Oscar Pistorius’ new love: In the public interest or profit-driven?

Our media can sometimes leave readers confused, wondering whether theirs is to generate good sales with scandalous (and sometimes defaming) frontpages or reporting news.

I admit that news is quite a subjective matter. Put differently, I think news is in the eyes of the reader. It cannot be denied that publications – print and or online – are left to make certain decisions on our behalf as reader/consumers. However, some of these decisions can leave many of us wondering what informs them: generate good sales and thereby profits or report news public interest. I must further add that I am no journalist nor do I claim to know anything about journalism (this is not self-doubt at all, okay) let alone know what it takes to run a newspaper. But there is one thing I know for sure: when a newspaper is bullshiting me into believing a report is in the public interest when it is, in my view, actually clear not.

It is undeniable that Oscar Pistorius has admitted to killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on 14 Feb 2012 by mistake after he allegedly mistook her at the time to being an intruder in his house. While media reports that followed were a bit weird and somewhat questionable, I will desist from passing any judgment against Pistorius and would rather leave that to our justice system – however questionable itself sometimes – as it’s best placed to do that. It is however quite shocking how the media has continued to report on this saga two years since it happened. A lot has been said and written about what happened or what may have happened and what may or should not have happened during that night Reeva was killed.

Maybe the media is not to blame, alone.

Reports alleging Reeva’s parents asked for cash to speak to one of the international media house since the shooting took place have not helped. If true, is makes one wonder, too, whether that was the best the family could have done considering the impact their daughter’s murder had on them, leaving them traumatized. If these reports are true, it is probably understandable that the media has not provided both families the time and privacy they require in dealing with the tragic incident that led to a loss of an innocent life. I cannot imagine what both Oscar’s and Reeva’s families are going through – but can only imagine the toll this has had on them.

Worse, the media attention has not made things any easier for them. It is of course undisputed that Oscar’s a well-known sportsman locally and internationally. This, I suppose, is probably why his case has to date attracted a lot of international media houses, with many reportedly having long established caravans and offices in months leading up to his bail application last year. With the trial set to start tomorrow, I suppose we should brace ourselves for more on this case. This because some media house applied to the court recently (and won) to have the trial broadcast to millions of their viewers (and I am glad I do not have a TV, it’s been about 6 years now). Although they are of course within their rights to have done so, including satisfying its views/consumers/readers, I however think the media’s reporting and coverage on the case – Oscar’s ‘celebrity’ status locally and internationally not withstanding – has been quiet intrusive at times. As noted earlier, maybe both families are to blame for this: alleged reports that Reeva’s family agreed to being interviewed for a fee, Oscar’s family in setting up or dedicating much of his web site to the case and recently reports that a Twitter account has been set up to set the record straight as it knows it considering the media is known for distorting fact, etc.

What I have to date found even more ridiculous and somewhat scandalous are recent reports by the media that Oscar is dating a paramedic student. So what? Frankly, I could not give a toss who the guy sleeps with. How the hell is that any of a reasonable media consumer’s business?

Or even better, how is that in the public interest except in the interest of the concerned publications to run with such frontpages for some of their consumers (BUT definitely NOT for consumers like myself) which obviously result in good sales, leading to that concerned editor getting a pat on the shoulder from the publication’s proprietors?

I therefore do not know how this is any news at all or whether it’s in the public interest. Surely the likes of City Press and UK’s tabloid Daily Mail – with the latter having reportedly been the first break the news of Oscar’s new girlfriend and the former also having reported on this alleged new relationship – do not expect Oscar to remain single for the rest of his life?

It further quite rich of City Press to run with the story yesterday and again today yet in its editorial today, criticizing the “public interest” merits claim by media houses that sought a court order last week granting it permission to broadcast live the trial (of course with some strict conditions), saying: “Let us not kid ourselves and pretend that the fight for television rights was a fight for open justice or for free expression. It is a fight for eyeballs and to feed our insatiable appetites for a story with its almost unbelievable elements. If we are genuinely interested, then we would all do much more to tell ordinary stories with the same verve with which we tell this extraordinary one. If that is what will glue us, then we should be glued to every ordinary story.” While I agree with this editorial, one wonders, why the newspaper did run with the story today. Or it’s only criticizing other media houses because it did not form part thereof in seeking a court order? Well, you can’t have you cake and eat it at the same time, City Press.

Oscar, too, has a life to live. Whether he is found guilty or not should be left to the Court of law and not of public opinion nor should such a decision be based on what many call a trial-by-the-medial. That he’s found a new love or not is not any of our (reasonable media consumers) business. Or at least it shouldn’t be. So whose interest are such reports serving: the concerned publication to drive up sales (with sometimes scandalous frontpages), resulting in a lot of profits (for their proprietors) or us consumers, hiding behind the “public interest” defence?

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