Pallo Jordan PhD: Whose source is it anyway?

Following the Sunday Times report this past Sunday over Pallo Jordan’s alleged non-existent PhD he claimed for years to date, it never bothered me why the newspaper went after him. Should it have?

I know a lot of people – especially black people – are very aggrieved and pissed at this. One gets a sense that they believe newspapers have got a vendetta against Jordan particularly that the revelation is by none other than Gareth Van Onselen, a now spin-doctor-turned-journo and columnist for Sunday Times and Business Day, respectively.

Of course there are diverse opinions about all of this, and views about the respect for Jordan, and the report itself: that only ANC leaders especially those in government leadership positions are targeted while ignoring those of opposition parties. Moreover, there exists a perception that even with corruption, only that in the public sector would be exposed while at the same time ignoring the very same corrupt activities in the private sector.

Whatever the opinions, I think what would matter after any revelation is what will be been exposed and not necessarily what informed such revelations. And it is this, unfortunately, that many appear to be preoccupied with: that who is Van Onselen’s source, how did it come about that he chose to do this story, etc.

Look, I have great respect for journos, their work and their professionalism. I further have even greater love for the media such that I sometimes (selectively so?) regard myself as a media freak (see my Twitter Bio). This, however, does not mean I consume every news report without analysing it first. If you do not believe me, check out this blog for some of the criticism against many newspaper reports from Sunday Times, Mail & Guardian, Sowetan, etc.

My criticism notwithstanding, I however think it is seemingly useless to seek to question the motive of any journo’s investigation especially when it exposes wrong doing, or any suspected corrupt activities, etc. This, of course, would exclude an instance where a journo had been tipped off, in which case this would mostly be stated in their report that the information was leaked to him/her/them. I therefore find it questionable that people would now be concerned and actually be interested in who Van Onselen’s source is, and or how the story of Jordan came about.

In his interview early this week, the spin-doctor-turned-journo told Kieno Kamies of CapeTalk that the story came following a conversation with a colleague/friend. What I know for sure is that he could be lying to protect his source(s), if any. Even better still, he could be telling the truth. Who knows? Who cares? Why does it matter now that we know the (half?) truth about Jordan’s PhD, or whatever the report on Sunday alleged?

Whatever the truth and however good or bad it is: the fact remains that we may have been lied to by Jordan for years and that is what we should be concerned with, I think, if we so choose to really even concern ourselves with people’s qualifications or lack thereof.

That whoever in the ANC may have been ticked off by Jordan’s seemingly (unfair and) robust criticism of the party in some of his weekly columns in the Business Day or any other publication such that s/he took it upon him/herself to expose him through Van Onselen to do the job is, in my view, irrelevant as it seeks to divert attention from this ugly revelation.

By the way this further reminds me of apparent instances whereby some politicians would use some journalists – often those lacking work ethics and professional mannerism and cannot even pick up when they are being used for political gains – to fight their own internal political battles, often through leaks to the media. An extract published on Sunday by Sunday Times journo’s book, Mzilikazi Wa Afrika, is such a classical example.

Whatever our views on and or respect of Jordan, there hard truth is that no journo in his/her right mind would risk exposing his source(s) in the manner we want to Van Onselen to do his. This is even worse coming from those who are expected to know how one’s source(s) to journalists (or any other writer or person for that matter) must be protected especially the legit and unquestionable ones without any ulterior motive or those not with internal political or personal battles to settle through leaks to the media/journos.

What is asked of Van Onselen – who’s his source, what led to the report, etc – is the impossible that no journo should dare even try to respond to. Whose source is it anyway?

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