British comedian Ruby Wax lay prone face down on the stage at a Camps Bay theatre, her feet towards her audience her head facing backstage.
“Yoga!” she exclaimed with disdain. “Let me show you.”
Then she raised her hips high into the air, her arms extended, to assume the ‘downward facing dog position’ with her posterior up in the air, pointing directly at her audience.
“That’s what it looks like,” she said, peeping back at us from under her right armpit.
We roared with laughter.
And she’s right.
That’s what that Yoga pose looks like if you’re standing behind the a person doing a downward facing dog.
But that’s not all that Yoga is.
According to Malcolm Gladwell in his bestseller about human behaviour, Blink, our first impressions – which he describes as “thin slicing” – are often all we need to make sound judgements. But he qualifies his assertion by saying we have to train ourselves to use “thin slicing” and not simply go off half-cocked acting merely on single source thin sliced judgments.
We have to also bring our knowledge, our experience, and not least our good judgement to the decision-making process.
Failing that, we are, in all probability, going to get it wrong and end up making a bad decision.
Yoga is more than one pose.
That’s why the increasing trend towards single-source journalism is so dangerous. And even more so if the result of that single-source journalism is repeated unchecked as it so often is in this age of impulse-driven communications such as Twitter.
Now, more than ever, journalists have to check their facts, back up what they write with an independent source, and at least give the person they are writing about the right of reply – in the same story in which they criticise or attack.
After more than two decades as a reporter, many of those on what was, until recently South African’s best selling Sunday newspaper, and nearly two decades in the communication business, I am more aware than I have even been of the damage that an ill-conceived, single-source report can do to a person, a family, a business, and a country.
Globally, as readers are drawn away from print media to social platforms, such as Twitter, or news aggregators such as Flipchart, Trove and others, more and more newspapers are abandoning responsibility and accuracy in favour of quick headlines that attract sales from impulse buyers.
The opposite ought to pertain.
In an ideal world, we might rely on our favourite social media channel to feed us what is new – the News – and rely on the print media to put it all in context.
For as much as a downward facing dog is not Yoga, a snappy headline based on untested allegations is not the full story.
Evelyn Holtzhausen is CEO HWB Communications
IMAGE: Downward facing dog, Joshua Tree / Jarek Tuszynski / Wikimedia Creative Commons
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