THE goal to undermine Independent Media by detractors has reached a new low by all standards, this time in the form of WITS Associate Professor Glenda Daniels, who ran an opinion piece that, by all considerations, breached the first law of journalism – accuracy.
In its questionable quest to “defend truth”, Daily Maverick gleefully published the article without even bothering to do a simple fact-check, simply because they want to peddle lies in their quest to undermine a media house that gives an alternative view.
“The Independent Media group holds the largest number of English newspapers in its stable (Cape Times, Cape Argus, The Mercury, Daily News and The Star), as well as the largest isiZulu paper, Isolezwe. This month Independent announced it is retrenching 128 journalists; the latter reported the company hasn’t paid out its retrenchment packages (yet, we hope) but instead gave them food vouchers to the value of R2,500. Primedia and Arena are retrenching too, last year Media 24 did, but no one’s heard of food vouchers instead of proper severance,” Daniels wrote.
The deliberate peddling of misinformation in this statement is just mundblowing! The food vouchers were a form of gratuity from the company, meant to assist the journalists, while their retrenchment packages were being processed.
“Independent will be left with a skeleton of staff from many rounds of retrenchments over the past 10 years,” Daniels continues. I challenge you professor, in fact I implore you to point out those many rounds of retrenchments over the past 10 years.
The professor’s article smacks of something generated by AI bots, which are known to fill the gaps with fiction.
Daniels hypocritically says it is always sad when media die, as we need more diversity of views in journalism, not less, yet the whole campaign to undermine Independent Media is because this is one of the very few media houses that gives an alternative view. Oh the irony!
During the lockdowns in 2020 caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) and others including the Daily Maverick slammed Independent Media for temporarily cutting salaries to save jobs and avoid retrenchments.
The other media, which retrenched and even went as far as shutting down several print publications were regarded as angels. Those media houses acted in their own interests and not in their staff’s interest. Go figure!
Meanwhile, Sanef gave themselves a pat on the back for starting a fund for the retrenched journalists. “In our first round we received 320 applications and 227 journalists were selected for payments. Journalists received a small donation of R5 000 to purchase necessities like food and clothing,” Sanef said.
The benefits from that fund, noble as it was, were far less than what the journalists would have taken home had their media houses considered the journalists’ welfare instead of their bottom line.
The retrenchment route was the last resort at Independent Media, as opposed to the first thing to do in other media companies.
Now back to the professor’s drivel. Daniels says when there is no independent journalism (fact-based reportage with multiple sources, and perspectives and intelligent analysis) journalism loses credibility, people stop buying the paper because they don’t trust that news; sales plummet, journalists get retrenched, until there’s no one left and the media company closes its doors.
Did you check your facts, professor, before writing lies about Independent Media, or are you and the Daily Maverick on a mission to lose credibility and lose your readers’ trust? I think not, because your article would read very differently.
We are not frightened by criticism, but do it properly with facts and intelligent analysis. Like you said: “Everyone in journalism has been affected by digitisation but companies crumble when readers deem your news untrustworthy.”
Comment or criticism is protected even if it is extreme, unjust, unbalanced, exaggerated and prejudiced, as long as it is without malice, is on a matter of public interest, has taken fair account of all material facts that are either true or reasonably true, according to the Press Code.
The professor’s comments are far from the truth and far from being fair. It is, however, in the public interest, to call out the factual mistakes of those in the media.
Finally, I urge you to call the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) and enquire about Independent Media’s debt. You will find that your claims are extremely off the mark, meaning you just fed South Africans false information.
Please do yourself and South Africans a favour and just follow your own advice … check the facts.