Focus on the good too: iLIVE
There is an English proverb that says there are different ways of skinning a cat, and no single approach is more cogent or important than the other. Some may choose to start skinning from the inside of the tail up the creature's stomach, while the other lot may do the deed on the animal's back.
So, whether or not the cat is fat does not matter. What matters is a skinless cat and what to do with the carcass.
Perhaps the same principle applies in writing a news story and putting a headline on the story.
A few days ago we woke up to a differently skinned cat, namely the release of the 2012 Blue Drop Report on Drinking Water Quality.
While the rest of the media focused on the overall thrust of the report, which shows marked improvement compared to previous years, the Times chose, quite peculiarly, a striking headline: "Thousands exposed to unsafe tap water" (May 8).
We accept there is no obligation on the editorial team of the Times to look on the brighter side of the report, but a level of optimism, especially with such great improvement, would have been a much better deal for South Africa.
So it happened that out of the 153 water supply systems assessed throughout the country, and the fact that more than 98% of those have passed the quality standard prescribed by the World Health Organisation, the zealous interest of The Times is firmly focused on the 14 where water at the moment is of substandard quality.
Perhaps this is a good thing, given the role of the media as watchdogs of public service performance.
No one should complain when a newspaper raises alarm in areas of concern, like the 14 municipalities' state of water. But we do think a level of objectivity must be exercised in allocating headlines, especially when the subject discussed is broader than just the issue highlighted by the headline.
There are many towns where water complies very well with the expected safety standard in terms of quality of drinking water. The shortfall may be in the ability of the specific town to supply required documentation, such as water safety plans and other risk mitigation measures to deal with unforeseen crises.
The 14 municipalities with warning signs on the report cannot be painted with the same brush.
One needs to analyse the performance of each of them against the set criteria for blue drop certification
Let South Africans be assured that our country remains one of the few in the world where one can drink water directly from the tap.
This report about our drinking water quality standard has been sanctioned by the World Health Organisation, of which we are a member, and has won the environmental engineering excellence award by the American Academy of Environmental Engineering.
There are challenges in a number of our municipalities, but the department in partnership with the water services authorities in both private and public spheres is working hard through programmes like these to deal with these challenges.