Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The State Of Journalism In South Africa

Last night I had an unfortunate encounter with SABC3's "News At 10" as I was bored and channel surfing at precisely the wrong moment. I flicked over as the news anchor was about to conduct the night's live interview with a guest, who is either in studio or - in this case - beamed via satellite. The topic on this occasion was bird flu, and Cape Town's director of city health was the (un)lucky guest being interviewed.

The following happened so fast that I couldn't cringe and write it all down fast enough, so I have to paraphrase slighty. I've also decided not to shame the news anchor by mentioning her by name, although she probably deserves it, but there are only about three of them, and none of them are that great anyway, so it probably doesn't matter.

We start with a little intro to bird flu and the epidemic that is beginning to sweep across Europe and Asia. Cut to the news desk. The news anchor introduces the guest.
News Anchor: "...in layman's terms, what exactly is bird flu?"
Director Of City Health (with a straight face, although I'm sure I sense a hunt of confusion at this question): "In layman's terms, it's about influenza - flu - infecting birds..."
At this point, sensing a diaster, I grab a piece of paper and start writing this down, so I miss what else he says, as well as a few more . As it immediately becomes cringeworthy, I switch channels, hoping that something - anything - else is on. I'll even take bad ads, if I have to.

A few minutes later I switch back, hoping that it's either over, or they're finally onto something informative.
News Anchor: "I eat an immense amount of poultry, and there are 40 million South Africans who will say the same thing. What can we do to be more vigilant in our homes about suspect poultry?"
Director Of City Health (in disbelief, I'm sure): "Well, there isn't much you can do..."
At this point I couldn't take it

Addendum (20051109)
Compare the Survivor Palau: Episdoe 8 recap by Health24's "Cybershrink" (a South African "expert" effort, which is supposed to delve into phychological aspects of the show) with that of Television Without Pity (my heroes!)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

It's Christmas Time In Cape Town! (A Bit Too Early For My Liking)

In South Africa, you usually know Christmas is on its way due to the aggressiveness of our local retailers and supermarkets. Every year on about the 24th or 25th of October we begin to see our first Christmas-themed advertising on TV – and it doesn't stop until, well, Christmas. In fact, it doesn't stop until long after the holiday that you've been looking forward to all year has been bashed so hard into your brain that you wish it would just be over with because you cannot stand it any longer.

Every year around this time in October I become a little depressed, in anticipation of the flood of awful TV ads that we will be forced to endure for two months. I always mentally make a note of the companies I see advertising first (those determined to get ahead of the competiton, at the expense of our sanity), and think horrible thoughts about their downfalls for weeks afterwards. It takes lots of Cape Town's summer sun and relaxed holiday atmosphere to make me feel better.

This year, however, I was caught by surprise. A nasty surprise. Last week I was walking my usual trek after work, from the office to the car, and I passed a certain magazine/stationery store, as I always do (I shall refrain from mentioning it by name, although it deserves to be shamed). A santa suit was on display near the window, along with a few boxes of Christmas decorations on the floor beneath it. I presume the store was advertising that it will be (or is) selling those items, but I was rather shocked. After all, it was the end of September. Christmas is three months away. I continued on, mentally dismissing it as an oddity...

...until yesterday. Yesterday I was looking out the window at another strike that was amassing in Adderley Street (which turned out to be totally pitiful and not worth blogging about), and I noticed some oddly coloured, hazy shapes around where the people were gathering. After some intense staring I realised that I was looking at was Christmas-decoration lights, in the form of whales and elephants, that sometime in the last few days had been installed in a couple of places down the street. I presume this is just the start of the decorating (someone - uncharacteristically - taking some initiative), as Adderley Street is usually bathed in displays from the start of the street near St George's Cathedral down to the foreshore. The lights look like they are going to be quite cool (although oddly un-Christmas-like), but I would have preferred another month of calm before the Christmas barrage.

Oh well, maybe next year.



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