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16 Comments

  1. 1

    Martin Hatchuel

    Well said, Chris. And it needed to be said.

  2. 2

    Caroline Hurry

    Hear! Hear! *leaps to feet clapping wildly*

  3. 3

    Brenden Nel

    On my feet as well. So glad someone says this. We see it in our sports beats more and more. Who researches and breaks stories anymore? Well said Sir!

  4. 4

    Sharon van Wyk

    Chris… I had the honour of editing your column for the Pretoria News when I started working for what was then the Argus when I moved back to SA 24 years ago. It was the highlight of my week as the oped editor/sub. I have more than 30 years’ experience as a journalist, 24 years of that spent at the coalface of the South African mainstream media. Like you, in that time I have seen the demise of South Africa’s media and the departure of its incredible talent to the corporate world where salaries which reflect experience and ability are paid. I have been a freelancer since 2003 and in the last five years have spent my time dealing with desk editors who are half my age and with less than a quarter of my experience. A decade ago I was getting R5 a word for freelance copy. I wouldn’t get out of bed for less. Now I am lucky to get R3 a word, and most of the time that is from magazines. Newspapers don’t have the budget for freelancers any more. They are too busy spending it on salespeople who couldn’t spell the word “advertisement” to save their lives and who are invariably incapable of reading the editorial of the publications they are supposed to be selling. I actually sympathise, because I find it impossible to read the majority of South African newspapers. Online versions are little better. Even the BBC’s local online offering has gone the way of all flesh and resorted to using stringers who can barely string two consonants together with a vowel for occasional light relief. Jacks of all trade rule the roost, and there are no masters anywhere to be found. Today’s reporter is expected to shoot world-class images and broadcast quality video and have his or her work used across multiple platforms, edited by cretins who are no more qualified to refine the written word than I am to run the country (even given that I probably would make a better go of it than the current incumbent). Journalism is a dying profession. Those of us over 50 cling to the hope that three decades of experience count for something, even though all evidence points to the contrary. Thank you for standing up and speaking for all of us, and there are many of us I am sure.

  5. 5

    Bruce Middleton

    Well said Chris, but is anyone listening?

  6. 6

    Penny Swift

    Agreed. My only critical comment to your article relates to plumbing … This is one legally entrenched occupation where the people who do the job in SA need to be both qualified and registered. The problem is that people – possibly like you – might consider experience good enough. In terms of plumbing, NOOOO it is not enough. The problem with “journalism” is that everybody thinks they qualify… and unfortunately employers do too! They deserve to pay nothing for rubbish! Good writers need to reinvent the wheel.

  7. 7

    Erla

    Amen to that.

  8. 8

    Teresa Williams

    (Wild applause)

    Journalism in SA is in the toilet. Even the M&G has articles that are pure fluff – I get the impression they’re written by twenty-somethings who still ask Mum to do the laundry.

  9. 9

    Sbu Mahamba

    Journalism in this country has gone to the dogs.

  10. 10

    AdrianBaillieStewart

    For most media publications, quality editorial-content IS the primary product being sold. Surely a sensible entrepreneur or business person (with good business acumen) knows that you cannot produce a quality (intellectual) product from cheap raw materials. Good writing, good story-telling and quality (media) representation of what’s going on in the world around us doesn’t come cheap.

  11. 11

    Caroline Hurry

    Um, I still ask Mum to do the laundry #justsayin

  12. 13

    Teresa Williams

    Skaam jou.
    🙂

  13. 14

    Kenny Williamson

    I hear all of you… a sign of the times unfortunately.
    Perhaps good journalists should research the market they enjoy and start their own content sites…. at least they will/ should be making a whole lot more and their opinion will be their own, as opposed to an established brands “noise internet pollution”. Then their opinion once again holds value as their own brand and they can dictate who they want advertising on their sites (probably be their former employers buying their cpc ads).

  14. 15

    Lucille Parker

    Brilliant! But will anyone listen? I have resorted to working for a content mill here in UK for a penny a word, after redundancy from a job as magazine editor! I can write well, but can’t sell myself! Been a journalist in SA and here for nigh on 40 years. Am now working part time as a digital marketing assistant … social media, blogging, content writing … for a pittance. It’s exploitation of experience.

  15. 16

    James van den Heever

    It certainly did need to be said, thanks, Chris. However, I am not so sanguine about your point that it actually makes economic sense to produce top-notch content. We should not put too much faith in markets, and accept that in the business of maximising profits, capitalists will try to hit the balance between acceptable product and maximum profit. In this world, producing really good content in the model you describe will always be not profitable enough. Yes, I am actually arguing that while
    profit has to be one of the measures for any business, it is not satisfactory
    as the only one. Market fundamentalism is as myopic and dangerous as religious
    or any other fundamentalism. Media owners need to be looking for more than
    profit, and see media ownership as something of a vocation as well—and therein
    lies a whole different set of problems, of course. Perhaps the model of the
    Scott Trust (owner of The Guardian, The Observer and others) is something
    that should be more widely used?

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