Sunday, January 24, 2016


Dear Newspaper Readers,

          It was a fascinating Sunday Times column this week by Peter Bruce. It was particularly fascinating because it showed how a journalist of his stature hadn’t noticed that the beginning of what he had to say made the second part so wrong.
He was explaining why being an editor is the best job in the world.
          Bruce should know. He is the Editor in Chief of the Johannesburg based Business Day and Financial Mail, which are both in the Times Media Group that also owns the Sunday Times.
Evidently this gives him a certain aura which ensures that no sub-editor or anybody else interferes with his column even when he blatantly contradicts himself.
          Initially he told us: “On any publication there’s constant tension between owner and editor and one thing never changes: the owner is the boss.”
          Then further down in the same column he maintained that being an editor is a fantastic job because “no one tells you what to do and you are given the most astonishing degree of control,” so much so that “you’re God and you don’t have to be nice about it.”
          Peter old chap I hope you won’t think it impertinent of me, but you really need to brush up on your knowledge of the Bible. Last time I looked at it, which let’s face wasn’t exactly yesterday, I’m sure it said somewhere that there is only one God – not two as you seem to think.
          If what you said about the owner being the boss is correct the editor can only be a disciple, certainly not God.
          Bruce went on to tell us that Business Day’s editor Songezo Zibi had just resigned and he praised him as if he really had been God.
          It reminded me of the way the reputations of the dead are so often given an impressive boost at their funerals by making them out to be far better than they ever were when they were alive.
          In typical newspaper fashion Bruce did what he would no doubt not have expected of journalists under him – he omitted the most important part of the story.
          Why Zibi departed after less than two years in his Heaven sent job was left to the reader to speculate.
          Rumour or was it fact had it that he was sick and tired of management interference.
          By management could he have meant Bruce himself? You see he actually replaced Bruce, who had been fulfilling the dual role of long time editor and Editor in Chief, a position he continued to hold after Zibi’s appointment.
          Could it have been that Zibi could no longer take having the man he had replaced constantly peering over his shoulder and that was why Bruce was not at all specific about the actual reason why Zibi left?
          Recently the editor of the Sunday Times itself, Phylicia Oppelt departed in the same mysterious fashion as Zibi.
          I get that paper regularly and I saw nothing to explain why she had gone after becoming the first female editor in the history of this 107 year old national paper.
            Oppelt was moved “upstairs” as the saying goes to become “GM for editorial projects” whatever that means. If she had been no good as editor one wonders if she will be any better in this position.
          Inexplicably her replacement was Bongani Siqoko, the editor of the minute East London Daily Dispatch. This has a measly circulation of just under 25 000 whereas the Sunday Times figure is close to 500 000.
          He had only edited the Dispatch for a little less than three years.
          In the last few years the Sunday Times group had two in house Ombudsmen neither of whom lasted very long.
          They were both veteran journalists and former editors. The first one was Thabo Leshilo who was followed by Joe Latakgomo.
          I never saw anything in the Sunday Times or other papers in the same stable that explained why they had left or that they had left. Even now if you Google their names you won’t get the answer to this.
          They were two more examples of the way newspapers bury their departed without taking their readers into their confidence. No doubt there are numerous others.
          The Times Media Group no longer has an ombudsman, possibly because this “look how open and honest we are” experiment proved too embarrassing, or it still has one which it is keeping mum about.
          Jon, the Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman who believes the Media should practice what it preaches, something it finds exceedingly hard to do.

P.S. I’m the Boss and Editor of this blog of mine so I definitely have complete control of what appears in it, but I have no claims to being God. I also don’t have to be nice, but I try to be truthful as well as fair with a comical touch thrown in.        


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