I hear that Joe Thloloe, the Press Ombud, is involved in an internal Independent group inquiry into the highly-publicised resignation of Gaye Davis late last year. But everyone is being strangely coy about it.
Davis, a senior editor of the group political team, resigned very publicly late last year after The Star ran a story saying that Cyril Ramaphosa had declined nomination to the ANC deputy presidency. The story, which ran just hours before he was elected, was based on – you guessed it – unnamed sources.
Just before deadline, Davis did what the reporter had not done (and any decent political editor would do), which is check with Ramaphosa himself. Ramaphosa made it emphatically clear that the story was not true.
Davis alerted all the group newspapers, who pulled the story – with the lonely exception of The Star who said they were standing by their report. Extraordinarily, they did not even rewrite the story to reflect the fact that it had been thrown into doubt.
Davis resigned. The Star editor, Makhudu Sefara, who was away when the story was run, said in his paper that Davis had not spoken to him, and said the mistake was a result of a misunderstanding between Davis and the reporter involved. He pointed a finger at her for the public way in which she had tendered her resignation.
Clearly, something was topsy-turvy if the person who got the story right was gone, and the person who embarrassed the paper was not.
I was tipped off by someone at The Star that Thloloe was doing an internal investigation into what happened. It sounded strange to me for the official industry Ombud to be doing an internal company investigation.
I asked Thloloe via email and got a curt: “Who told you this?” From Sefara, I got no reply at all. Davis confirmed to me that Thloloe had spoken to her to hear her version of what happened.
If there is an inquiry, it would be interesting to know the outcome. If there isn’t, it is strange that no-one is saying it.
Transparency, of course, is something the media demands of others.