A diary of happenings at Chanters Lodge, Livingstone, Zambia with reflections on Zambia and personal matters too
THE PRESIDENT AND THE SHOWGIRL
I discovered an excellent blog by Fred Khumalo at the Times in RSA and loved this piece:
"A cynic once said something wasn't true until it was officially denied. And this observation came to mind when I considered two important names who dominated the media this week: Levy Mwanawasa, the Zambian president, and pop star Madonna.By the time you read this Mwanawasa could be dead … or still alive — and Madonna could still be married … or divorced.
I am juxtaposing these two for the simple reason that they reflect a dilemma that keeps rearing its head when famous people die, or make extremely important decisions about their lives. And in many instances we, the hoi polloi, are deeply affected by the fate of “our” important people.
In the case of Mwanawasa, for example, those who have been following the Zimbabwe saga, and the role the Zambian president has played in trying to bring some sense to it, would be saddened by his death.
In the case of Madonna, her many fans would possibly be devastated by the divorce.
For the past week, at least, newspapers all over the world have been running stories about Madonna’s divorce, which has been painstakingly denied by Madonna and her spokesman.
In a brave attempt to dispel the divorce rumour, Madonna and hubby Guy Ritchie decided to go to a restaurant this week, in the full glare of the media. And that public display of affection and togetherness should have dispelled the divorce rumour.
Since Thursday, the world media has also been running stories about the death of Mwanawasa, which was vehemently denied — at least until Friday — by his government, which in turn blamed the South African media for “causing anguish and pain to the Zambian people”. This was after Talk Radio 702 became the first media organisation to announce his death.
And therein lies the rub. Society has plunged into the new game of blaming the media for everything, ranging from George W Bush’s war on terror and the fear of global warming to schism within the ANC and the recent xenophobic explosions in South Africa.
But what the detractors choose to ignore is that media organisations are only mirrors of society — we work hard at investigating and then reporting on what we see or hear.
I do not see any mileage that would have been gained by 702 from fabricating a story about the death of the Zambian president. They spoke to an official who confirmed the death. But then, somewhere in the communication chain, he realised he might have overlooked protocol, and it was therefore convenient for him to distance himself from the statement he made to the journalist in question.
Just a few weeks ago, this newspaper fell under the spotlight when we were accused by the presidency of effectively fabricating a story about a letter that had been written by the office of Morgan Tsvangirai to the office of President Thabo Mbeki. The letter expressed grave concerns about Mbeki’s role as a mediator in the Zimbabwean imbroglio.The provenance of the letter was questioned, not only by the office of Mbeki but also reportedly by the spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change, George Sibotshiwe — who later changed his tune.
When this happened, hardened media hacks started talking about the famous Parks Mankahlana media hoax. In 1998, Mankahlana, who was then spokesman for President Nelson Mandela, excoriated the media for spreading what he called a rumour about the president getting married to his sweetheart, Graça Machel. Even as the ceremony was in progress, Mankahlana was still denying it.
One can only sympathise with the consumers of news who did not know who or what to believe. Unfortunately, many have decided to resort to the adage, jy lieg soos ’n koerant (you lie like a newspaper). Nobody ran to the mountain tops to praise the media for getting it right about Mandela and Machel and many other historic incidents which were first reported by the media — only to be denied by the authorities.
And all of this is a roundabout way of saying: sometimes putting a mirror up to the face of society is a thankless task. Needless to say, somebody has to do it. But being a spin doctor is even worse — because sometimes you simply have to lie out of loyalty to your boss."
Posted: 10 July 2008 at 05:27