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Decency plays second fiddle

By unknown | Sep 18, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

A REPORT in The Herald of September 7, "Mother, kids watch as dad gunned down", has raised the ire of reader Marion Harning.

A REPORT in The Herald of September 7, "Mother, kids watch as dad gunned down", has raised the ire of reader Marion Harning.

She complained to me and the press ombudsman that the story, about the callous murder of Xolani Yoyo, just hours after he was chosen head of the Ikamvelihle Community Police Forum in Motherwell, needlessly endangered the lives of his widow and children.

The offending last paragraph, a quote from a police spokesperson, stated: "The suspects were not wearing masks; therefore the family will be able to identify them."

Harning sees the sentence as "inviting retaliation against the family. and is especially dangerous in the volatile situation in the Mandela Metro at the current time."

The Herald denies any wrongdoing. "We too would certainly not wish any ill to befall them as a result of the article," says deputy editor Jeremy McCabe.

He adds that the fact the killers did not hide their faces meant they were not perturbed by the possibility of being identified.

We can debate until we are blue in the face whether the killers would, on reading the story, indeed return to silence the widow and her children. Still, it would take nothing from journalists to heed the concerns of conscientious readers. One can't be too careful when it comes to people's lives.

A matter that really incensed many readers this past week was the despicable coverage by some media of the so-called leaked Caster Semenya medical report.

Australia's Daily Telegraph outdid itself as the purveyor of the worst gutter journalism by splashing the leaked report on its front page before Caster was informed of its potentially devastating contents.

All they cared about was to be the first with the news, regardless of the psychological harm the young woman might suffer upon reading in the press that she has no womb and ovaries.

Sadly, some local rags did not come out smelling of roses in this sorry saga. They joined in the Aussie feeding frenzy, telling the world she was a hermaphrodite before she and her family got to know.

Local media could not have avoided what was the biggest South African story.

As Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya, executive editor of Sowetan, puts it: newspapers are no longer the primary source of news.

It would indeed have been foolhardy to ignore the story once it broke.

Ignoring the story would have been cheating readers.

People's hunger for news about their heroine was such that they would have ditched newspapers that ignored the story for the opposition.

To their credit, the local media were generally sympathetic and avoided caricaturing the young woman.

Avusa dailies angled their coverage on reaction to the Aussie bombshell.

Sowetan sought to rebut the cruel reporting of the Daily Telegraph's portrayal of Caster as a cheat, complete with an unflattering photo of her grimacing.

The Times did much better by actually speaking to the athlete's granny and mother, thus softening the blow of the devastating news that their daughter would not be able to bear children even if she so wished.

That is the least all media should have done. Human decency should not play second fiddle to the clamour for scoops and "world exclusives".

We usually avoid naming people who die in accidents before their next of kin are informed.

Is a simple young woman from an African village not worthy of that courtesy?

I agree fully with the Daily Dispatch's editorial: "The world appears to have lost its mind and any semblance of human decency when it comes to Caster Semenya."

Now, can the vultures please let her concentrate on studying for her university examinations?


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