We news junkies are an edgy lot and can easily be recognised by our strange tics and nervous flashing eyes looking for a TV screen or a computer monitor to catch up on the latest.
What if something happens and I miss it?
There could be a tsunami somewhere, a cabinet reshuffle or a Guptagate scandal – maybe I’d better check my Twitter feed before I continue with this column?
Take for example an article published this week on the BBC website about the tough times that poor white South Africans are living through.
John Simpson, BBC’s highly regarded World Affairs editor who had many years of reporting experience in this country has managed to unite the ANC, the DA and a slew of media commentators in their criticism of his poorly researched, facile commentary on the plight of poor whites.
Under the calculatedly provocative headline 'Do white people have a future in South Africa?' – he says the answer is, “yes, but…”.
The article invokes contrived statistical relationships such as – “you are twice as likely to be murdered if you are a white farmer than if you are a police officer” – without attributing these figures to a source – to make Simpson’s point.
Furthermore, the web article lacks balance as it relies heavily on the opinions of Afriforum’s Ernst Roets and statistics drawn from the South African Institute of Race Relations, an organisation that sometimes shows a predisposition to favour Afriforum’s campaigns.
The real problem with Simpson’s article is not that he misspelled the name of a woman (Belinda van Nord instead of van Noord) who he quoted, nor that he misspelled the name of a place (Geluik instead of Geluk) that he referred to twice, but rather the weight that such an article carries in the international blogosphere.
Simpson and the BBC are at the top of the credibility pile when it comes to news and information so when they do a hack job it infiltrates news sites and discussion groups like a flu virus and is rapidly understood as received wisdom.
The fact is that Simpson’s article creates the wrong impression about South Africa.
White South Africans are not being persecuted or targeted by the majority government as the article implies.
Poverty is arguably one of the most serious problems in this country. Many millions of people can be described as poor and some of them happen to be white.
…See why the news is so important?