July 7, 2011

South African Press - Part Three

A recent edition of the Star
So I've bashed South African newspapers in the first post of this series, and I've warned about the government's assault on South Africa's freedom of the press in the second, but I should also mention something I find positive about the local press: They truly seem to want to help fix problems, not just report them.

Maybe this is the legacy of the anti-apartheid struggle, in which the press (not all of it) played an enormous role. Or maybe, if you are looking for a more sinister motive, the press doesn’t want to accuse anyone in government of misdeeds if it hasn’t given them a chance to rectify, in fears of being prosecuted for defamation? I hope it’s the former, not the latter.

In any case, you may remember that I recently sent this letter to the editor to the Star in my frustration about broken robots:

How can Johannesburg call itself a “World Class City” when the average driver goes through at least three broken robots on any given day? There is a robot coming out from Dainfern onto William Nicol that has been “half” broken for almost a month. One side shows green while the cross traffic’s light is out, then the cross traffic’s light turns green while your light turns off. No repair crew, nor any police to direct traffic, has ever shown up. Needless to say, this is extremely dangerous. You can’t have robots with green on one side and NOT RED on the other. I almost got hit by a car there yesterday while trying to turn onto William Nicol. When I called Joburg Connect to report the robot, the person on the other line was extremely unhelpful. It took three tries to even report the robot, but of course no one could tell me if and when it would be fixed. Surely a “World Class City” would have a better system and act more quickly to protect citizens and visitors alike?

All I expected was that they might print it, but they did more: They forwarded it to the Joburg Roads Agency, where I myself had tried unsuccessfully to get someone to fix our neighborhood traffic light. Lo and behold, the next day it worked! Coincidence? I received a couple more emails from the Star to make sure that the problem was resolved and that I was happy. 

Then, apparently, they did print the letter, as Noisette's colleague mentioned in passing the other day, but unfortunately I missed it and can’t find it anywhere online.

I’m not sure if this kind of involvement by newspapers is really the best use of their expertise or whether it wouldn’t be better if they just stuck to reporting to force change, but it seems to have worked in this case.


Jaco Roets said...

I just discovered your blog today, and I love it! My wife and I currently live in Dayton, Ohio - where I was placed for 7 months working with a local "democracy think-tank." We are on our way back to our beloved Johannesburg by the end of July. We laughed so much at many of your posts - so many things resonated with us while we left large Johannesburg for small Dayton! Discovered your blog through 2Summers - grateful that I have the opportunity to follow your thoughts!

Heather said...

This story is amazing. You wouldn't get that kind of assistance from the Washington Post! Although I agree this is a strange roll for a newspaper.

Glad the Roets family has found you through me!

Heather said...

"Role" not "roll"!

Jake said...

I would argue that you need to get hold of the South African Mail & Guardian for professional journalism and international news. Its by far the best newspaper in South Africa :)


Sine said...

Jaco - glad you found my blog and good luck with the move back to Joburg. You might be looking forward to escaping the heat, from what I understand!
Thanks again everyone for pointing me to the M&G, I just skimmed the front page and it is very well done with lots of interesting topics.

W. A. Jeffrey said...

This is where the media can do the most good and I wish they would do more of that and less sensationalism or carrying the water for one political party over the other as is common in the USA.

Sine said...

Yes, unfortunately the media is prone to sensationalism. Helps the ratings, because people love a good sensational story.