[BLOG] I’ve been monitoring random 15-minute bulletins on SABC TV News (DStv 404), eNCA (403) and newbie Newzroom Afrika (405) as and when I’m able between 6am and 10pm, Monday to Fridays. So far I’ve logged 211 broadcasts.
What is breathtaking is that not a single bulletin has been 100% accurate or correct. NOT ONE!
Ubiquitous, omnipresent spelling blunders and atrocious grammar are the norm of course, but, far worse, all three frequently get the Five Ws and H wrong. Figures, numbers, amounts, names, places, times, dates – the basic Who, When, Where, What – all suffer under a mindset (maybe even a culture) that seems to have relegated accuracy to the rubbish dump. In headlines, tickers/crawlers, captions and even autocue copy, editorial pride & quality control be damned.
Scarcely capable, bumbling and barely articulate anchors get it wrong as much as field reporters do, while even the barest modicum of research and preparation seem to be viewed as unnecessary. Shameless and threadbare excuses about “good enough”, “our viewers know what we mean” and even “English is not xxx’s mother tongue” are the kneejerk responses when errors are pointed out. Even eNCA (which should know far better) leaves egregious blunders on screen for up to 24 hours. Regularly!
Not one station has an editorial style guide – an outright insult after I donated a comprehensive 87-page one with specialised television news reporting and production inputs from AP, BBC & the Newseum in Washington DC to eNCA when it launched and updated it a year later. Dictionaries and usage guides simply don’t exist. The overall impression one gains is that none of South Africa’s TV news outlets really even cares. And it shows to their utter disgrace.
Worst performer remains SABC with an average of only 64% accuracy, then comes the social media-dependent Newzroom Afrika at 78% accuracy and even eNCA only manages 82% accuracy at any given time. With accuracy percentages so low, credibility suffers.
It’s no wonder numerous surveys repeatedly put viewer trust in South Africa’s television news as low as only 40%. They deserve no better.
A note from the blogger: I accept the pure subjectivity of this and, of course, it lays no claim to scientific rigour. The percentages are averaged and based solely on 100% = zero faults. Every error in my view equates to two percentage points. Therefore, 80% means 10 errors, 70% = 15, 60% = 20 mistakes etc. Does that make sense? It is purely a measure which I believe is fair.
Llewellyn Kriel is a retired editor, writer, subeditor, proofreader, translator, mentor and coach. He has years of frontline experience in journalism, corporate affairs and marketing. Vast experience, in-depth knowledge, creative solutions, exceptional writing skills, proven leader and mentor, with much to learn and more to give.
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