LETTER FROM THE DM168 EDITOR
Between pre-truth Putin and post-truth Trump is a tribe of journalists whose lenses always stay focused
Being with our award-winning colleagues from across the media spectrum at the Sikuvile Awards made me feel immensely proud of our journalists who sacrifice so much to get to the truth.
Dear DM168 readers,
I was away last week, locked in the bubble of my MBA course, while the news cycle whirled around at breakneck speed. Five days of stepping out of the whirlwind gives you the privilege of distance, disconnect and perspective. I don’t know about you, but I cannot breathe in a world without journalism.
If I had to rely on all the celebrities, PR agents, politicians, trolls and bots, and wannabe know-it-alls on social media platforms to get an idea of what actually is going on in the world beyond my front door, I would never leave my house in fear of the sky falling on my head from all the misinformation and promotional-material missiles flying around.
On Saturday, the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef), of which I and fellow editors of the most credible news outlets in South Africa are members, held its AGM and its annual Standard Bank Sikuvile Awards. Chaired by the editor-in-chief of Eyewitness News, S’bu Ngalwa, and the deputy chair, Sowetan editor Nwabisa Makunga, Sanef is one organisation that I am very proud of to be a member.
I love the vigorous debate, the considered arguments, the respect, the listening to diverse opinions, the rootedness in South Africa and serving our people, and the overarching understanding of the important role that independent, fact-based journalism plays in our country.
The fact that we are competitors in this shrinking journalism ecosystem does not stop us from putting aside our egos and working together for the common good. Being with our award-winning colleagues from across the media spectrum at the Sikuviles made me feel immensely proud of our tribe of journalists who sacrifice so much to get to the truth.
One of the least acknowledged forms of journalism is photography. With the invention of smartphones with inbuilt cameras, many media owners downsized photographic teams and expected journalists to use their phones to capture pictures on the run while reporting on stories.
Our country, like Russia, is riddled with mafia – we see it in the taxi industry, in the scuffle over government tenders, in the illicit drug trade.
Photography is an art and a craft. It’s a visual storytelling form, which in its purest form (unadulterated by Photoshop or AI) captures reality as it happens. This art, craft and skill should not be confused with the mass of poser Instagram, happy snaps.
This fact was amplified by the Sikuvile judges, led by my former Sunday Times and Tribute magazine colleague and Wits academic Lizeka Mda, when they chose photographer Phandulwazi Jikelo of the Cape Times as the 2023 Journalist of the Year. This is supersignificant, as previous winners are mostly investigative or hard-news journalists.
Even though Jikelo works for Independent Media, whose editors choose not to belong to Sanef or the Press Council and abide by the Press Code, and who have tarnished journalistic integrity by publishing stories like former Pretoria News editor Piet Rampedi’s discredited decuplets, it is great to see a journalist acknowledged who is so talented at telling stories through the photographic lens.
Our own Daily Maverick pictures editor, Felix Dlangamandla, was shortlisted for his picture “No Sanitation”, and reporter Suné Payne was highly commended for her story “Heartache of forced removals as claimants prepare to make history and move back to District Six”.
Category winners from Daily Maverick were Michelle Banda, who was awarded the Juby Mayet Rising Star of the Year award, and columnist Hamilton Wende, who won the Columns/Editorial award for “The first casualty of the war is truth – and humanity is close behind” and “Adriaan Vlok – the old man and the dark shadow of the past”.
Lies and more lies
To repeat what Wende wrote in his award-winning column: the first casualty of war is truth – and humanity is close behind.
He writes that “Western society, especially the US, is said to have entered a “post-truth era”, especially in the wake of Donald Trump’s disastrous and lie-strewn presidency. Putin’s Russia is a “pre-truth” society where reality is defined by the cruelty of his own vision of the world around him.
In this week’s front-page story of DM168, our associate editor, Marianne Thamm, penetrates the pre-truth society of Vladimir Putin and unravels for us what is happening in the vast network of oligarchs and securocrats in the Kremlin after Putin’s right-hand man, Yevgeny Prigozhin, threatened to march his mercenary band of militia on Moscow.
Our Durban-based correspondent, Greg Arde, sheds light on progress made in thwarting the construction mafia that has held guns to the heads of anyone trying to do business in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). Our country, like Russia, is riddled with mafia – we see it in the taxi industry, in the scuffle over government tenders, in the illicit drug trade, where violence, death threats or murder are used to eke out a share of the pie. The good news from KZN is that it does not have to be this way, when ordinary folk, business organisations and law enforcement work together.
I look forward to reading your views and suggestions for ridding ourselves of the thugs who are crushing our economy. Contact me at [email protected]
Yours in defence of truth,
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.