the biggest
selling English paper anywhere had to close after its phone hacking scandal
final burst into the open.
No doubt it was brought down by other
halfwits like me.
it comes to halfwits, as Editor of
the Business Times it’s hardly the brightest thing to do to promote fiction as fact in your column in a paper that
is read by millions.
Jon, the Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman who
tells it like it is and not like some
of the papers would have it.
P.S. If only I was a somebody
I would have a prima facie case to submit to the Press Ombudsman about all the
incorrect statements you have given as fact in this column of yours.