FRIDAY BRIEFING | Tembisa 10 saga: Anatomy of fake news

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Piet Rampedi and Independent Media: Giving 'birth' to fake news 

After nearly a year-and-a-half of dealing with Covid-19, realising that perhaps our government is not all it is cracked up to be, as well as loadshedding, news of the birth of 10 babies to a woman in Tembisa was welcomed. 

Even international media houses jumped on the band wagon, desperate for some good news.

But the planned baby shower was soon put on hold as it became clear there were many gaps in the story, and possibly that no such birth had taken place. 

Perhaps the story would have disappeared as quickly as it surfaced if the originator of the story, Pretoria News editor, Piet Rampedi, did not, at first, gaslight journalists when questions were raised about where the babies were. A story that was meant to be about joy and happiness then revealed itself to be a monster, taking on many dark twists and turns.

With the media spotlight on the couple, they turned on each other, while the man who wrote the story started backtracking before lunging into more attacks on the government and other media houses. 

As Code for Africa CEO, Chris Roper, writes for this week's Friday Briefing, it doesn't actually matter if the Tembisa 10 exist - the damage to journalism in the country has been done. Wits journalism professor, Glenda Daniels, echoes these sentiments in her Q&A with News24's James de Villiers. UCT's professor of media studies, Herman Wasserman, examines how we got to this point and what needs to be done to fix our journalism going forward, while Wits' journalism professor, Anton Harber, reflects on how we should not be surprised that we got here, given Rampedi's track record. 

Communications strategist, Themba Sepotokele, lays the blame for the sorry saga at the door of pushing for scoops, while News24's public editor, George Claassen, looks at other scandals globally to see if we can learn any lessons. Finally News24's Sheldon Morais writes how the story became the story we all needed but eventually no-one wanted.

It's a bumper Friday Briefing before the weekend and, hopefully, one that gets you thinking. 


Vanessa Banton

Opinions editor

Tembisa 10: Corruption flourishes if trust in the media is broken

Chris Roper writes that it is a huge leap of bad faith to use Pretoria News' Piet Rampedi's obviously shoddy journalism to justify an attack on the media in general, and it's incorrect.

Tembisa 10: 'It's not just Pretoria News that is culpable': 6 questions with Wits' Glenda Daniels

News24's James de Villiers spoke to University of Witwatersrand's Media Studies associate professor, Glenda Daniels, about what went wrong with the Tembisa 10 story, and its impact on journalism. 

Tembisa 10: Car-crash journalism

Perhaps the most jarring issue to arise out of the coverage of the Tembisa 10 saga is the lack of accountability, writes Herman Wasserman.

Tembisa 10: A chain of bad journalism

Anton Harber writes that the Tembisa 10 saga points to a deeper problem - one where a media system has allowed essential institutions of transparency, accountability and democracy to fall into the hands of rogues and charlatans. 

Tembisa 10: The danger of a 'scoop' syndrome

Trust and credibility are the currency of journalism and, if this is broken, as in the case of the Tembisa 10 saga, it results in unwarranted attacks on the media, writes Themba Sepotokele.

Journalism's 'damned spots': A challenge to the profession

There is a long history of disastrous journalism around the world. George Claassen examines five cases the Tembisa 10 saga resembles and what impact the Tembisa reports have had on South African journalism.

Tembisa 10: The story we all needed, but now no one wants

Sheldon Morais writes that we all wanted the Tembisa 10 story to be true, but deep down we all knew it wasn't.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
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