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    Joe Soap

    This is a gross generalization which is almost irresponsible. There are fantastic journalists in this country and they are in many ways the conscience of our democracy.

    To come with crap about the quality of editing that is reducing the quality of journalism is just ludicrous. If an editor is unhappy with the editing, then he/she must fix it.

    Maybe Mr Bruce should edit his own newspaper? I wonder how the chief sub at Business Day feels about his column. It may be the first application for early retirement/voluntary retrenchment at BDFM.

    If you want beautiful writing, go read Bill Shakespeare.
    The content is more important than the words, especially in SA.

    Then I also find the reference to tertiary degrees incomprehensible. Yes, there are examples of fantastic journalists who do not have a tertiary education, but they are very far and very few between. The common denominator between good educated and “uneducated” journalists are that they are smart. The difference is that the smart uneducated journalists did not have an opportunity to go to varsity.

    There are very good journalists in SA. They are inhibited by absolutely disgraceful media manages who measure the success of a newspaper/media institution by the profit margin.

    It is the case at Avusa, Media24 and IOL.
    This debate is just diabolical.

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    Absolutely! Journalism is a calling.

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    It is bizarre that in a modern age, where the converged newsroom is an undeniable reality, where the issues of the day are more complex and multifaceted than ever, we have this wistful, almost childish, longing for he return of ‘good old fashioned ink in the blood journalists’ whose only qualification is from the university of life. It’s probably because non-graduates can be paid less. As we all know, the same media owners that bemoan the state of current journalism in SA are the ones that slashed newsroom staff numbers down to the bone – sacrificing quality and in depth investigative journalism on the altar of churnalism, creepy celebrity culture and profit. I won’t speak for my colleagues, but I as a lecturer at one of the institutions of learning Mr Bruce so casually scoffs at, teach my students precisely what is lacking in current SA journalism and why – including the fact that the SA media of today takes pot shots at easy targets, but will not reflect on itself or the brutal commercialization that’s ripped its soul out and turned journos into scribes. I urge my students to look at the state of the world today and look at the tripe that occupies the front pages, while what really matters is buried in bits and pieces at the back. I point out that while COP 17 was happening in Durban a year ago, banalities like ‘green cappuccinos’ and stupid speculation about whether carbon reduction agreements would be reached, took up the big spaces, while the fact that regardless of Kyoto, and all the summits before and after, mankind’s carbon footprint is increasing at 5 million tons per year – whose latest figures were released by the IEA just before COP 17 – was spoken about in ONE COMMENTARY PIECE!!!!!! Come on!!!!! Truly, when looking at the state of SA media today, I would advise Mr Bruce that bad grammar is the least of his problems – and that he and his counterparts are actually the cause of most of them!,

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    I agree with all the comments, but not the column itself. It starts off by saying the low standard is “incontestable”. But that in itself is a sloppy throw-away line – where’s the evidence? Certainly not in the M&G today. Certainly not in the stuff I read (which, granted, is the press release fare dished out on most websites). Of course editors and media owners would say that – it was always better in their day, or when they were writing. Just because people no longer connected to the newsgathering process think so, certainly doesn’t mean it is so.

    Having said that, the problem may be editors, but only in so much as they mistakenly think celebrity-style-dumbed-down stories are what “people want”, are stupidly obsessed with cutting stories to the extent that they ritualistically violate the show-don’t-tell principle in the hazy belief that South Africans are too stupid to real longer stories, are generally not clued-up enough about the stories they have to edit, and favour press-conference churnalism over real journalism. If you read Peter’s original column, who could blame a journalist for being precious about having their copy cut when those editors understand nothing about it, or worse, insert errors (and that happens a lot).

    But the problem is, you can’t “edit” nothing into a work of art. If you only hire editors, and not journalists, then you have nobody of any ability gathering your news. That only works if you abandon the principle of original news gathering and basically admit defeat – that you’re just sending juniors to PR exercises (read: press conferences) to transcribe what was said. And then, when the editors start obsessively “editing” that story into brilliance, you invariably have cock-ups because those editors weren’t gathering the news, so have no idea of the context. Of course, it’s cheaper, if far more cynical, to just employ an army of well-versed opinion writers. Many places do this now – but the problem is they’re only basing their opinions on what the news reporters have got. And if those reporters are rubbish, then the second-hand opinion columns are rubbish too. If there’s a breakdown in journalism, it is right there.

    No, the solution is, you need better journalists getting the stories, gathering the news, and not being shunted from some meaningless press conference to another. And then you need better editors editing those stories, and not messing them up. It’s irrelevant how educated they are – if they’re smart enough, educated enough, and aren’t perpetually being driven out of the industry by poor management, then the quality remains good. And despite what Chris Moerdyk says, there is quality still happening in some newsrooms.

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