[COMMENT] I really feel sorry for Sunday Times editor, Bongani Siqoko, who has had to apologise profusely in two successive issues of his newspaper for things that happened before he took over. It is a media hospital pass of the worst possible kind.
And I feel even more sorry for him because the first apology and assurance of future trust he published so prominently was followed a few pages later by yet another apology for getting things wrong in a story involving black-owned Brimstone Investments Corporation after press ombudsman found the newspaper guilty.
It has been a rough ride for The Sunday Times with widespread negative publicity and comment from media competitors.
Now, one has to ask, will the Sunday Times ever be trusted again?
The easy answer is only if they can manage even a couple of dozen issues without having to print an apology.
The more difficult answer is, frankly, no, not ever.
The reason I am so emphatic about this is actually not because I think the Sunday Times alone won’t ever be trusted again but because the Sunday Times will find it difficult to regain trust in an environment where never before in the history of mankind has there been such a lack of trust in everything from politicians, big business, the economy and the media. Not just in South Africa but the world.
The reason for this, I believe, is twofold. The first is the blatant uses of lies, obfuscation and deceit by modern politicians led by Donald Trump. Of course, politicians have always lied but none of them with the breath-taking regularity and sheer arrogance of Trump, Zuma and others who have cottoned on to this and are starting to run with it.
The second culprit is social media. The way in which followers of Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms repeat and share patently fake news is quite astounding.
And the real problem with all of this is that it seems as though the majority of voters, newspaper readers and other media followers don’t actually care that what they are reading and sharing is fake, because they have fallen into the convenient trap of believing anything that appeals to their particular prejudices.
Trump supporters don’t care if something is so obviously fake that even a mentally deprived amoeba would see through it. They just repeat the lies because it makes them feel good.
And it is not only Trump supporters but fanatics the world over – in just about every country in the world. And the dirtier politics gets the more the fanatics come out of the woodwork and fan the flames of division.
So, the answers to whether the Sunday Times or any other news media will be trusted again is, probably not. If only because it is impossible to be all things to all men and to most consumers their prejudices will recognise lies as truth or truth as lies.
It’s a no-win situation but there is no harm in trying. Trying hard. And that is what Sunday Times editor Bongani Soqoko is doing. Tough job.
Chris Moerdyk (@chrismoerdyk ) is a marketing analyst and advisor and owner of Moerdyk Marketing with many years of experience in marketing and the media as well as serving as non-executive director and chairman of companies.
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