Johnny Masilela, The BEAT editor. 

Daily newspapers gobbled up the breaking listeriosis narrative


Johnny Masilela   l   Views: 86

Time was during the days of jackboot Apartheid, when erstwhile President PW “Die Groot Krokodil” Botha wagged his finger at neighbouring countries on national television.

The issue was that some of the so-called Frontline States were harbouring guerrilla fighters from the ANC, PAC and also Azanla.

Botha made it very clear that his government would not hesitate to take “pre-emptive” measures against any such country.

Knowing Botha the man of action, the next day the all-powerful South African Defence Force’s 17 Squadron conducted air raids on a number of houses in Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

The Swazi Kingdom – it was reported at the time – hurriedly ordered the closing down of liberation movement bases, and the deportation of cadres further northwards into the Great Lakes and elsewhere up-north Africa.

The daily mainstream press had a field day, gobbling up every angle to the breaking story.

My role model, Tertius Myburgh, then editor of the Sunday Times was, so to speak, left grappling for straws in the wind.

But still we his readers expected our favourite Sunday read to come up with something different from the running story of the air raids on the Frontline States.

Guess what? My favourite editor dispatched the Sunday Times military correspondent to speak to his sources in the defence force, to find out just what kind of fire power was used to send the likes of Robert Mugabe reeling with shock.

Indeed come Sunday, the newspaper had the headline “The Guns of Gaborone” splashed across the front page. Brilliant and enterprising journalism, Tertius!

Now at the beginning of last week Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi broke the shocking news that certain processed food products had traces of the killer listeriosis.

Bravely, The BEAT editorial team re-invented ourselves into some form of a Tertius Myburgh collective.

Like our hero, we found ourselves grappling for straws in the wind as the mainstream media gobbled up the listeriosis story.

My million-polony question was: colleagues, readers expect something different come publication and distribution rounds.

Collectively we came up with the idea to look for an in-your-face picture relevant to the breaking story.

We also have to proudly mention that Lesley Barnard continues to do a fabulous job in terms of graphic design.

Readers who made contact with the reporters were all thrilled by the end result.

As for the full report on page three, like our role-model Tertius, we decided to take the angle of those in the business of the favourite sphatlo (bunny chow) losing sales bigtime.

On a personal level, I heard some of the people I met arguing that there was nothing wrong with traces of listeriosis in the identified products.

All in all, while it is a particular community culture for individuals to foolishly argue against a deadly strain, let these people rather keep such views to themselves.

Common sense going forward is that Dr Motsoaledi is a qualified medical doctor who knows what he is talking about.

Views contrary to his warnings should be treated with a great level of scepticism.   

42 days ago       15 March 2018