OPINION: The fact that it took the Sunday Times half a page of editorial last week to justify its front page headline story about one of Trevor Noah’s family being killed demonstrated quite clearly a somewhat desperate attempt to try and spin themselves out of trouble, says Chris Moerdyk.
Frankly, Mac Maharaj at his most naive would have done a better job.
I find it quite remarkable how newspapers, particularly, are so paranoid about being mistaken that they persist in limp wristed and obscurely positioned apologies when they get things wrong and then usually only do so because the ombudsman insists.
Somehow, the newspaper industry seems to believe that having to apologise will be terminally damaging to their credibility and brands
They are as bad as the politicians they regularly castigate for trying to spin themselves out of tricky situations.
Meanwhile, getting things wrong has become such a global pandemic in pretty well all sectors of society that an honest apology now tends to garner applause rather than brickbats.
In the business sector, particularly in the United States, the power of apology has become so important that some companies have recently been known to have concocted wrongdoing just so that can make a big deal about apologising for it.
In today’s world, politicians, businessmen and others who readily admit to having made a mistake and apologise for it without any ifs and buts, terms and conditions, actually get positive reactions from consumers who are continually faced with obfuscation and spin.
So, newspapers need to start thinking about what they are achieving by trying to spin themselves out of trouble.
But most of all, news media need to start going back to the basics of responsible reportage.
And that is to get both sides of a story before rushing out with it.
When the Sunday Times ran their Trevor Noah story they might well have got information from some relative or other but because the hook upon which the story hung, Trevor Noah himself, was not able to provide confirmation, the whole thing was nothing more than sensationalism.
It seems to me that getting things wrong has become more and more commonplace among our news media and by not coming out and apologising without reservation, it is just adding fuel to the conflagration of consumer displeasure.
It is small wonder why newspaper circulations the world over continues to drop.
Something else the news media have turned into a habit is treating social media as fact.
Social journalism is fine but it cannot just be taken at face value. It needs to be checked and checked properly.
The Sunday Times remains a weekend institution in this country in spite of its falling circulation. It is not going to regain lost territory by indulging in the very kind of spin of which it is itself so critical when politicians and businessmen do it.
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