Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Stuff dreams are made off
I have been following the troika’s briefing online and on social media, oh the joy of instant news much better than some of the instant foodstuff the missus buys at the grocery shop. Well back to the briefing I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. You know for some reason I thought I was dreaming, I mean the drivel spewed out by the security cluster clowns is stuff dreams are made off. Just like my dream earlier this week when I dreamt a giant Easter bunny was chasing me at gun point wanting to mug me. You don’t believe my dream? Well you most probably haven’t heard some of the stuff coming from the briefing on the Nkandla Resort scandal. That stuff makes my dream seem real.
The tumble dry of lies, for we can no longer call such spin, included reasons like the police commissioner saying “the chicken run can be a security impediment” hence is was “moved”. The same was said of the cattle (poor beasts), in fact they posed a great risk in that they got to have a R1, 5 million culvert complete with an entertainment area, a pool of their own and all bells and whistles. I know, I know when I heard all the reasons for the security upgrade I was asking myself as well if the press conference was held in some kindergarten (no disrespect to the little munchkins). In fact I wouldn’t even get this report past my 2 and 6 year old boys and their kindergarten friends. Pictures this: “why daddy?....but why daddy?....but why daddy?
So forget the other excuses about the so called security upgrades, off I went searching for synonyms for ‘chicken’ and guess what came up: cowardly; frightened; scared; fearful; jumpy; afraid. Oh man poor fowls, they are all of the latter and yet they pose a risk to the number one citizen. But then again I understand that since they are cowardly; frightened; scared; fearful; jumpy; afraid they are at risk – okay I think I am confusing myself now, I wonder how the ministers keep up with all these stories. Spinning – or tumble drying – needs some serious attention lest you confuse yourself and be caught out.
Chicken in a Jacuzzi
It is most probably much better for these jumpy-afraid fowls in the Nkandla resort, especially with all the people walking in to buy mielie meal and chappies at the spaza shop, I thought. Why with a new chicken run probably with a jaccuzi and all.
So now I know why the proverbial chicken crossed the road – the road being that newly tarred P5 from Kranskop to Nkandla. Well it wanted to get to the newly refurbished presidential resort across the road. Why stay on the other side of the road while there’s a nice chicken run at the resort with security cameras, a security wall, a security water pool, a security spaza shop, a security waiting room; a security clinic; a security entertainment room, a security Astroturf soccer pitch, a security village for the relatives (no silly, I am not referring to the cows) and other security luxuries. I would also cross that road if I was the chicken. In fact I would cross the road with the whole flock, brood, clutch and peep.
Eat your heart out farmer Brown; gone are the days of if it’s fresh, it’s Farmer Brown. The Nkandla fowls are the new s’khothanes*.
*S’khothane – a flashy dresser who takes pride in showing off his expensive taste in clothes; jewelry and even food (funny though is that he normally can’t afford this on his own and relies on parents – pun intended).
Thursday, September 26, 2013
When the SABC News and more recently ANN7, bar the launch glitches, launched and joined the existing eNCA it was seen as a step in the right direction, however strategically the channels have failed to capitalise on the most important aspect of a 24 hour news channel, that of capturing impactful events as they happen. Simply put, a 24 hour news channel should give viewers relevant and current news content. Let me take you back to two recent incidents I have observed and how our news channels failed. These are the heroic salvaging of the Costa Concordia as well as the tragic Kenya Westgate Mall shooting.
A South African led the salvage operation
The salvage of the Costa Concordia, which was wrecked off the coast of Isola del Giglio in Italy last year, was an international news spectacle. Although this being an incident in one of the European countries it was even more interesting and relevant for Africans, in particular South Africans because a South African was leading the salvage operation. None of the three channels dedicated a segment to this operation. Where we were lucky we would have one channel running bits of the story on every half-hour bulletin. No one capitalised on the angle of a South African leading this operation. Even in this age of technology, a simple thing such as a time-lapse video couldn't be shown. Lack of coverage by South African news channels led to people who were interested in the story streaming live from international news channels.
The current terrorist attack and ensuing standoff at the Westgate Mall in Kenya has most people worried, praying, in a state of panic and hoping for some resolution... The Kenyan president said, "this is not a Kenya's war, it is an international war" so the international community is sitting and waiting for up-to-date news on the play of events in Kenya, Every report out of Kenya is lapped up. However it seems that even when we are under attack as Africa we still can't lead from an African source. African news channels are conspicuous by their absence.
They do it differently overseas... Well!
Closer to home we have Sky News providing a feed as well as commentary for one of the channels and a four-hour-old banner scrolling what it calls BREAKING NEWS. This banner is repeated in every news bulletin throughout the day. If we are lucky we will get an "East Africa Bureau Chief" giving a report over the phone. The other two channels would give a report that seems like it's been copied from a BBC website. Of the three 24-hour news channels we have, not even one has been able to put a crew on the ground in Kenya with an OB van for a minute-by-minute run down. It seems we have forgotten that South African is in Africa and that our news channels need to give us current news from the rest of Africa.
Our news channels have a long way to go to catch up to their international counterparts. A classic case in point, when Nelson Mandela was in hospital and everyone was talking about his demise, I received an email from journalist in Sweden telling me their bags are packed and they are on standby to come down with 24 hours. See how international players do it? There is always a plan and turnaround time to getting a firsthand report to viewers and readers. If Nelson Mandela were to just blurt out one cough, throngs of international journalists flood our shores and OB vans line up. Our response to that? Cry foul and accuse the international media of being insensitive. We say this because we have taken the backseat in leading with news that talk about us and we have outsourced that part to SKY; CNN and Al Jazeera.
Meanwhile the news consumer is left standing hands out looking to the international channels asking "please sir, can we have some more news?"
Thursday, February 14, 2013
Before I respond allow me to tell you that in fact this opening line is a reworked comment I saw on social media. A female DJ wrote on Twitter "not the greatest of times to be a woman in South Africa". Before that a young woman had posted "I've never been this scared of being a woman in SA right now! God help us, save us". These comments, and most probably many others who went unnoticed, were written out of genuine fear in light of the recent spate of abuse against women. For the past few weeks, newspaper headlines were hogged by stories of every form of sick and gruesome violence against women. This has resulted on the spotlight being shifted to South Africa by the international community and more especially to the male citizenry of this country - the so-called perpetrator.
So with sadness, anger, disgust and pain I write to all men who have raised the hand against women, men who have raped, killed or committed any form of abuse against women, to say to you that your actions are making my life as a male in South Africa a living hell. You are painting a picture of me as an animal of sort, a monster who does not deserve to live amongst humans.
You see growing up sayings such as "khula ube yindoda" and "kulukhuni ukuba yindoda" were clichéd. I eventually understood that it was not just a cliché but statements that sought to remind me on how as a young man I need to be focused and help make this world a better place for others, especially women and children around me. When such statements were uttered I think their deeper meaning was not only directed at only me but at all males, you included. Now when women find themselves victims of your actions to a degree where the male species is seen as ruthless you make it a challenge for those of us who are trying to make our households, communities, workplaces, this country and the world a better place.
When some of my female friends have constantly declared to me that "men are dogs" and "men are psychopaths", I have boldly tried to have them understand that it's not fair to generalize. The same way I have called to order men who label women as bitches and whores because I am born of a woman and a woman has bore me two wonderful children. So my dear brother I want to have you know today that your actions are hurting me, being the man I am (and believe you me I'm no sissy).
It is tough being a man that I will tell you right now but the world does not need you to be a pugilist, a rapist, a Rambo or some sort of sadist. Please don't make it unbearable for others.
To all the males out there still trying by all means to better the world whilst swimming against this tidal wave, I thank you. I beg you to continue with your good intentions of making sure that the South African male does not become the pariah of the world. Let’s continue to stand up against any form of violence against women and children and boldly say “not in our name as men”.
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
My wife normally scolds me for being a news bulletin hopper. She contends that once you've gone through one bulletin it's as good as having been through all of them. Well, looking at it, she is right, and frankly I have nothing to say in my defence. News bulletins have become like some fast-food outlet burgers - lean, dry and lacking in taste.
Live Tweets - #ANCPolicy Conference
Just few days ago I had the pleasure of following the ANC Policy Conference via live tweets when various journalists were tweeting updates on the conference. This gave me real-time news from the event and it also satisfied the 'breaking news' craving I have always had. With live tweets I have always felt as if I am part of the event, I can even reply to the tweet and ask questions that the tweeter can answer after having sourced a response for me. News has never been as convenient, fresh and spontaneous. Talk about "speed journalism" at its best.
How reliable, impartial?
The question of how reliable and impartial are speed journalism news reports was brought to the fore when Clayson Monyela took on City Press journalist, Carien du Plessis who was live tweeting on the report-back from one of the commissions of the Policy Conference. She was accused of 'misrepresenting facts'. As it turns out the press conference was also covered by a local news channel and eNews, and Monyela happened to be watching.
In my line of work I have the pleasure of interacting with the news scribes and that comes with the unfortunate eye-straining task of interacting with coverage clips. The similarity between the clips and the message you sent out at times is quite unbelievable. The fact that in this day and age a story does not have to wait to go to print as social media platforms are forever available has pushed journalists to churn out stories rapidly. This, however, has also led to journos just rehashing the story as presented by the press release without actually writing their story.
Then there are the television and radio broadcasters as well who do not want to be outdone. They will try to cram all the bits covered on social media throughout the day into a 30-minute evening bulletin in a way that makes you feel as though your television set needs a dose of Ritalin to help slow things down a bit. No wonder the leader of the official opposition missed a news clip on TV recently and went on to criticise the public broadcaster for not covering the incident.
The bloggers' role
Bloggers have also played a part in the emergence of this "speed journalism" trend. Bloggers have their reputations to depend on, and many a time this is brought about by relevance and frequency of content. This also helps the blogger to build up a brand and ultimately make some money as a spin-off. However, trying to be relevant and having frequent up-to-date content has its shortcomings. Some bloggers eventually end up peddling unverified stories in the name of chasing readership figures for their blogs. As a communications specialist I have had to deal with a flood of negative queries and comments as a result of a blogger who wrote a piece that was a complete opposite of what we were communicating. This happened because the blogger was trying to build and maintain a reputation of 'breaking news'.
So, is 'speed journalism' lowering the standard of news? Well, I don't know. What I know is that I want news and I also want the story behind the story and I want it fresh and fast. I certainly will not choke trying to force down a dry piece of content when there is an option of channel hopping, searching for something better. Give me some news I say, be it in blogs; tweets; online but don't just churn out volumes for the sake of it, make it factual. Please
I am hooked on news bulletins. I channel hop just to catch bulletins on various channels and still I am not satisfied. Recently I have developed a penchant for news on the social media platforms where I follow various media houses and publications with a view of catching the 'breaking news' story. Online; blogs; tweets and live tweets, I consume all of them. Due to me and my peers' constant urge for news, media houses have found themselves under enormous pressure to produce content. Newspapers no longer wait for the print version to 'break'. Radio stations finally have the guts to disrupt programmes just to deliver breaking news stories. All of this has led to what I termed "speed journalism", but, how different are the news in these platforms and how reliable are they?
Thursday, January 20, 2011
The emergence of social networking sites has put a totally different spin on how humans meet, chat, strike friendships and business deals. Sites like Facebook™ and Twitter™ have revolutionirised human interaction with their applications connecting people, a majority of whom are strangers, all over the world. With just six years in existence, Facebook has over five hundred million users worldwide and more than half of those users log on every day. This means that at any given day more than two hundred and fifty million people are interacting through this medium.
I, like the other millions of social media addicts, am not in less than five platforms. I have friends I might not even meet in this lifetime and in countries I might not even visit, not unless the Lotto Powerball™ comes through. Like other religious users of these sites I have logged on and updated my status to keep those in my network in the know. I have joined groups of common interest and shared with whoever cared to know information on work and other personal stuff. I have found people who like things I like and because at times such stuff seems weird we have resorted to make a clandestine sect, mind you all of us are strangers to each other. In these groups or sects I am free because I can express myself to people who understand me and share my likes BUT just how true is that? How safe am I with these strangers and how safe is it to share personal information in these sites and chat rooms? With hackers; scammers; pedophiles and other psychos out there, is social networking not tantamount to playing in the prowlers’ lair?
Hacking, bullying, indecent assaults and scamming are fast becoming synonymous with social network platforms. Yes, just when you thought it was safe to tell your virtual “friends” all about your life or to post sensitive information, someone out there is waiting to use that information against you or worse gain access into your profile.
Over the past few months I have witnessed lewd and vile comments being set up as people’s status updates, all of this by so-called ‘friends’. In one recent incident a print screen image of a social site showed a lady’s profile where she was on her lingerie inviting men over and giving out her contact numbers. The lady claimed a jilted suitor hacked into her profile and updated her status. According to social media expert, Peter du Toit of Social Media IQ, hacking through some one’s profile is possible and happens frequently. “This is because people have weak passwords and unsafe habits over the internet”, he said. Some sites like Facebook have created a safety centre where users can learn more about safety procedures as well as dealing with compromised (hacked) or phished accounts.
Another problem in social platforms is the issue of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is rife among teenagers and is now on the rise with adults as well. Just recently I have witnessed individuals being bullied in one platform. A group member being verbally abused by members of the group, the same members she thought of as ‘friends’. Du Toit cites a case in the UK where an 18 year old became the first person to be jailed, for 3 months, for death threats made on Facebook. The teenager had been bullying her victim for four years since they were at school together. In a February 2010 study by the Cyberbully Research Centre, an on-line centre dedicated to the study of the use and misuse of technology as well as online aggression, of more than four thousand respondents it was discovered that more than 21% have been bullied in social media platforms (25% female and 17% males). A separate study by the same centre found that with young people cyberbullying victims were almost twice as likely to have attempted suicide compared to youth who had not experienced cyberbullying. This is just an iceberg of the kind of abuse of these platforms.
When internet chartrooms first surfaced, abductions and indecent assaults accompanied them. These chartrooms have become hunting grounds for pedophiles and other prowlers. The recent case of the Benoni Mxit rapists was just déjà vu for me. It just showed that it is not safe in these platforms and the bad thing is that you just don’t know when you are going to fall victim.
In a different case of scamming, a Johannesburg businessman was referred, by a Facebook “friend”, to a “foreign business consortium” with a lucrative business deal. The deal which involved tanzanite stones from Botswana turned out to be hoax when he, as a South African “investor” was scammed out of fifty thousand rands.
According to web and digital media legal expert, Paul Jacobson, people who have been victims of prowlers in the social network platforms do have a legal recourse. “Hacking for instance is covered by the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act. So depending on the nature of the affront if the person is local you could lay charges with the police where appropriate, sue for defamation or report the offending person to the social network itself.
A lot of the social platforms as well as civil society organisations have devoted time and resources into helping users to be on the alert. Below are just some of the few tips to help you evade the social network prowlers:
· Friends: Do you really have two thousand friends in life? So don’t put emphasis on the quantity of friends but rather on the quality. Accepting and inviting just about everyone to be your friend exposes you to prowlers.
· Birth date and place: Just because they ask for it, it doesn’t mean you have to put it in. While it might be nice to hear from Facebook well-wishers on your birthday, you should think twice before posting your full birthday. American researchers have recently discovered a way of reconstructing some one’s ID number by dual’s birthday and place of birth place so imagine what hackers can do. Rather than remove your birthday entirely, you could enter a date that's just a few days off from your real birthday.
· Home address: Publicizing your home address enables everyone and anyone with whom you've shared that information to see where you live, from psycho exes to thieves. Opening up in this way could have negative repercussions: for example, there have been instances in which burglars have used Facebook to target users who said they were not at home.
· Long trips away: Don't post status updates that mention when you will be away from home. When you broadcast your vacation dates, you might be telling untrustworthy "friends" that your house is empty and unwatched.
· Illicit photos: By now, you should know that racy, illicit, or otherwise incriminating photos posted on Facebook can cost you a job (or worse). Even deleted photos could come back to haunt you. It has been recently discovered that Facebook's servers can store deleted photos for an unspecified amount of time. A Facebook spokesperson has admitted that someone who previously had access to a photo and saved the direct URL from their content delivery network partner could still access the photo.
· Location: rather than saying where you having a drink with friends just say “having a drink”. There is nothing more frightening than having a total stranger walk up to you and greeting you by your name. Giving out your exact location exposes you to pedophiles and all prowlers out there.
· Gifts and other applications: Clicking on just about every link or application that your “friend” sends you or invites you on exposes your computer to viruses and other phishing software. So be careful of ‘gifts’ and downloading of applications.
Also, please be careful not to retaliate – or do anything that might be perceived by an outsider to have contributed to the problem. Do not respond to the cyberbully except to calmly tell them to stop. If they refuse, you may have to take additional actions. If you are ever afraid for your safety, you need to contact law enforcement to investigate. They can determine whether any threats made are credible. If they are, the police will formally look into it. The evidence that you have collected will help them to evaluate your situation.
Yes we all agree that social media has taken human interaction to another level but then it has opened up the Pandora box. These platforms can be nasty and also show you their anti-social side, it seems. Play with your eyes wide open.