Saturday, December 17, 2005

MY OPINION on Advertising, Money and the Media

It is seen by many as making a pact with the devil- information media financing itself by selling advertising space to businesseses big and small and in turn only encoding their messages to the seemingly gullible public which contain nothing bad about those who advertise with them.

This seems all well and good until the trust is broken by the media company and they don't report on the illegal or harmful practices of a business who sponsors them. I remember when I took over as editor Activate, one of my executive staff who is an ardent "activist" against the corporate power structure in the world today voiced strong concerns over the fact that we are expanding the paper in order to increase advertising space and thus hopefully our print run. What she quickly came to understand is that we need advertisers to buy space in our newspaper, otherwise we go under and can't print none of our messages would get out.

What many people don't realise though is that advertising in newspapers has been around for a long long time. Newspapers used to be sold to cover expenses way back in th 17 and 1800s. They were not in the so-called objective guise they are today, newspapers back then were run with an express purpose of encoding messages to promote the cause of particular groups in society, some would argue that nothing has changed. It turned out that the lower classes were starting newspapers in order to make their plight known and to bring about liberal changes in the countries they lived in. To the landed gentry this would not do at all so they decided to move the goal posts and started their own newspapers which they used to sell advertising to the emerging middle class of merchants and professionals. This increased revenue allowed them to not only print more newspapers than their lower-class rivals but also to fix the prices of their publications at one much lower than the local preassure group "rag".

This forced many newspapers to go out of business or adapt in order to survive. But those which adpated had to change their target markets because the money was in the middle-class and not in the lower classes- the newspaper's previous target market. Thus this saw the death of a newspaper for the poor masses turning them essentially back into bumpkins of the highest order, like the serfs of old, too busy toiling for their survival to notice what was going higher up in the political and macro-economic spheres. This tragedy was soon seen when the introduction of modern Democracy was brought about, people simply could not vote for the correct candidate...because they didnt know any better.

I endevour to use South Africa as an example if I may. The newspapers with the biggest circulations behave in the abovementioned manner- they target the upper and middle classes because that is where the money is. The Sowetan, the hallowed black daily newspaper in South Africa, has the largest daily circulation while newspapers like the Sunday Times have the largest circulation for weekly newspapers. The ANC government continues blunder its way through running this country, in my opinion at least, yet they win almost every time in all the elections, by-elections, municipal elections and any other election you care to name. It can thus be said that the majority of people in South Africa are kind to the ANC and are giving them lots of chances to redeem themselves, NOT TRUE! I sincerely believe that if democracy truly worked in South Africa, the ANC would be on its ear before you could say Jacob Zuma or Petrol Shortage. The majority of South Africans are voting ANC because they dont know any better and need to be educated and it is up to the media to do that- it is the news media's duty in society to do that...but often, due to financial constraints, it cant because that isnt where the money is.

One can only shrug and sigh when a corrupt mayor sits behind a barricade, while the citizens he was appointed by riot in his streets and throw petrol bombs and call for his resignation, and says "The ANC will win the municipal election...again" and they do because those rioting dont see the bigger picture because they cant. The scenes in many small dorpies especially in Mpumalanga and the Northwest look like they did in Apartheid- no go areas with barricades and downed powerlines, burning tires and angry residents who actually hold the power for change in their votes.

Heck, if I ran a newspaper which catered for the poor, I would'nt even have to lie about what the ANC has done and what it has failed to do. I could still be highly objective and report on the "good" things which the ANC has done although I am willing to bet my last Kruger Rand that it would be a struggle to find them.

But now I see the lower classes have a newspaper, its called Die Son and is gurenteed to ensure that they do not get any wiser about the political situation in the country and how they can change it, its just sex, scandal and sport to steal the pay-off line on a Cape Town tabloid which shall remain nameless. The lower classes need meaningful news dealing with meaningful ways of making a difference...not who has raped who or how much money someone stole from some BEE deal.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Air France is not good

Don't fly Air France click here and here to see why!!!!!

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Sunday Times- a victim of tabloidisation

The main headline above the fold of the edition of the South African Sunday Times for Sunday the 13th of November 2005: Zuma Rape Claim with the cutline reading: Police Probe allegation that the ANC deputy president sexually assaulted a guest at his house.

I shook my head when I read that headline and passed right on by without buying a copy (at R8,50 I think its a bit of a rip-off anyway). My main reason for shaking my head and voting with my wallet is the question bouncing around in my mind which is does it really matter what Zuma did in his home? The answer I arrived at was: yes it does. If he did do something he should'nt have to that woman he should be held accountable for it just like anyone else in South Africa, but he should only be held accountable if it has been proven that he did something and it has been brought to court- otherwise as far as this editor-in-chief is concerned, if I edited the Sunday Times, that Zuma story would have been a 250 words on page 3 if that, NOT on the front page.

But why do I take exception to this? I respected the Sunday Times once, it reported news which was factual and relevant, comment which was well justified and plausable analysis- it has quite frankly lost its way and gotten stuck in the donga which is tabloidisation. Lets talk about definitions for a moment: I use the term tabloid to mean a newspaper which reports on events and happenings in a sensationalist and unfounded way. I was insulted when many people called for a halt on the extensive coverage the Zuma trial and others have been getting. "Telling the journalists not to report on something? Freedom of the press I cried"- the reason given to this want for a media blackout was that Zuma had been tried and convicted already by the press and this I didnt buy into...until today.

In my opinion, a newspaper's job is to report facts and events in the most informative way possible- analysis should go on page 4 with it clearly labeled analysis, the Sunday Times was reporting allegations made against Mr Zuma as hard news FACT! The keywords here is allegations. It sounds to me that like the ANC is launching a smear campaign to try and discredit Mr Zuma even further- the sad part of it is that the Sunday Times seems to want to buy into doing this and thus reporting these new allegations in the way they did, they haven't dug beneath the surface and for that you need time- hence you run the initial story on page 3, dig a bit deeper, if you find out its an ANC smear campaign shout it from the rooftops! If it eventually comes to light that Zuma did in fact do something he should'nt have, then shout it with banner headlines and large font on the front page.

Ok, if you got this far so you either agree with me or you strongly disagree with me. Lets say that for argument sake that the Sunday Times is in fact trying to appeal to the tabloid readers and in so doing endevouring to increase its overall market share. Why is tabloidisation so popular? because it creates waves, it creates controversey and people love that don't they? Now, don't get me wrong, controversey is a journalists bread and butter- its what sells newspapers there can be no doubt about it, it can be colourful and interesting and it can be great. But, I say controversey has to create itself for the newspaper- not the newspaper create itself for the controversey. Let me explain, true controversey is the kind which you can slap on the page and it sends tingles up your spine when you do- manufactured (read bad) controversey is when a newspaper takes something which might be big and which might matter and make it into something that is big and does matter for all the wrong reasons- its one step away from creative writing ladies and gentlemen and not the type Hemingway did, his time is over.

I am not adverse to putting controversey in the newspaper I have been appointed to manage but I say lets create controversey with reason, and by creating I mean that something only becomes controversial once it has been read and digested by your readers.

Zuma is, in my personal opinion, is as guilty as sin. He has been tried and convicted in the public eye through the press before he has even set foot in a court room, this I admit and furthermore I admit that this is not entirely fair. "But why then defend the cad?" I hear you exclaim as you scratch your head with confusion. To this I say: the crimes Zuma is being held accountable for have gone to court- thats news, it was news when he was dismissed and it the corruption he may have been involved in is news and controversial news at that. But the team at the Sunday Times seem to be flogging a dead horse here when they dredge up this new gem- Zuma has been done and is now old news, "lets try and spice things up a bit so we can get as much mileage out of him" seem to be their thinking and that is controversey for the wrong reasons

Thanks for reading

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Strange emails

As editor, I get many many emails- some saying good things and some bad things about me and the newspaper I run... but I got this one yesterday and could not make any sense of it:

Hope you get the original version.

As the Editor-in-chief of an independent student news paper catering for a multiracial
community in a "small town".I would like to give you an "assignment" for this precious
december vac to go ask experienced editors, why society always use man of humble origins
as their escape goat to disrepute "organisatios"/"individuals"/"cope with their fears" .

Do n't get me twisted i am not representing any "camp" with unclear/hidden political
mandate.You may mind find it shocking that any rational/"decent"/"potential leader" would
e-mail you such "gross" after you have officilly published that you are taking a brake
for the exam.

Having to resort to the media to address "challeges" of life is not my nature,
but at times when an irrecovable error has occurred a person realy on carefully tailored
minds to regain his dignity.

"I wish I had the academic indepedence to say i write in my personal capacity",if you are
keen on knowing my name feel free to go trace me at the student bureau/IT division.

Good luck on your exams and your future as a journalist this precious generation depends
on your wisdom to activate them to their full potential.


Thoughts, comments? I really Don't know what to make of this...

Monday, November 07, 2005

Energy and the way we spend it

There are people in my life who always seem to be having some personal crisis or another. Now, I am a pretty laid back person, I simply do not have time in my life to care that its raining outside or if the new school of Journalism building is an awful piece of architecture. But this transcends time and these inane outburst of self-absorbed rage not only expend time but energy as well. Generally speaking a busy person who concerns themselves with doing meaningful things does not have the energy to expend on these outbursts I speak of, busy people's lives are interesting enough without having to invent drama and strife on which to fret and moan over.

I count myself as a busy person and I know I like my energy, I like having energy and I like channelling that energy into the right things, thoughts, people and directions. But it is a true tragedy when those who have far too much time on their hands think that they are applying their minds to things that are bigger than them...or that deserve to be fretted over. It is another tragedy that these not-so-busy people are the ones who have time to truly reflect on life. Perhaps that is why they concern themselves with expending their suplus energy in the pursuit of getting ulcers about the fact that they have so much work and thus will defiantly reset like an overloaded computer and end up doing none of it, or concern themselves with what colour the tablecloths at a restaurant are.

Get over yourselves and once you have done that go and read this blog which belongs to a friend of mine.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

The bug has bitten, its official

Spring has brought disgusting heat to Grahamstown, its fire season once again and the authorities they suspect an arsonist is hard at work setting fires and keeping the plucky understaffed fire service of this back-water university town busy.

A fire started in the local hospital grounds, although not the work of an arsonist but a lightinging strike, smoke billowed into the wards and patients had to be evacuated. While this drama was unfolding I was driving to the local mall with my girlfriend. On the way there a fire engine rumbled past us and I had a sudden urge to do a U-turn and chase the damn thing. I related this urge to my perplexed girfriend and she suggested we chase the thing!

It was at this point I realised, for the umpteenth time, that I had found my calling. Terrible as it sounds I knew that there was a story where that fire engine was going, people may even be dying where that fire engine was going but that would make the story even more weightier no?

Our planet is often referred to as "Spaceship Earth"well, if it was a spaceship and all 6 bilion of us were astronauts travelling through space all doing our jobs to keep it going the journalists would be strapped to the nose cone telling everyone inside what was going on, thats what our job is...and we get a front row seat on life, even though some people would rather see the show from the mezzazine.

I have sold my soul, they are keeping it in a jar in the basement of the Journalism department I am sure of it. The journalism bug has bitten, its official and I am loving it!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Editorial 3

Letters to the Editor are truly wonderful things- and its been great receiveing so many since I took over the paper. Intellectuals fighting is always interestng (especially when the battle lines are the pages of the paper you are editor of) and I dare say the letters I received made the edition. My third editorial:

Well, it’s nearly exam time again and it seems like just the other day that I was sitting in exams, my mind and fingers numbed by the cold. But this time around, as always, heat will be what dulls the senses as perspiration what slows the fingers.

There are however some constants which just make the exam process seem almost cozy in a sense. The nervous wait outside the venue then the rush to see where you will be sitting and the relief to see your name hasn’t been crossed out because of that small chance that the DP warning letter didn’t get through to you. The shuffle into the venue itself, the tension quite palatable as you glance around trying to convince yourself that there are others in there with you who are more nervous and perhaps even studied less than you did. Then there is the obligatory monologue from the invigilators, at this point it almost feels like you are about to bungee jump off a bridge in the dark, the invigilators may as well be shouting “bungee” when they tell you to begin reading time as there is no turning back after that. No way of knowing if the there is a rocky outcrop or two to bash against as you speed towards the ground, no way of knowing if the cord will even hold you and save you from a plummet to an F on your academic transcript. But when you find questions you can answer, it’s like feeling the cord tighten and snap back as it saves you from getting a mouthful of dirt while a wave of euphoria and relief wash over you. All you have to do after that is start writing and believe in yourself. But enough about exams.

Letters to the editor are great things to get as they let us know that people are reading the newspaper and care about what is being said. One of the first things I did was add in the “How to contact us” box in order to open a channel of communication between us and our readers as no newspaper is an island. There were two articles which appeared in last edition in particular which were commented on. The first being the SRC article on the front page which Dominic White wrote a letter about. The second was a response written by Professor Marius Vermaak, the head of Philosophy and the Dean of the International Office with regard to the opinion piece written by Dr Leonard Praeg, a lecturer in the Politics department.

In his email to me Professor Vermaak stated that in his opinion I, as editor, “owes (sic) the University space for a full response, to a very irresponsible and damaging article.” Let me get a few things straight at this point, Activate is and independent student newspaper and thus we owe nothing to any one person or organisation, this includes the University and the SRC, we owe everything however to you, our readers, as it is only to you, I feel that Activate is accountable to. Therefore, as per Professor Vermaak’s wishes, we are running his letter in full and totally unedited. I do however take exception to Professor Vermaak’s aforementioned remark. His letter is getting printed because he is the person in the position to represent the University on this matter, he is “the man in know” so to speak. His letter is not getting printed because I owe it to the University. Turn to page four to read the letters for yourself.

Editorial 2

I wrote this editorial after an unsuccessful round of SRC elections- quorum had not been reached for the executive committee to be voted in: Student apathy at its highest...but can you blame us for not voting? read on and decide for yourself!

I am going to sound like a bit of a stuck record here but I can’t resist talking about the SRC again. I hope we can elect a new SRC and get it over with or will we be third time lucky? To turn a phrase, “They [the SRC] are so useless they can’t even get themselves out of power” I wish I could take credit for saying that but alas I can’t.

We have trapped ourselves in our own apathy. Last year we elected, if their performance record is anything to go by, a stupendously useless bunch of individuals to represent us. We made decisions which were not informed and we are now paying the price. So why didn’t we get quorum last time? The confidence in the SRC had fallen so much that it was enough to turn you apathetic, why bother voting for people who seemingly only want to add another thing to their CVs? But as I said in my last editorial, the blame can’t be placed on the SRC only- we have to look at who voted them in and those people are you and me friends. The question that arises at this point is doe we need an SRC? Is it an outdated structure? I don’t dispute that we need to be represented but then it must be clear we are actually being represented. To the newly elected SRC I say: learn from the mistakes of the past, restore confidence and show us that you are actually doing something for us. But that’s enough SRC bashing for now.

I feel that one of the jobs journalists have is to demystify leaders, politicians and sometimes even celebrities. To this end we have for you on page five, an interview with the Dean of Students, Dr Moosa Motara. While I am not saying that Dr Motara falls into any of the abovementioned categories of person, he is still the person everyone seems to blame when something goes wrong. We are very quick to blast admin about any issue we have under the sun and yes, most of the time (I certainly feel) the grievance falls under their sphere of influence so the complaint is justified. Yet admin still remains wrapped in a mystical cloud of public relations and closed door meetings, the interview on page five serves to lift that cloud a little.

As I sit here writing this there is a massive banging going on downstairs, the sound of the Union in the throes of refurbishment. As you may have noticed, our front page story is about just that. I think Mike Smurfwaite sums it up well when describes the Union as nothing more than an “archaic shell.” It has certainly been this way in the two years I have been here and the refurbishment looks to be very positive step as, to coin a phrase, “if you build it, they will come.” But of course that remains to be seen.

This week, African Affairs (page nine) leads with a story on the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM) on campus which is situated opposite Smuts. Many a time I have walked past the sign at the front of the building (mostly after a big night out) and peered at it wondering what they actually do in there. Go to page nine to find out.

I hope you enjoy reading this week’s edition look out for our exam edition in two weeks, bye for now.

Editorial 1

My first editorial- I wanted to make it clear what I felt Activate's role was on campus as well as steering how people saw the editorial as just a big fat rant or self-help column!

I firmly believe that it is important to ask interesting questions because then you will hopefully get interesting answers.

So, here is a question for you: did you vote in the SRC elections and if so who did you vote for? By the time you read this the election would have come and gone, quorum (hopefully) reached and the new members of the SRC ready to begin doing whatever the SRC is actually meant to do.

Hold it right there, what does the SRC actually do? At times I am not sure that the members of the SRC themselves actually know. Well, let’s break down what the acronym SRC actually stands for: the “S” is for students, that’s us. The “R” is for representative, which must mean they represent the students (us) and the “C” is for council which means, in my view, that there is a lot of paperwork involved.

Therefore, the SRC, in effect, are elected public servants of the students and who will speak for us when admin does something and sort out things like societies. The keyword here is “elected” as the candidates may choose to run but we choose to vote for them. So, here is another interesting question: if we vote in an SRC who doesn’t do a good job whose fault is it really? Let me answer that one for you: it is our fault, especially if you didn’t vote.

This brings me to another thing I would like to point out, students are great at complaining, and I am guilty of this as well believe me (I mean, what am I doing in this column?). The first thing I noticed when I arrived here last year was the amount of hot air students’ spout in complaining to whoever will listen about anything and everything, but doing nothing about it. But in an election we get the chance to do something and make a change for the better. What happens if you don’t vote then? Are you still entitled to complain about the lack of service the SRC are giving us? My answer is a big hell no! We do just that anyway though which is quite sad when you think about it don’t you think?

Let me just say at this point that while Activate is committed to watching every move the SRC makes and we won’t hesitate to print an article when they mess up, we are also going to strive to print the good things too because often those go unnoticed.

So, what can you expect from us, the new team at Activate? Our goal is simply to create a stimulating paper and get it to you, the campus community.

In this edition we lead with the HIV/AIDS week march which happened last Friday. The reception the marchers got from Dr Woods and the policy SHARC gave him was truly amazing. Rest assured we will be watching to make sure they carry through on their promises. But their actions can only go so far, AIDS is your problem too.

I hope you enjoy this first edition of the new team, have a great vac and you can catch the next edition in the second week of next term. Hold on tight, here we go!

I become editor (wank alert)

I was recently appointed as the Editor in Chief of the student newspaper Activate, I am going to be posting my editorials- just as a wank to myself really!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Print is dead! Long live the Internet

A group of us were having this discussion in the Cue Newsroom the other day: Is print dying and will the Internet or New Media (NM) replace it?

The way I see it, once upon a time, Print was an innovatinve new media through which information could be disseminated on a potentially large scale to many people easier than before. The coming of paper, the use of ink and the invention of the printing press came together to create a new medium.

But there was a catch- people needed to be able to read in order to digest the information and thus make use of this new medium. This lead to literacy rate to grow which had consequences later with regard to the distribution of ideology and nationalism etc. Therefore, with the increased literacy the print medium's power increased albeit that the fact that literacy was a factor which made using the print medium exclusive to elitist circles. This soon changed and being able to read is considered a prerequisite to living in modern Western society today.

But a piece of paper with words on it cannot be heard unless it is read and so radio became the meduim of the spoken word and the first form of broadcasting using the invention of electricity. The catch was, of course, one needed a radio to be able to take advantage of this new way of getting information and even then it was not gurenteed that you would be in range of a radio station. All of this has changed and now you can be assured of getting at least one radio station wherever you are in the world.

The photograph, an important element in newspapers, emerged as an important text but could only capture one moment of time- some see this as the photograph's most powerful quality. The photograph brought in the visual element into a newspaper but early cameras were bulky and unrelaiable. This was all ironed out eventually and thus cemented the alliance between photographs and print.

The Television, by the power of electricity and the Catho-ray tube brought us yet another medium- the marrying of moving pictures and sound in full colour and crystal clear clarity. But one needed to own a television set- still quite an expensive item to this day maling it an exclusive medium to the upper LSM groups of society.

But was this the ultimate?

At this point we had made a place for each of the information media in society, even though one made the other obsolete- print was, it can be argued, made obsolete with the coming of radio and radio, it can further be argued, was made obsolete with the coming of Television. Was this the best we could do?

But I believe its human nature to strive to improve technology and this has a spin-off to every aspect of modern life. Computers have undoubtably been one of the single most important invention ever. Combining the power of electricity, plastics, mathematics and a myriad of other previous invented concepts, materials and machines, computers opened a doorway into a new and exciting era- we built a machine that could think and carry out tasks when we asked it to.
But how to harness this new power? What did it all mean for information media? If computers opened the door to a new era of doing things, the internet dragged the information media through it kicking and screaming.

The internet began as a means for the United State's Military to keep a communication network up and running even if large amounts of it was destroyed. The mainstreaming of the internet heralded a new dawn for information dissemination. For the first time since Television words, sound and the moving as well as the still image could all be combined into one unit. The internet is therefore, in my opinion, the medium of mediums. However, it does not render any of its predecessors obsolete- we still need words, thos we got from print, we still need moving images and sound those we got from television and radio, we still need photographs. Thus it is a meeting of minds, a meeting of creativity. An interet site can be, in theory, viewed by anyone in the world who is on the internet.

There is of course a myriad of catches- just like there was with the previous media. Firstly one needs a computer which has access to the internet, both are still expensive things to have. One needs to be able to use this computer in a fruitful way- computer literacy is needed much like one needs to learn how to read in order to enjoy the print meduim.

But what about the other mediums? Are we going to see them die?

The way I see it, print as we know it will be around for a long time to come. Space will be made in society for NM as has been the case in the past. For print to die out completly the internet, radio or television must become the primary means for people to get their information and I just dont see this happening for several reasons:

1.) The cost: its still cheaper to buy a newspaper than get setup for the internet and learn how to use a computer or buy a TV or computer.

2.) one needs to learn how to use a computer

3.) one needs to be able to be connected to the internet and afford to use it on a daily basis- as much as one would have access to a newspaper.

thus I think print is not dead yet, and wont be for a long time.

just my 2c

Friday, July 15, 2005

Schools fest

Well, Schools fest is nearly over! YAY!! I was up all night laying out the schoolsfest newsletter thing- it took me 10 hours to do an 8 page A4 sized publication....pathetic hey? at 9 this morning, when I took it to be printed, I had been awake for 24 hours straight! least they are paying me!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Beginning

Well I have finally decided to start a blog....dunno how this is gonna turn out or if I will remember to even post stuff but will try anyway!