Somebody teach the SABC the basics of journalism

I just had a call from SABC Durban, a reporter from Radio Lotus, asking me to be available for their morning news programme tomorrow. I will phone you before to tell you what questions we are going to ask you, he said.

Is there no-one at home at the SABC? Are there no journalistic values or practices left in the place? One has often suspected that they tell government spokespeople their questions beforehand, but to brazenly state it as policy to do so … I am horrified.

The great strength of radio is that you can throw unexpected questions at interviewees when they are live on air – and you get the best stuff when officials are caught off guard. To forewarn is not just to let them interviewees off the hook; even worse, it is to create boring, dull radio.

The reporter quickly said, when I expressed my horror, that he tells people one or two questions and then slips the hard ones in later. But he only said that when he realised I was not appreciative of his helping hand.

Please, SABC board members, appoint a head of news who can bring a proper journalistic culture of probing, tough questioning to the news room!

2 thoughts on “Somebody teach the SABC the basics of journalism

  1. In defence for the SABC journalist, as a community radio journalist myself this is something I struggle with. People always ask for questions beforehand and if I say our policy does not allow us to do that then they tell me “sorry, no questions no interview”. So to make things easier you just say sure I’ll email you an overview on what the interview is about. Government officials are the worst especially the Western Cape dept of Health.

    So as an expect in journalism, what do you suggest we as trainees do when someone pulls that stunt – Say thanks and not do the interview or think about my listeners and compromise?

  2. I can understand one doing it, as you say, if one has no choice. But that does not explain why it was offered to me out of the blue. What we really need to do is convince the SABC to make it a general policy not to give questions beforehand. The SABC is powerful enough to make politicians accept this, if there is the will to stand firm on journalistic principles.

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