Friday, April 23, 2010


Themba Sepotokele

Any organisation that has been under the illusion that dealing with the media is a walk in the park should by now have prioritised five percent of its budget for communication, especially media training.

Two events which incidentally and ironically happened on the same day should have opened the eyes of many organisations, institutions, parastatals, political parties, government departments and municipalities.

Firstly is the ranting and raving of the ANC Youth League president Julius Malema who deemed it fit to show his out-of-the-cot toys and kick out BBC journalist Johan Fisher during a press conference recently. The Juju lost his cool as he briefed the media about his visit to the economically and politically ailing Zimbabwe. In front of cameras, he used words suc as “bastard” and “a bloody agent.”

You see the Bully Boy from Limpopo likes the media attention so much that he has held more press conferences than the mother body, the ANC Women’s League and the Veteran’s League.

When he was at his lowest ebb, after being jeered by the South African Community Party (SACP) conference last year, he pleaded with Yusuf Abramjee, the chairperson of the National Press Club to organise a media conference to speak his mind.  At this conference, Malema threatened “war” against the communist party and its leaders Blade Nzimande, Jeremy Cronin and Gwede Mantashe.  Why he didn’t use Luthuli House as it has been the case is anyone’s guess.

If my memory serves me right, he said nothing at that press briefing and hordes of media hounds were disappointed. However, the strategist that he is, he used the media platform to boost his bruised ego. I remember Business Day editor Peter Bruce saying he wished he hadn’t sent his reporters to cover that media briefing.

Malema’s lawyer Tumi Mokoena and ANC spokesperson Floyd Shivambu spewed a lot of hot air when they called journalists to a press conference in March.  They wanted to clarify that Malema was either not or no longer a member of SGL Engineering which has, according to the City Press exposé, done a lot of shoddy work with falling bridges.

As a media trainer and analyst, I have known that this was long time coming. The man who managed to charm most of the people who interviewed him was now on the attack, a clear sign that he is now under pressure and that he needs to hone his skills in handling the media.

In the second incident, Andre Visagie, the secretary-general of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) was never to be outdone by Malema.  He actually reminded me of an incident in 1995 when Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi and his bodyguard stormed into a studio during a live broadcast of an interview with Prince Sifiso on SABC TV's news programme Agenda.  Buthelezi had appeared on television shortly before Zulu and had been watching the programme on a screen outside the studio.

Visagie was having a debate on eNews Channel studios with the young and intelligent policy and gender advocacy director of the Trade Collective, Lebohang Pheko, when he lost his cool. The anchor Chris Maroleng had invited them to discuss the issue of race relations in the aftermath of the death of AWB leader Eugene Terre'Blanche.

Visagie became irritated and hot under the collar, telling Pheko not to interrupt him, before ripping off his microphone and storming off the set. However, he returned moments later saying:

“I am not finished with you; you don’t interrupting me” (sic).

Maroleng came to Pheko’s defence while AWB security staff also intervened. However, it was Maroleng’s utterances that left viewers laughing. He repeatedly said:

“Don’t touch me on my studio, don’t dare touch me on my studio” (sic).

The AWB member’s adamant response: “I’ll touch you on your studio,” left the country with stitches.

These two incidents should remind us that in dealing with the media, we must be cool-headed, be prepared and expect questions from hell – those that you wouldn’t otherwise like to be asked and be able to navigate without being compromised or, worse, compromising yourself. Therefore, thorough media training cannot be over-emphasised. People with short fuses should try by all means to remain cool, calm and collected.

Hats off to President Jacob Zuma; he emerged unsated in all the interviews especially on CNN, BBC and Sky News where foreign reporters would bravely ask him about his rape and corruption charges. Depite his shortcomings, he answered those well.

I hope there are lessons learnt in the Malema and Visagie sagas, of how not to deal with the media.

Indeed dealing with the media can offer rich rewards, but it can also be very risky so make sure you are prepared. Communication defines reputation - both personal and corporate, of which Malemas’ and Visagie’s is now damaged and in need of repair. It is important to communicate to the best of your ability and give the right impression.

Now that Malema was 'booed' again by ANC Youth League members in his home turf Limpopo is a clear indication that people are gatvol of the Malema factor. Even President Jacob Zuma has finally rebuked and berated Malema publicly. However, Malema should be made to apologise publicly. Like Zuma said, it is important to think before talking.

I hope the two (un)gentlemen who disgraced themselves and brought their respective organisations into disrepute can take leaf from philosopher Walter Lippmann who once observed that;

“A man has honour if he holds himself to an ideal of conduct though it is inconvenient, unprofitable, or dangerous to do so.”

The writer is a former journalist, now a government communicator and a media trainer attached to Rhodes University’s Sol Plaatje Institute for Media Ledership; School of Journalism and Media Studies in Grahamstown. He writes in his own capacity.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Winds of change blowing in the South African media with more female voices in the corridors of power

By Themba Sepotokele

Sixteen years since the dawn of the democratic dispensation, the positive winds of change are gradually blowing in the South African media.

The fourth estate, known for its patriarchy – with male faces dominating at the helm of editorial management, journalists, male analysts and experts have of late shown some signs of improvement.  The recent appointment of Phylicia Oppelt, Business Times editor, brings to three the number of women editors – others being Zingisa Mkhuma of the Pretoria News and Ferial Haffajee of City Press.

During my journalistic stint at The Star, there was a concerted effort to bring more women voices as sources and analysts. The Gender Commission also developed media contacts of female experts ranging from media to economists, but most were either media shy or were not trained to deal with the media; therefore that exercise was like climbing Mount Everest.

Fast forward to 2010, I am elated, though not over the moon about the progress made thus far in having female voices.

Now I am, like most South African’s, suffering from Malema-fatigue - yes I have had enough of Julius Malema and his antics. Everytime he spouts bile it makes media headlines. Juju is more popular than five Cabinet Ministers and provincial MECs. Yes, Ek is gatvol! Ndidiniwe! Ke kgathetse. Enough is enough. He should stop speaking without talking.

I have, however found comfort and solace in reading articles and columns penned by female writers, especially black writers. I am also really tired of the over-exposed male experts such as Steve Friedman, Xolelwa Mangu, Auburey Matshiqe, Professor Sipho Seepe, Professor Tom Lodge who seems to have hibernated.  Most of them have reached a sell-by date.

With The Sowetan having solicitated 702 Radio talk host Redi Direko, Business Day with Roda Kadalia, Neva Makgetla and Hillary Joffe, The Sunday Times has the sharp as a razor Pinky Khoabane and have recently enlisted Marianne Thamm.

The Sunday Independent has the intelligent and refreshing voice of Nompumelelo Sibalakhulu, a researcher at Institute for Security Studies, The Star with Heide Holland and Tselane Tambo, The Citizen with Sonile Nokuthula and The Times with Oppelet, Phumla Matjila and Jacquie Myburgh. I believe that the balancing of gender in the media is a step in the right direction. The Mail & Guardian has the witty Nikiwe Bikitsha, so is the Sunday World with Kuli Roberts and her hilarious pillow talk column. Her latest offering “Hey, all men rock – of course I love them … for selfish reasons,” left me in stitches.

We need more of new, sober and intelligent voices including those of Pheko sisters, Mohau and Lebogang.

These female writers are tackling tough issues from calling the bully from Limpopo to behave as it was the case with the articles written by Tselane Tambo and Heidi Hollan. Pinky Khoboane, for those who missed out, once shredded Clayson Monyela, a former journalist and spokesperson for the Limpopo Housing MEC Soviet Lekganyane. They also tackle soft issues such as music to beauty products. These columnists are worth the salt, the ink and paper.

Gone are the days when female writers would be reduced to agony columnist and recipe reporters, telling how to bake muffins or hot cross buns. They ask tough and relevant questions and if you miss them, you do so at your own peril.

We need more of such voices, some of the former and present journalists such as Lulama Luti, Sonti Maseko, Nomavenda Mathiane, Pearl Ranketseng, Bongiwe Mlangeni, Charity Bengu, Motshidisi Mokwena, Pearl Sebolao, Jackie Mapiloko (joined Mail & Guardian) and Lizeka Mda (destiny unknown) – sadly they both left City Press under the editorship of a woman.

I cannot but feel proud of the silent developments in the media fraternity, although it has been prompted by competiton, rivalry and the need to have women voices heard.  However, much more still needs to be done. 

How strange it is that a few years ago, my former female boss accused me of being a chauvinist, of being difficult and refusing to take instructions from female colleagues. Unfortunately I don’t take orders and instructions from non-starters and mediocre managers, be it male or female.

PS: Shame to the members of the ANC Women’s League who turned their provincial conference in Limpopo into a catfight instead of discussing policy issues. Yours was just a disgrace and maybe we should refer to you as the ANC Girls' League.

The writer is a former journalist. He is now a government communicator based in Gauteng and a media trainer attached to the Sol Plaatje Institute for Media Leadership at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. He writes in his own personal capacity.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Coming to a phone near you: Six examples of how social media took the starring role in the news

By Gill Moodie

Until Twitter came along and blew the lid off news coverage of the Iranian elections last year, many of us were scratching our heads wondering just how social media could help journalism be more interesting.

Sure, Facebook helped you market a story to your buddies and you could pick up a story or two on Twitter, but what else was there? Then the Iranians, armed with cellphones, beat the pants off the international news organisations covering the June protests in Tehran and we all sat up and took notice.

In South Africa, social media also steals the spotlight from traditional media from time-to-time. Here are my favourite examples:

1. Viral sensation

When AWB leader Andre Visagie stormed out of a live panel discussion this month, it went viral in a big way with every news organisation, blogger and his dog embedding it. At last count just one iteration of the clip had had 267 000 hits on YouTube and the hilarious “Don’t Touch me on my Studio” clip was also quickly remixed into a number of spoof vids. On the very same day ANC Youth League president Julius Malema threw BBC hack Jonah Fisher out of a press conference – another a big hit – but the prize for enduring appeal must surely go to parliament’s finance portfolio committee chairman, Nhlanhla Nene, who vanished behind a desk after his chair collapsed on live TV in 2008. It was inevitable that someone at the SABC would release the video on YouTube and Zoopy. Word got around on Facebook and very soon the rather un-amused Nene was an internet celebrity. Even venerable institutions such as the BBC covered it (without being able to resist embedding the vid themselves, of course).

Today one version of the Nene clip has had more than 3.1-million views on YouTube. We, of course, can’t resist putting it up again: [...]

Read the full article by clicking on the headline link or visiting

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The battle for budget in the digital space

By Scott Gray

2010, another year, another marketing budget, another significant year-on-year increase in the amount corporates intend on investing in digital.

As an eMarketer, this is great news for me and the agency I work for as each and every year the “battle for budget” between digital and the more traditional above-the-line mediums (predictably) sees the lion share being portioned to the ad agencies, while the virtual scraps are thrown to the budget line item that is digital/interactive/eMarketing.

The purpose of this post though is not to rant, neither is it to dwell on budgets and where they should or shouldn’t be going (I’ll save that one for another post).

In South Africa, digital as a marketing channel has a problem and I can’t help feeling a somewhat shallow sense of satisfaction about the increase in the channel’s allocated year-on-year budget.

Corporates are approaching the web with an “everyone-else-is-doing-it-so-we-better-do-something-too” attitude. Now I understand that this is somewhat of a generalisation, but when I hear companies talk about investing in digital I wonder what they really mean. Are they using the platform as an opportunity to propel their business forward, or are they using digital as nothing more than something to support their TV/print/radio campaigns. Or worse, are their digital initiatives standing alone on a brand communication island with just the 1 palm tree?

From experience on both sides of the client/agency fence, I can say with confidence that digital as a support mechanism for traditional marketing efforts, as well as digital for digital sake, is where web spend is going.

As I mentioned earlier, this post is not about ranting, it’s rather an attempt at identifying what I feel are issues holding the South African eMarketing space back from taking it up a level.

The challenges, I believe, can be broken down into 2 basic categories: Client-side skill sets, and The client/agency partnership. [...]  Read the full article by clicking on the title link.

A feminine feminist

By Rumbidzayi Dube, PDMM student

Until recently, being discriminated against as a woman had not been a huge factor for me. Don’t get me wrong, on countless occasions I have been objectified by my male counterparts, but I think it has become the norm so much so that I consider it a way of life. I am not saying that such occasions do not get mundane, annoying or just plain insulting. I am saying that overall, I get the occasional encounter, but in my life thus far, I generally have not felt discriminated against. It could be due to the fact that I am quite outspoken and am generally unafraid to stand up for myself so much so that discriminators cannot help but let me be.

It was not until my colleagues at the Sol Plaatje Institute made a presentation on the role of women in media that a switch suddenly went on in my head. I am now constantly aware of the degree of inequality when it comes to gender. After the presentation and discussion we had, I began to question the way in which women were represented in society- as sexual objects or victims of abuse. Reading an article by Colleen Lowe Morna further fuelled my interest. It gave me clarity on the levels of inequality and that it is not an issue being faced in African society alone- a society which is very much patriarchal. The so-called developed world still has a long way to go itself, and it makes me wonder, what more for ‘under-developed’ Africa and its low levels of education?

Listening to Harry Dugmore voice these issues during one of our lectures on the Essentials of Digital Media Management, an alarm bell sprang in my head. There seriously is an issue. Reiterating the need for change, I was disappointed to find out that a close friend who with a stable, well paying job and great credit rating was unable to get a bank loan because she was not married. Surely if even the educated banking professionals cannot see beyond gender how can we expect the average person with basic education to even fathom some sort of equality between men and women?

Truth be told, I have always been anxious of playing an active role when it comes to gender issues. I wonder to myself if it is possible to defend women’s rights and fight for equality without seeming like a fascist? I even hesitate to use the word ‘feminist’ because so often, it has negative connotations. To me, it implies a woman with no feminine qualities, dressing like a man and bullying the opposite sex into submission. Surely this cannot be the criteria used to qualify to be a feminist? I personally love to celebrate many of the ‘girlie’ activities that many associate with being a lady- going shopping, getting my hair done, watching romantic comedies whilst nibbling on some chocolate. I do not believe, however, that this takes away from my passion to promote the often silenced voice of women around the world.

I realise now that although certain things do not affect me on a personal level, I have the opportunity and resources to be the voice for many who have been silenced. I can be the voice not only in terms of issues pertaining to violence and abuse, but issues such as equal pay and women’s ability to succeed not just at baking a cake, but making our way up the ranks in many organisations donning high heels and perfectly manicured nails. I am beginning to realise that it can be done, and I can still enjoy the perks of being a woman and expect men to be chivalrous, but also have a say and make a mark on my way. I can be a feminine feminist.