Looking back on 2012. The Marikana massacre, ‘The Spear’ painting controversy, the Olympics, a small child’s skin graft… If nothing else, we certainly do, as the Chinese say, live in interesting times. The Media asked some media leaders to give us their opinions on the industry in 2012.
1. What happened in the media in 2012 that thrilled you the most?
Yusuf Abramjee, head of news and current affairs at Primedia Broadcasting: Government’s decision not to renew Jimmy Manyi’s contract as CEO of the Government Communication and Information System. He did nothing but sour the relationship between government and the media.
Esmare Weideman, CEO of Media24: The Press Freedom Commission, co-ordinated by Mathatha Tsedu, and the new Press Code that stemmed from this process. It was a media-led process to counter the political pressure for a Media Appeals Tribunal (MAT), and the outcomes were generally accepted by the Print and Digital Media South Africa (PDMSA), the SA National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) and the government. This is a great example of what can be achieved if various stakeholders engage.
Gus Silber, award-winning journalist, bestselling author and scriptwriter: ‘The Spear’. It wasn’t the actual work that thrilled me, as much as the attendant commentary, debate, analysis, conversation and criticism.
Gordon Muller, GSM Quadrant: The awesome coverage of the Olympic Games in London.
Gordon Patterson, MD of Starcom MediaVest: The arrival in South Africa of JCDecaux, the world’s second biggest outdoor advertising company.
2. What shamed you the most?
Gareth Cliff, 5FM morning drive presenter: Our politicians.
Michael Schmidt, director of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism: The dismal failure of journalists to predict the Marikana massacre by not paying attention a good year before the killings to trouble brewing in the platinum sector; and their outrageous failure to speak to eyewitnesses after the massacre, relying like mindless drone pupae on sweet nothings issued by the queen bees of government and industry, who were so complicit in ratcheting up the tension.
Silber: How so many news media gave so much unwarranted space to the paranoid-schizophrenic ramblings of Julius Malema. He used the media as his personal PR wing and, too often, we fell for it.
Abramjee: The Citizen newspaper’s manipulation of a picture of the suicide bomb attack in Kabul that killed eight South Africans in September. Johann ‘Slang’ Hattingh, the photographer dismissed for blowing the whistle on the doctored picture, got a raw deal. (See page 36)
Weideman: The political pressure on City Press after ‘The Spear’. This was shocking, with dire consequences for press freedom.
Patterson: The continued lack of progress in resolving the issues with SABC’s commercial sales department and media inflation. And the inability of the ANC to settle their advertising debt with Blueprint Strategic Marketing and Advertising, a small, black-empowered agency that the party hired to handle the advertising for its election campaign.
3. Who is your media personality of 2012?
Schmidt: Press ombudsman Joe Thloloe, who calmly rode out the storm in which the regular five-year review of the Press Council coincided with threats to impose the MAT. The exhaustive process involved the creation of the Press Freedom Commission… the final result being a new, strengthened Press Council that will assume its duties early next year, having hopefully laid to rest the ghost of the MAT. Bra Joe was our sword and shield this year!
Abramjee: Public Protector Thuli Madonsela. Her humility and work ethic is an example of what we can only hope to find in public servants.
Muller: Comedian Loyiso Gola.
Patterson: Virginia Hollis, the industry legend who left The MediaShop (Sandton) this year, where she was MD, to go freelance.
Silber: Seth Rotherham, founder of 2oceansvibe. He has turned a little vanity-and-lifestyle blog into a thriving and heavily-branded portal for compelling radio, video and web content. The big media publishing houses could learn a lot from him.
Weideman: City Press editor Ferial Haffajee.
Cliff: McIntosh Polela of the National Prosecuting Authority for tweeting inappropriately. (Hawks spokesman Polela apologised to hip-hop star Molemo ‘Jub Jub’ Maarohanye after he made a joke on Twitter about Jub Jub’s first night in prison.)
4. Who is your newsmaker of the year?
Cliff: The president. Isn’t he always newsmaker of the year?
Abramjee: Like him or loathe him – Malema!
Schmidt: Bashar al-Assad, president of Syria, who has turned defence of his clique’s privileges against the rational demands of democracy into a bloodbath of truly awful proportions, and his country … into a charnel house as artillery breaks all the national rules of engagement and bomb civilian areas to smithereens.
Weideman: Pippie’s mom Anice Kruger and Chad le Clos’s dad. (Three-year-old burn victim Pippie was given groundbreaking surgery to restore the skin to 80% of her body. Bert le Clos became a global hit after his ecstatic reaction to his son winning gold in the Olympics 200m butterfly.)
Silber: I choose two-in-one: Ninja and Yolandi of ‘Zef-rap’ band Die Antwoord. Almost everything they do makes and shapes and subverts the news.
5. What was the scandal of the year?
Abramjee: ‘The Spear’ debacle.
Weideman: Nkandlagate (City Press broke the story that apparently the taxpayer is footing the bill for the refurbishment of President Jacob Zuma’s homestead). Also, Malema’s Limpopo tenderpreneur scandal.
Muller: Zuma. Or should that be ‘Scandals of the Year’?
Silber: Limpopo. The ANC used to say they would rule the country until the Second Coming of Jesus. Now they just say “until the delivery of the textbooks”, which means they’ll probably be in power forever.
Schmidt: The scandal with the most muscle, perhaps even the ability to topple the Gauteng provincial government (rulers of the continent’s fourth-largest economy) is the e-Toll scandal. On one hand, we already pay road maintenance fees as a component of our fuel levy; on the other hand, the e-Toll system costs more to administer than it brings in … clearly points to this being a blatant criminal scheme.
Patterson: The SA Advertising Research Foundation and the TAMS admission. (SAARF implemented two major changes to the TAMS population universe, or weightings, which altered huge sectors of data. This seriously affected many media agency television planning schedules, throwing out the forecasted ratings. SAARF admitted this move had been underestimated.)
Cliff: Maybe Lance Armstrong’s doping.
6. What was the year’s most horrific news story?
Schmidt: From a South African perspective, the Marikana massacre – and it may well prove to be our Tiananmen Square moment, when the structural continuity of the apartheid state in the democratic era was made manifest to most South Africans, in all its gore, on television.
Patterson: Rhino poaching. A record number of rhinos were killed illegally this year, with the death toll standing at 558 as of 20 November.
7. And the year’s most uplifting story?
Schmidt: That must be Pippie Kruger’s long return to normalcy after her skin graft. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house!
Abramjee: The 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Cliff: Snoop Dogg becoming Snoop Lion. (The rap star renamed himself – to much online hilarity – after a religious experience.)
8. What was 2012’s best ad campaign?
Cliff: I’d say any Nando’s campaign – they climb on top of any news story and have a sense of humour about everything.
Abramjee: The Nando’s versus Santam ads. This is a good example of two great brands using ambush marketing for a good cause. Santam and Nando’s spoofed each others’ TV ads – culminating in the insurance company betting Nando’s it would not provide a free meal to the Johannesburg Children’s Home. Nando’s is now providing the home with free meals once a week for a year.
Schmidt: The Nando’s ‘Diversity’ advert that the SABC refused to screen in which the voiceover said, “You know what’s wrong with South Africa? All of you foreigners!”. A brilliant – and educative – take on xenophobia. The rest of the country had a sense of humour about it; our moral guardians, apparently didn’t.
Weideman: I love insurance company’s Virseker’s humorous and well targeted campaigns.
Silber: FNB’s relentless, merciless and ubiquitous ‘Steve’ campaign had the power to make me yell at my radio and switch it off, ensuring that I wouldn’t be subjected to any other ad campaigns.
Muller: Sadly, it’s Steve from FNB!
9. What was the most memorable news photo of the year?
Abramjee: The picture of Brett Murray’s ‘The Spear’ painting. The outcry that ensued makes it (without a doubt) a memorable news photograph.
Muller: Usain Bolt and Mo Farah swapping their trademark celebration poses at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Weideman: Lulama Zenzile of Die Burger’s picture of a street vendor defending her stall during a Cosatu march in Cape Town.
Silber: The pic of Kirani James, the first-placed runner in the 400m semi final at the London Olympics, exchanging nametags at
the end of the race with the last-placed runner, Oscar Pistorius.
Cliff: The first picture from the Mars Rover.
Schmidt: The image of former Liberian president Charles Taylor hearing his verdict for war crimes in Sierra Leone reminds one, in his bespectacled, suited elegance, of that of Adolf Eichmann, the ‘cattle car’ bureaucrat of the Final Solution, hearing his fate in 1961.
This story was first published in the December 2012 issue of The Media magazine.