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No fear, no fair

2010-01-26 13:07

Coming up this week on news: During the 2010 World Cup, local hotels aim to target tourists looking for a place to stay; bars plan to target people who drink a lot and prostitutes will be targeting foreign penises. Stay tuned for exclusive interviews and more on these shocking revelations.

eNews journalist Mpho Lakaje’s interview with the (alleged) criminal who said he plans to target tourists during the World Cup might have been the broadcaster’s greatest moment of stating the bleeding obvious, but it gave me a great idea for finally breaking into television journalism. I’m going to set up an exclusive interview with an anonymous criminal – with a stocking over his head and everything – who’ll say that during the championship, he plans to target Mpho Lakaje.

Expect to see my crazy face plastered all over billboards as I rise to the top of my profession – like cream, or hot air, or oily scum. I’ll refuse to reveal my source, self-righteously citing freedom of the press as my license to sit back and do nothing. If I get served a subpoena to appear in court, I’ll claim to be a victim of apartheid-era suppression, rallying support from every acronym in the phone book – Sanef, the NPC, MISA, the FXI – and watch the controversy unfold from the safety of my high horse. And when Lakaje’s bullet-riddled corpse is discovered, burnt to a crisp in the boot of his car, I’ll proudly say, "That’s *my* story. I reported his murder before it even happened. Now that’s what I call good journalism!"

I may be an over-idealistic communist, and a cynical, supercilious journalist to boot, but I still don’t get it. Maybe I’m simply too attracted to the notion of the media as Carlysle’s fabled fourth estate. I like the idea that, as a journalist and as a human being, I have a responsibility to contribute to the society that supports me – even if this merely amounts to reminding everyone on a weekly basis that they’re assholes. Freedom of expression may be a fundamental human right, but social responsibility is sacrosanct. This is where eNews’ argument falls flat on its arrogant face.

Look, I don’t like soccer. It’s boring. And as a typical Capetonian, I don’t even like tourists from my own country, let alone the epidemic of foreigners who only come here to steal all our parking spaces and whine about the lousy bandwidth. So no, I’m definitely not looking forward to the World Cup, and by 2007, I was already wishing it was over. But I also think that trying to undermine the event is unpatriotic to the point of treason. Not against the government – screw them - but against society. We have to live here, so what’s the point of discouraging foreign investment with that old cliché, the crime? It’s like shitting on your own doorstep and then complaining about the mess.

Lakaje’s cynical, self-serving report does exactly that. It’s exploitative, opportunistic journalism at its worst, turning criminals into celebrities and advertising crime as a viable, TV-friendly career choice. Any attempt to defend it transcends hypocrisy. Sanef, the NPC, MISA, the FXI are abusing journalism’s lofty ideals to fight an unworthy cause.

As media magnate Alfred Harmsworth said, "News is something someone wants suppressed. Everything else is just advertising." The eNews report is neither. In telling us what we already know, it promotes nothing we need.
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