More to the news

2008-05-16 00:00

Ithink we, members of the public, are often disadvantaged by our ignorance of what lies behind the sensational and superficial stories we read in the media. Perhaps it is because we don’t want to know any more that we appear to be satisfied by scraps of knowledge, the tastiest morsels which lack the nutrition to stimulate our intelligence. Newspapers demand shorter articles because, they claim, readers do not want to read too much. Often it is impossible to do justice to a particular issue, however, when the meat of the argument is removed in the interests of brevity and a captivating headline. Opinion pieces written by analysts or professional commentators are more stimulating, but they reflect, inevitably, particular points of view and, because we know this, we do not expect them to give us the unqualified truth. That we expect to find in the news article, even though experience tells us that the quality of journalism is often indifferent and there is little in-depth exploration of the news item so that we may be presented with the full, and unbiased, picture.

If we believe what we are told, we will be left with the notion that our leaders are essentially empty-headed. And yet, this matter of the Scorpions has been extensively investigated by the scrutiny of models to be found in other countries and precedents, for exactly the kind of accountability issues that became so controversial in South Africa. The debate, which has raged outside of the public earshot, is influenced greatly by matters of principle and is, in fact, a far cry from the whims of two opposing political factions. There is no intention of weakening the ability of the government to pursue the perpetrators of organised crime. Even the worst of political leaders would be unlikely to countenance such dereliction. In order for the fundamental issues and underlying principles to be brought to the notice of a gullible public, sound media management was required. Unfortunately, this has been absent and in the vacuum we have been deprived of the chance to apply our minds instead of just our hearts.

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