Today’s Cape Times runs a front page story on the a problem which put the Table Mountain Cableway out of action for a whole 35 (thirty-five) minutes yesterday afternoon. Woo. [link]
Yet, despite the fact that there were a total of no injuries, no snapped cables, no plunging tourists, merely a blown fuse, we get 1000 words and an overflow onto page 3 about upset people waiting to use the cable car and how Eskom cut the power to it in January (an incident objectively described by the reporter as the passengers’ “worst nightmare”).
Nerish Rempul of Durban, who was looking forward to his third cable car ride, said the situation was “terrible”.
“I’m here with two friends but we’re leaving now. We probably won’t get another chance to use the cable car because we’re going home tomorrow. It’s truly terrible.”
No, no, no. Honestly, are all Durbanites quite so dramatic?
“Truly terrible” is when the local bottle store runs out of Castle Milk Stout.
A half-hour delay on the cable car is “mildly irritating”. In fact, if you happen to have some Castle Milk Stout with you when you get delayed, then a half hour delay can even be “quite alright” as it means “extra drinking time”.
All in all, reporter Caryn Dolley has done her best to make a story out of nothing, and she must have been amazed when it ended up on the front page, pushing murder, rape, earthquakes, fishcake recipes and rugby deep into the bowels of the paper.
I hate it when the press do that – not least because I don’t have time to get to page 18 on my tea break (although I often don’t have breadcrumbs to hand anyway) – but the South African press is worse than most when trying to drum up a story that isn’t. I might have hinted at that here.
My annoyance primarily stems from their cherry-picking and publicising the worst and most violent crime stories in order to get readers: a process which has the unfortunate side-effect of making the world think that we all get hijacked at gunpoint on a daily basis here in SA, which in turn keeps the tourists away in their droves (which then reduces income, increases poverty and… er… fuels crime).
This is counterproductive.
Some would argue that this tactic only works because people want to read about the worst and most violent crime and they’d be right. Without such tales, dinner parties in the better-off areas of SA would be strangely quiet, save for briefly mentioning how badly the Bulls are doing, questioning whether Julie is going to report her gynaecologist to the HPCSA and passing on the latest ZumaRuma™*. But that doesn’t excuse it.
To the editors of the South African press, not least Tyrone August of the Cape Times. Up your game please. This is rubbish.
* ZumaRuma – a piece of information (which may or may not be true) about our country’s president-in-waiting.
e.g. “Jacob Zuma ate my hamster”. (This may or may not be true.)