Sat Oct 22 07:35:15 SAST 2016

You can't wish the Khanyis of this world away

By Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya | Jan 22, 2010 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

QUITE predictably our story on the latest Khanyi Mbau escapade had some readers opposed to this type of story complaining about the falling standards of the paper.

QUITE predictably our story on the latest Khanyi Mbau escapade had some readers opposed to this type of story complaining about the falling standards of the paper.

The gist of the complaint was that Sowetan had succumbed to the slippery world of what they call "tabloidisation" and the celebration of individuals who are simply famous for being famous.

If you are one of these readers let me reassure you we feel with you.

The problem is that many of you are interested in these stories even if you have to take your copy to the loo to read it.

Just like there are many who claim to dislike soapies, the viewership ratings tend to tell a different story. The SABC and the SA Football Association have had to come to an agreement that matches featuring the national team will follow Generations because the soapie has many more followers than Bafana Bafana.

Some of those who claim to hate these stories read them and offer in their defence something akin to a former US supreme court justice who famously observed: "I know pornography when I see it" to explain why he wanted to watch-read before he could pronounce on the issues.

We accept that there are those who genuinely find such stories offensive. But then, is it fair not to run stories that have a clear following simply because they do not meet one's sensibilities?

Newspapers like Sowetan have to do a balancing act every day. We have a wide range of readers with differing tastes and prejudices.

There are many instances in which hard-working and clean-living individuals would be interested in stories that on the surface have no bearing on anything.

Take the Tiger Woods sex scandal for example. No lives have been changed materially now that we know the exact number of birdies he shot off the course, yet it is a story that continues to capture the world's imagination - including "respectable" publications.

Many of the newspapers by whose standards our detractors harshly judge us were happy to run stories of how ANC spokesperson Carl Niehaus lived the high life when he could not afford it.

Again, how Niehaus lived had no effect or impact on how our lives turn out. Yet, as with Woods, many of us could not wait for the next instalment.

So when is tabloidisation not tabloidisation?

My appeal to you, dear reader, would be to avoid the tyranny of dogma or slogans. Human beings are more complex than we sometimes give them credit for.

The edition that has some of you hot under the collar also had stories on how little Ashleigh Louw was doing, former Azapo president and Minister of Science and Technology Mosibudi Mangena's thought-provoking critique of the first day of school frenzy and the fight by DA councillors over the party's position on animal rights.

The sports pages had the Proteas' preparation for the tour of India, the Sharks' flyhalf worries, the goings-on in the Australian Open along with Orlando Pirates hopes that Teko Modise's return to form would see them end the season with a flourish.

So judge us on how balanced (or not) the paper is for the various competing interests rather than on whether we carried one story of which you did not approve.

Take what you will from what we write about Khanyi Mbau and related subjects but, trust me, we have no doubt about your intelligence.

Some of you might be interested in Mbau for what she means to a growing culture of crass materialism and the habits of the nouveau riche, while for others she says something about the gender discourse or any other thing worth serious scholarly work.

We expect that the intelligent reader you are will, instead of wishing the phenomenon of the Khanyis of our world away, understand our society better so that if we disapprove of what she says about us, we can prevent it from being the dominant narrative of our times.


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