Sunday, September 10, 2017


Dear Newspaper Readers,
Jim Jones
          Is it reasonable for an investigative publication like the Johannesburg based Sunday Times, South Africa’s biggest selling Sunday paper, to go on using a freelance journalist for eight years after it became aware he was a thief?
          That was not all the paper was aware of. It also knew that he had used his position as a writer for its business section (Business Times) to get his own back on a firm that had fired him.
          Every week this paper has something to say about the wrong doings of others, yet it is blind to its own deplorable morality when it comes to Jim Jones.
          It seems that because he was the Editor of Business Day, a paper in the same group as the Sunday Times for 10 years until 2000 when he was replaced by Peter Bruce, this gave him a clean record forever, regardless of his more recent, shady past.
          In October 2009 Noseweek, South Africa’s only investigative magazine, turned the spotlight on Jones’ thieving ways in an article headed High on the Hogg.
How Jim Jones ripped off his website employer and then spun the story.
          Jones then aged 67 lived mostly in France but still wrote for Business Times as a freelance. In August of that year he cause a stir with a scathing report about Moneyweb, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange listed website that had fired him as its Mineweb Editor.
          It turned out that he diverted $20 489 (About R200 000 then) due to Moneyweb by a Canadian firm into the Mauritius bank account of P.J. News Service, which just happened to be his own company. He only returned the money to Moneyweb after being threatened with a criminal prosecution.
          The Jones broadside described Moneyweb’s performance as “shambolic” with “tumbling” advertising revenue and a debtor’s book that showed an “astounding deterioration.” It could hardly have been more derogatory.
          “The full might of the Sunday Times was brought to bear on our small company with falsehoods published as fact and not so much as a suggestion that we be asked for a response to some of the outrageous claims,” said Alec Hogg the founder of Moneyweb.
Alec Hogg

          “My initial response was to ignore the nonsense. Surely people would see through the axe grinding of a former employee who was forced to repay R200 000 that he had stolen from our company.”
          According to Noseweek the Sunday Times group’s in-house ombudsman Thabo Leshilo was asked to adjudicate. I had found him particularly ineffective when dealing with my own complaints that the Sunday Times was promoting scamsters by accepting their obviously suspect get-rich-quick advertisements.
          In Moneyweb’s case he was no better. Noseweek reported he offered Hogg a 30 cm space in the paper to give his side of the story. This was cut to almost half in the editing and the frivolous headline: Jim Jones a naughty boy indeed, told its own story of how seriously the paper regarded what was a particularly unforgivable thing for a journalist to have done.
          It was a disgraceful whitewash job, with the Ombudsman showing his bias, like a distress flare in the middle of the night.
          At the time Jones’ stories were all over the Business Times together with his impressive byline. Then he became the willow the wisp of the business section as it got smaller and small; disappeared for a time only to reappear now and again at bigger and bigger intervals, but still in its hardly noticeable form as if the paper was hoping nobody would notice he was still a contributor.
          In July 2012 Leshilo’s successor 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 derives its “moral authority from being trusted.”
          Ironically the following week Jim Jones’ byline reappeared in Business Times after a considerable absence. So I sent Joe an email referring to Jones and asked: “Can you 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.
          I then wrote a post addressed to Joe dubbed:
                    Sunday Times’ phoney morality (phoney)
It criticised, among other things, the way the paper kept on using Jones.
          In December 2015 I posted:
The Sunday Times badly needs a truth drug injection (truth).
I repeated this story about Jones together with other examples I had personally experienced to debunk the paper’s incredible Editorial boasts in its December 6 edition of how perfect it was.
          This was just after Bongani Siqoko became editor, replacing Phylicia Oppelt who disappeared into management.
          Entitled Our commitment to the truth is absolute the Editorial made claims like this:
          “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.’’
          Like continuing to employ a thief.       

“We have been conscious of and responsive to concerns or complaints regarding anything that appears in this paper as part of our public accountability.”

          Like ignoring my complaints that a thief continued to be employed as a writer.

          If anybody among the top brass at the paper ever read my posts they probably dismissed them as the ravings of an ex-Sunday Times journo who is now well over the hill. How else could they explain the suggestion that they should actually practise what they preach?
          Just when I thought the Sunday Times’ love affair with Jim Jones was finally over HE WAS BACK.

          In last weeks’ edition his byline was on a whole page story in Business Times about the centenary celebrations of the Anglo American Corporation. His return was welcomed as if it was some kind of coup with a mention under the Inside heading on the front of the main paper. JIM JONES Anglo’s century of twists and turns it said.
          Noseweek told us this former mining engineer turned journalist once had his offer to ghost write the autobiography of the late Harry Oppenheimer, Anglo’s Chairman for 25 years, turned down. If only the Sunday Times had been as perceptive? 
          I sent separate emails to the Sunday Times Editor Bongani Siqoko and the Editor of Business Times Ron Derby questioning Jones reappearance and needless to say I didn’t get a reply from either of them.
          It’s understandable. You can’t justify something like this.
The answer is he was not big enough. I got a read report but
nothing else
          Hogg moved on from Moneyweb to found Biznews, which is similar.
          And when I asked him if it was THE JIM JONES who was back at the Sunday Times he replied: “Memories are short.”
          As the Sunday Times itself might say about the Gupta brothers, Jones must have the right connections.
          But whatever the background is, he can only tarnish the paper’s reputation and how can it be sure he won’t use it once again to settle one of his personal vendettas.
          Jon, the Poorman’s Press Ombudsman.

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