Rabada 'drama queen' headline sparks social media outcry

2016-01-28 14:01
(Kwena Moabelo, Twitter)

(Kwena Moabelo, Twitter)

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Cape Town - A Beeld newspaper poster promoting a story about young Proteas star Kagiso Rabada has sparked angry responses on Twitter, after the daily called the fast bowler a "drama queen".

On their front page earlier this week, the Afrikaans daily lead with a story about the 20-year old star that read: "Kagiso Rabada was 'drama queen' op skool".

The story, which originally appeared on Netwerk24, quoted some of Rabada's former teachers at St Stithians Boys College in Johannesburg who praised his aptitude for drama as a schoolboy.

The poster headline differed slightly and spelt Rabada's surname wrong: "Radaba (sic) die drama queen."

Directly above Beeld’s poster, was another poster from the Daily Sun, which read: "Rabada the toast of SA!"

Sports and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula was one of the first to take issue with Beeld’s poster.

"When Daily Sun holds not just higher Post spot but also moral ground than a paper that trolls Black Excellence," Mbalula tweeted with a picture of the two posters.

Beeld later addressed the spelling mistake on social media, tweeting:

"Facts: We carried a celebrating front page with a very positive story. The poster? Spelling mistake indeed #Rabada."

'In context, it’s a good headline'

News24 spoke to Beeld editor Barnard Beukman, who defended the story’s headline in its context.

"We actually carried quite a celebratory front page," Beukman said on Thursday.

"I think we were the most prominent front page in the country. It was a nice human interest angle and a very positive story.

"Unfortunately there was a spelling mistake in the surname, and from that there was the reaction [on Twitter] and the confusion that Beeld carried a very negative report."

When asked about the negative connotations around the words "drama queen", as opposed to someone who was simply good at drama at school, Beukman said: "It was quoting one of the teachers at the school that he took drama. He is there quoted, but in a positive context, he was a very good actor.

"A newspaper publishes in context, [and] if you read the caption and the story, it’s very clear and very positive. I actually claim it’s the most positive nationwide. I think the facts speak for themselves."

'People get on Twitter and react'

News24 also pressed Beukman on the processes involved in the differing headlines on their front page, to the headline that ended up on the poster.

"I don’t want to talk on behalf of the colleague who wrote the poster," Beukman responded.

"I think the spelling mistake maybe perpetuated that maybe there’s something negative [in the report].

"On the poster, we also didn’t use quotation marks [for 'drama queen'], but we did on the front page.

"Because that’s on the poster with a spelling mistake, a lot of people get on Twitter and react, and now they’ve concluded it was a negative story.

"[But] Beeld’s very proud of the report. The headline on the front page is very good in context."

'In hindsight, I think it was a mistake'

Former Beeld editor Adriaan Basson, who now heads up Media24’s Afrikaans online community, Netwerk24, was also drawn into the debate, with Sports Minister Mbalula mistakenly calling out Basson for the headline, thinking he was still editor at the daily.

Basson left Beeld in September 2015 and Beukman replaced him as editor.

News24 spoke to Basson over the use of the headline, which Netwerk24 also used in the online version of the story.

"Let me start by first saying we actually celebrated Kagiso’s performance, and when stars are born, we try and trace their growing up years and interviewed some of his former teachers.

"Netwerk24’s journalist discovered he was also a very talented actor. During one of the interviews, one of the cricket teachers, Wim Jansen, referred to him being a 'drama queen' in a positive way, as a versatile boy who was good at sport but also acting.

"So it was an actual quote said by one of his teachers.

"In hindsight I do think it was a mistake to use that quotation, because I recognise that drama queen also has a negative connotation.

"I decided to remove the headline and replace it with a more appropriate one [on Netwerk24]."

‘I am no longer Beeld editor’

Basson did not want to be drawn on the spelling mistakes on the poster, but did say he still enjoys sparring with Mbalula on social media.

"I don’t want to comment on the poster, it was an error that happened at Beeld, it’s obviously unfortunate.

"It’s a pity that the minister immediately went on the attack without verifying the facts, he didn’t read the story. Of course the spelling mistake is regrettable, but I still think the story gives you a fuller picture of this hero.

"I set the record straight immediately [about his new post at Netwerk24], and I’m concerned that he [Mbalula] is pursuing a very narrow narrative in social media.

"I wish the minister would have engaged the content of the story; I always enjoy engaging with him and will continue to do so," Basson added.

- News24 is part of Media24, which also owns Beeld and Netwerk24.

Read more on:    beeld  |  fikile mbalula  |  kagiso rabada  |  media

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