I know nothing about running a newspaper nor do I claim to be a journalist but I sure know a thing or two about what news is and what news isn’t. I therefore have a hard time believing Sunday Times’ front-page lead story “Oscar parties” today, 14 April, is news. Worse, I doubt this article was worthy of a front-page. Or was it?
I do not think South African media this week experienced what I call “low news day” for Sunday Times to have run such a front-page lead story. I lot has happened. For example, that expelled ANCYL President Julius Malema had his case struck off the court roll surely is something the newspaper could have run with at least and dug even further on reasons behind that decision. This, in my view, because there is a huge public interest in the case due to the seriousness of the allegations against Malema. So strucking such a case off the court roll invites more serious questions.
Back to Pistorius. We know there’s huge public interest in Oscar Pistorius’ allegations that he killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp on 14 February this year. That not so long ago he successfully won a court order against his strict and somewhat unfair bail conditions is also noted. The recent bail conditions victory means the poor guy’s welcome to party as much as he pleases. What the new bail conditions case further makes possible is for him to travel outside of the country as much as often as he sees fit. Of course it cannot be disputed that his talent threw him into the limelight and thereby making anything he touches (but not Steenkamp, unfortunately) and says draw a huge public interest because he’s seen as a public figure who many look up to (although I’m sure if that’s still case following the murder allegations). But I could be wrong…
In justifying its front-page, Sunday Times goes on to rely extensively on its five sources, one of whom claimed Pistorius was “relaxed-looking”. Despite the serious allegations, I doubt the murder accused was as “relaxed” as portrayed in the article or as described by the source because he had previously been seen like he was crying in court. And still, who wouldn’t go out and have a couple of beers with friends (provided one takes alcohol) especially after what I’d call an in-house camping? Further, I don’t see how his “greeting a couple and then gave the woman a little pat on her backside [which was seen as] so inappropriate” is still any news at all. By the way, that this was seen by the source(s) (and seemingly the newspaper) as “inappropriate” does not mean it any wrong. What if those are people he happened to know (God knows from where)? Like his spokesperson Anneliese Burgess said: the outing/clubbing was a way of him “reconnect[ing] with friends” he probably hasn’t seen since 14 February (emphasis).
I therefore wholeheartedly agree with Burgess that it is indeed “regrettable that what was supposed to be a low-key evening reconnecting with friends is now being blown out of proportion for sensational reasons”. Worse, that it made a reputable newspaper like Sunday Times’ front-page is beyond me. What is further regrettable about the “Oscar parties” front-page is that it terribly fails to state whether Pistorius’ clubbing with friends broke any of his bail conditions which, in that case, would have justified it or any other publication running with the article. In this particular case, however, I have not come across anything that gives the impression that the Paralympic committed a serious misconduct that one believes would have resulted in his being rearrested.
So, I ask, why did Sunday Times run with “Oscar parties” when clearly to a reasonable reader (like myself) the subject thereof did not breach any of his bail conditions which would then have justified it publishing the article due to the often abused “public interest” defence that, too, would have resulted in Pistorius being rearrested for having committed such a serious offence?
Like I said at the begging, I know nothing about running a newspaper nor do I claim to be a journalist but I sure know a thing or two about what news is and what news isn’t. And today’s Sunday Times’ leading front-page story isn’t news at all. At least it isn’t to me.
Disclaimer: I did not buy Sunday Times today because of its headline and therefore would not know whether Malema’s case mentioned in here was reported or not.