Sunday, December 6, 2015


Dear Newspaper Readers,
Pearlie Joubert - journo who
started it all
          Today’s Johannesburg based Sunday Times carries an Editorial entitled Our commitment to the truth is absolute. Ha-ha! Ha-ha! Ha-ha!
          This appears to have been prompted by its now ex-journalist Pearlie Joubert who took her own paper to task for what she considered to be the unethical way it conducted an investigation into a rogue unit at the South Africa Revenue Service.
            I won’t go into the details as this has been widely reported elsewhere. The paper of course has stated that her allegations are completely unfounded.

            My concern however is the accuracy of this Editorial. From my own firsthand experience I believe that the paper needs a strong dose of the truth drug.


          Here are some of the extremely moral claims it makes for itself in that Editorial. I will then tell you about my experiences with the paper as the self appointed Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman. You can judge for yourself just how honest the Sunday Times actually is.
          “We want to reassure you, our readers, and the public at large, that we adhere to and practise the highest standards of ethical and principled journalism,” is one of them. Ha-ha! Ha-ha! Ha-ha!
          “We have always (take special note of this word) been bound by a code of ethics and acted within the law, and have respected public expectations. We have been conscious of and responsive to concerns or complaints regarding anything that appears in this paper as part of our public accountability system.” Ha-ha! Ha-ha! Ha-ha!

          “Our journalists, editors and other editorial staff are expected to - and have (another word of special note) – operated within these ethical, legal, institutional and professional bounds.” Ha-ha! Ha-ha! Ha-ha!
“All these form part of our values, ethos and our social contract with our readers.
“We have never abused your trust, and never will.” Ha-ha! Ha-ha! Ha-ha!
“We will never forget that we derive our mandate and legitimacy from this public trust. It is required of us that we exercise our power, mandate and duty with the utmost care - ethically and responsibly, holding ourselves to the same standards we expect of others.” Ha-ha! Ha-ha! Ha-ha!
“We constantly remind ourselves that our conduct must never be motivated or influenced by anything other than the public interest.” Ha-ha! Ha-ha! Ha-ha!
“Therefore any insinuation that we have been swayed by anything other than the public interest is baseless.” HA-HA! HA-HA! HA-HA!

If there is no fiction in all this self praise how does the paper explain the following? For several years until a couple of years ago it had its own in house ombudsman. The first one didn’t last long and nor did the second one. I raised complaints with both of them and got nowhere.
Now they don’t have one at all. My belief is they were causing too much embarrassment. One even made the absurd suggestion in print that corrections should be given the same prominence in the paper as the original story. The paper couldn’t possibly have its mistakes exposed in this fashion could it?
In about 2009 I began what turned out to be a long running campaign on my blog to get the Sunday Times to stop carrying get-rich-quick ads that were so obviously scams because the returns being offered were far, far too good to be true.

I sent my first complaint to Thabo Leshilo the ombudsman at the time.
In an article naming me that he wrote in the paper he indicated that something would be done to ensure these no longer appeared. His view was that “Ads like the rest of the paper had to be believable.”
Inevitably nothing happened. Money was clearly more important to the paper than morality. This made nonsense of the Editorial's claim that “We have been conscious of and responsive to concerns or complaints regarding anything that appears in this paper as part of our public accountability system.”
            In December 2010 I wrote a post headed Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman sensors Sunday Times (sensorship) addressed to the paper’s business journalist Brendan Peacock who had written an article in the business section (Business Times) headed “Hallmarks of a Scam.”
          I asked whether he read his own paper because while it carried his “sanctimonious article on how not to get scammed” it continued to carry ads which were clearly scams as they complied with just about everything mentioned in his article.

          The ads continued to appear and no doubt people who could least afford it continued to lose a life time of savings. So much for the paper’s concern for the interests of the public. (“We constantly remind ourselves that our conduct must never be motivated or influenced by anything other than the public interest.”)
          In September 2011 I wrote another post headed Sunday Times – haven for dubious adverts (dubious ads). This was after I had complained to Leshilo’s successor Joe Latakgomo and he had written an article headed “Beware of dubious adverting claims.”
          In it he said these “erode the public trust in newspapers. We are distressed by the number of scams that infiltrate our pages and cheat our readers. We will continue as journalists to expose those that cheat and lie to our readers.”
Joe Latakgomo writing about my
          But as far as I know the Sunday Times (I get it every week) did not expose these crooks that were making a packet by advertising in its own paper and nor did it stop taking the ads. You don’t bite the hand that feeds you however rotten that hand happens to be seems to have been its thinking.

Joe again
It’s hard then to understand how that Editorial had the gall to tell us that the paper prides itself as being known for its “ethical, award-winning and uncompromising investigative reporting that exposes wrongdoing.” 

The warning Joe was talking about above that the
     paper seemed to think absolved it from any
     responsibility for what happened to investors
In May 2012 I wrote another post headed Noseweek exposes Dearjon letter (dearjon-letter exposed). It was addressed to Ray Hartley the Sunday Times editor at the time and was a longer version of what I had written for Noseweek, South Africa’s only investigative magazine.
I told Ray that it was “deplorable the way your paper has been promoting crooks for years.”

I referred him to an expose` that had just been aired on the Carte Blanche TV channel. It revealed that Kevin Cholwich and François Buys had defrauded people out of millions and two of the companies they used were Whoopee and Geo Connect. And surprise, surprise these were ones that I had complained about when their ads appeared in the Sunday Times.
One investor, a 47 year old mother of two lost her entire pension of R250 000 accumulated over 10 years of hard graft after she put it into Whoopee.
This might never have happened if the Sunday Times practised anything like what it preaches.
It was only after this that these kinds of dubious ads seemed to disappear from the Sunday Times. Of course it would never admit that I had anything to do with this.

       Another shocking example of the questionable morality at this paper involved Jim Jones the former Editor of Business Day in Johannesburg who had been a freelance writer for Business Times.
Nobody it appears had bothered to check his most recent background so when he started writing for the Sunday Times they didn’t know, or if they did they ignored it, that he had been fired by his previous employer, Moneyweb for helping himself to R200 000 of the firm’s money.
Things came to a head when he used his position on the Sunday Times to write a scathing article about Moneyweb, an online financial investment reporting firm that is quoted on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. The Sunday Times was forced to apologise and a damning Noseweek article exposed him as a crook.

At the time Alec Hogg, Moneyweb’s founder said Jones was fired by his firm and forced to repay the R200 000 he had stolen.
At this stage the Sunday Times could not have had any excuse for not being fully aware that Jones could only damage the paper’s reputation if he continued to write for it, especially in the business section.
Yet it continued to employ him. After disappearing for a while his byline reappeared.
In July 2012 Joe Latakgomo wrote in one of his general columns that appeared periodically in the Sunday Times that the “Media must stick to nothing but the truth” as it derived its “moral authority from being trusted.”
Ironically the following week Jim Jones’ byline reappeared in Business Times. So I sent Joe an email referring to Jones and asked: “Can one trust a newspaper that continues to employ someone it knows has a record of this kind.”
He didn’t even have the courtesy to reply. Was this being “conscious of and responsive to concerns or complaints regarding anything that appears in this paper as part of our public accountability system?”
I then wrote another post entitled Sunday Times’ phoney morality (phoney morality).

At the time of the Noseweek article Jones’ reports were all over Business Times together with his impressive byline. Then it got smaller and smaller only to disappear for a while and then reappear at bigger and bigger intervals before fading out completely. It looked as though somebody was very reluctant to see him go.

LATEST, LATEST: This appeared on the front page of the
              Sunday Times just 14 days are after that "We are so perfect" Editorial
Jon, the Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman who tries to tell it like it is and not as he thinks people would like to hear it. 


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