Georgina Guedes

ANN7's cruelty to its presenters

2013-08-30 11:14

Georgina Guedes

Last week's launch of Africa News Network or ANN7 was met with howls of hilarity from the public. And with good reason. Videos of bloopers with presenters flubbing their lines and mispronouncing fairly basic words and names, embarrassing pauses, production staff speaking over presenters, and factual howlers flooded YouTube.

I followed the uproar on Twitter for a while before trying to watch some of the clips. By the time I got around to it, most of them had been removed. Then, someone posted a link that was still live and I clicked on it quickly, grabbed a box of popcorn, and sat down to watch.

My first impression was that Twitter wasn't exaggerating. These awkward, confused children, staring wide-eyed into the camera while stumbling over incoherent babble were laughable as the faces of a supposedly professional news network.

My finger hovered over the retweet button, but then I had second thoughts. These young presenters, the faces of ANN7, are not to blame for what's being broadcast. And yet they're very publicly being held up and ridiculed as evidence of everything that's wrong with the network.

A blurred line

It made me think of the nurse who killed herself after putting an Australian prank call through to the ward where the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated for morning sickness. I didn't forward on the link because I didn't want to take part in the propagation of a dangerous kind of ridicule.

These poor kids are being herded into the spotlight, promised their dreams - fame, respect, a career - and then left to blink in the glare, with no real idea what's going on. We know that when we're laughing at them, we're laughing at ANN7 as a whole, but that line is easily blurred.

And sadly, anyone who wants to see an ANN7 blooper, need only turn on their television, flip to DSTV channel 405 and watch for a few minutes.

Model and presenter Sheena Deepnarain, who works for ANN7, came out with a statement about the network. "There was a need for someone or some company to take that chance and invest in the youth of the media and entertainment industry and that was ANN7. And for that I am grateful to ANN7 and admire ANN7."

Support and develop youth

That's all well and good, but investing in the youth isn't about employing young people and then leaving them floundering. It's about identifying the correct people in the first place and then immersing them in a professional environment, training them, giving them mentors and coaching them in how to present, how to speak, and how to graciously deal with mistakes when they happen.

The management of and investors in ANN7 have directed a lot of money into scrubbing the internet clean of any evidence of their failings. It would be better if they took measures to prevent the embarrassing news clips from being broadcast in the first place.

They should do this, not because it's professional, not because it might attract advertisers, but simply because, if they're so determined to invest in the youth of South Africa (and God knows, we need it), then they have an obligation to do so in a way that supports them and develops them, rather than subjecting them to the ridicule of a cruel public.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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