Stuart Lowman’s Inbox: It is time for BizNews to join the Press Council

The BizNews team’s long weekend was disrupted after Daily Maverick republished an attack on the company by the small NGO called GroundUp, a spin-off from UCT’s social science department. This is the second attack this year. In response, Alec sent out a note to the community, which you can read here. Peter Mann, founder and CEO of Meropa Communications responded. Prior to this, Peter worked as a journalist for 15 years and is a member of the South African Press Council appeals panel:

I read with interest your spat with Daily Maverick/Ground Up. I have no interest in opining on the fairness or otherwise of the issue – especially as both Daily Maverick and GroundUp are members of the Press Council of South Africa (PCSA).

However, in the absence on leave of both PCSA Executive Director Latiefa Mobara, and Public Advocate Fanie Groenewald; I don my hat as both a PCSA Adjudicator and Chair of the PCSA Finance Committee to challenge the statement you made about the Press Council.

You say: “We fail to see how paying to be a member of an industry association supports this endeavour. Especially not of an association representing an industry we are disrupting”. (my emphasis)

Whilst we certainly appreciate, as you say, that “in the few matters brought to us by the Press ombudsman, we have always engaged courteously and willingly”, and I am sure, again, that Joe Thloloe will agree.

However, I do not agree that we represent an industry you are disrupting.

Perhaps evidence of that is the fact that both the organisations you are arguing with are PCSA members as are many other so-called disruptors – even including individual social media influencers who choose to belong to us to demonstrate their commitment to ethical, fair journalism.

In defending your corner, you took an unwarranted swipe at us. One can’t really do better than quote Warren Buffett back at you – hurt our reputation etc.

More to the point, it is time for BizNews to join the Press Council. You are a trusted, respected, senior figure in our industry and it would signal your/BN commitment to fine journalism and help to build public trust. Please let me know if we can process a membership application for you?

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In response to Peter Mann, Alec wrote the following:

Thanks for reaching out and setting me straight. The swipe at the SA Press Council was indeed unwarranted. Please accept my apology.

The one good thing to come out of this was being referred to the SA Press Code which I actually read for the first time.

It is clearly a carefully crafted and well considered document – and aligns with the BizNews culture and policies we strive to implement, which were largely shaped during formative journalistic years working under Sparks, Rolfe, Myburgh and Tyson at the RDM, Finance Week, Sunday Times and The Star.

I agree with every word of the SA Press Code. And you are right. It has been an oversight and is high time BizNews joined the Press Council.

Please process the relevant membership application.

And in response to yesterday’s contribution on Covid-19, community member David Lipschitz had the following to add:

I wish people would stop making assumptions. Many people who are against the latest wave of injections, are not anti-vax. I have had many vaccinations in my life, including about 5 just to be able to go to Tanzania.

I think we need to define what we mean by vaccination and then take it from there. Simply put a vaccination is a dead body of matter that is injected into the body. The body learns from this dead matter how to defend itself in the event that live matter finds its way into the body. The body learns this for life. It is not the same as an annual flu shot (which caused 20 years of problems for me) or a 6 monthly Covid shot. And there is much research to suggest that the Covid shot is something that actually is meant to fight the invader, and that it doesn’t make the person immune. This injected “fighter” only lasts a certain amount of time (actually the time it lasts is uncertain, but seems to be about 6 months) and then one needs more fighters to be injected. So calling the Covid injection a vaccination is a misnomer. We need a different word. And some people don’t want these fighters to be injected.

If some people are anti-Covid-“vax”, let’s say so. Or are they anti-vax?

Let’s also put right what last week’s Sea Point march was about. It was about the efficacy of severe lockdowns. The fact that some people used that march for other purposes is a common occurrence in our society. People using one thing for something else. So far in the last 18 months, South Africa’s population has grown by 1.8 million people, and this during “the worst pandemic in history.” Do we really need lockdowns in this kind of scenario? And I thought that during a pandemic, the population decreases. How can this be a pandemic if the world’s population continues to increase? Even the word pandemic is the wrong word at the moment.

Thirdly, over the past couple of decades the population of South Africa has more than doubled, but how many new Provincial Hospitals are there? How many additional beds are there? How many more doctors are there? If over the long term, our government doesn’t invest in hospitals and associated infrastructure, and allows queues at hospitals to get longer and longer (I also experienced this in the UK in the 1990’s when I lived there), then one can expect there to be problems when there is a mass need for hospitals at the same time. And then why use the initial “Level 5” lockdown to convert The Cape Town International Conference Centre into a hospital, and then when the “wave was flattened”, close the CTICC (Cape Town International Convalescent Centre)? We all flattened the wave so that the government could put the emergency plans into place including the conversion of Conference Centres into Convalescent Centres. But then these centres were closed, but if they were open, would we need such severe lockdowns?

Fourthly, there is never only one answer in science. The people who are hardening their hearts and believing that they can get an injection and go back to the old way of life are living in cloud cuckoo land. They just can’t see a big picture. A picture of learning how to work from our home offices (my wife and I have worked from our home offices for 20 years; if others had done this, we wouldn’t have needed Covid); how to get out of conference centres; how to get out of sick buildings (Legionnaires Diseases has been known about for decades), including schools with way too many people in one place (we still need sports and socialising); how to get out of traffic; how to stop buying oil from countries that support terrorism; how to stop buying unnecessary cars. The list goes on. So people need to be able to work from home offices, with all the associated environmental benefits, but we still need to be able to go out and socialise, and not be socialised.

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