Saturday, September 16, 2023


 Dear Readers,

          Born in England Jim Jones was a mining journalist who edited Business Day from 1989 to 1999 when it was South Africa’s most successful financial daily. It was a sister publication to the Financial Mail magazine.

          Jones subsequently left South Africa to live in France but his newspaper connections enable him to continue working as a journalist for South African publications. This was when his dubious morality really came to the fore while he was freelancing for Business Times, the business section of the Sunday Times, in spite of the fact that he had been fired by Moneyweb, the online financial publication founded and owned by Alec Hog.

          He was Moneyweb’s Mineweb editor until he diverted $20 489 (About R200 000) 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 after being threatened with a criminal prosecution.

          He then committed the worst of journalist crimes. He used his position as a recognised Business Times freelance writer to get back at Hog with an article that described Moneyweb’s performance as “shambolic” with “tumbling” advertising revenue etc. It could not 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,” Alec Hogg the founder of Moneyweb said at the time.

          “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.”

          Noseweek South Africa’s only investigative magazine reported what had happened. The Sunday Times 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 smaller, 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.

          As this incident showed the Sunday Times had morals of an alley cat so its backing of a crooked reporter was to be expected.

          Jones was 81 when he died of a heart attack at his home in France.  His obituary was by freelance Jonathan Katzenellenbogen who was the economics editor of Business Day under Jones, so no wonder he just glossed over Jones’ theft of R200 000 with “Jones worked for Alec Hog but departed after a falling out.”

          He also wrote that although the Business Day circulation peaked under Jones’ Editorship the owners gave him the “push” because, according to Jones’ wife Frances Potter they believed that editors should not serve for more than 10 years. I find that story very difficult to believe. How many newspaper owners get rid of editors when their papers are at their most successful?

          Katzenellenbogen did give us some insight into Jones’ dubious side. The Financial Mail lost a court case over an article he had written and he had previously been fired by this magazine for taking time off to freelance without permission. In spite of this unacceptable record he still got the job as Editor of Business Day.


Here is the link to the first story I wrote about Jim Jones six years ago.




P.S. I never expected to find that the Sunday Times, a paper I once worked for as an investigative journalist, had sunk to the level of some of the crooks I was after.





No comments:

Post a Comment