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!)

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