702 should take a closer look at what the Press Code says
The Times was on Wednesday the subject of a segment of the John Robbie show on Radio 702. Those who listened after 7am would have gained the impression that this newspaper and its journalist Graeme Hosken were guilty of grossly unprofessional conduct in the reporting of a story involving the SA Police Service.
Robbie, after interviewing General Mzwandile Petros, the Gauteng police commissioner, said there were many messages saying the media were bad. Or, as he quickly corrected, not all media. The implication was that it was, in fact, only The Times that was being "bad".
But bad is such a large word and one easily applied. In fact, I could describe what happened on 702 yesterday as "bad". In the interview of Petros, the station omitted key things, starting with a timeous request for our comment.
This despite the fact that, on Tuesday night, the same day Hosken's story appeared on our front page, he had received two telephone calls from 702 employees. One of Robbie's producers called to ask if Hosken would be available the following morning to go on air about his report on the closure of a task team dealing with blue light-related crimes in Gauteng.
Yusuf Abramjee, head of news/current affairs, also called Hosken, telling him Petros had complained about the article. According to Abramjee, Petros was "very angry", and he had advised the commissioner to call me, or group editor-in-chief Mondli Makhanya, or to complain to the Press Ombudsman.
Petros was indeed "very angry" when he spoke after 7am and Robbie was very sympathetic. Then, apparently as an afterthought, he suggested Petros contact The Times editor or the reporter.
Our side of the story was aired only about 40 minutes after Petros's interview - with no guarantee the audience who had heard us slagged off would get our side of the story.
Robbie, energised by the "injustice" done to Petros, called Avusa's public editor to "facilitate" a meeting between Hosken and Petros. That meeting was held in my office. The outcome is reported elsewhere in the paper.
What is astounding is the audacity of omission, the grandstanding and the style of journalism practised by 702. It leads me to wonder what exactly transpired between Abramjee and Petros, and how decisions are made at 702.
It is a well-known fact that the station's owner, Primedia, "rents out" senior staff to educate others on how to deal with the media. Previous clients include the SAPS, which in 2010 paid R22800 for advice from Katy Katopodis, Eyewitness News group editor-in-chief, and Abramjee.
Clearly, at 702 there is nothing wrong with stepping across professional boundaries.
The SA Press Code asks us to report "news truthfully, accurately and fairly". And it asks that news be "presented in context and in a balanced manner, without any intentional or negligent departure from the facts whether by distortion, exaggeration or misrepresentation, material omissions, or summarisation".
I do not believe 702 adhered to this code.
Robbie, when asked for comment, said he was unaware Hosken had been contacted by Abramjee, who said his call was a friendly one.
Yesterday, 702 listeners were given the impression that we practise sloppy journalism at The Times. I hold the same view of 702, "your No1 news and talk station".