Why I don’t have a tidy desk

Many years ago, the editor of a newspaper I worked for sent out an instruction – we were all, please, to tidy our desks because the company’s head honcho was coming to town and might deign to walk among the actual workers.

Continue reading

What journalists do (part two): the checking of the facts

Earlier this year, I wrote about the problem of knowing which journalists or publications to trust in a sea of contradictory information.

After I had published the post, I realised that there was a throwaway line about “proper journalism processes” that could do with some expansion. I said:

… a place to start might be local, and small. If there’s a small community publication or radio station in your area, start there. Listen to their reports, read their articles. Does what they say seem fair and reasonable to you, does it match with what you know to have happened in the place that you live? If you are lucky enough to find such a publication, pay attention to the wider sources that they may be using and quoting. Because if they have applied the proper journalism processes to their own work (with the end result that their journalism matches with your knowledge of the world), they will be applying those processes to all the sources they use.

Continue reading

How to stay on the right side of the law in journalism

In my years as a sub-editor, manager and trainer at South African news publications, I wrote a host of training materials – one of the most used being my one-pager on the legal side of reporting in South Africa.

I published that verbatim in 2013, aimed at reporters and editors.

In 2022, it’s still relevant. Here, I have updated it, and added some context for people who are not necessarily part of the journalism world, but who might need the information. Or who might simply want to know what rules govern reporting practice in this country (or should govern them, anyway).
Continue reading

Journalism: Who you gonna trust?

Every year Nieman Lab publishes a set of journalism predictions for the following year, and every year at least one of them really stands out for me.

At the end of 2021, the stand-out prediction was the piece by Simon Allison entitled: More news is the problem, not the solution. In brief, his point is that journalists are on the frontline of the deluge of information in which all us flounder. And that what journalists do often just adds to the deluge. Instead, he suggests:

Journalism now functions to condense, contextualize, and curate the sheer volume of information that is out there and accessible to all — to stand between readers and the abyss of the infodemic.

I agree with him whole-heartedly, but I think there’s a wider problem at hand.
Continue reading

Let’s celebrate those who uncover corruption

“The government is a cover for corruption.”

In the dying days of 2021, working with Al Jazeera playing the background, these words in the subtitles of By The People, a documentary by Fatima Lianes about an indigenous community in Mexico, made me look up from my screen.

That one sentence (which you can see about 20 minutes into the video) is breath-taking in its simplicity. And it encapsulates so much that people feel is wrong with the world we live in now: instead of serving the people, governments simply serve as the façade behind which corruption flourishes.
Continue reading