Ndumiso Ngcobo
Ndumiso Ngcobo

Would you buy my newspaper?

Apparently newspapers used to report the news. I can’t say for sure because that was before my time. Those were the days.

It has been my observation that reporting the news in newspapers has become old-fashioned. Let’s call the current approach in the mainstream print media the Bugger-Facts-Opinion-Rules (BFOR) model. So, for instance, if Tito Mboweni convenes the MPC and then holds a press conference you might find the following headlines, depending on which newspaper you prefer:

“Tito tells SA to tighten those belts”
“SA headed for recession — Reserve Bank Governor”
“Tito — happy days are here again”

I like observing this sort of thing because it supports my theory that human beings are incapable of objectivity (read: we are inveterate idiots). I once asked the question, “If I pour water into a kettle and the kettle turns it into steam, who is to blame for the steam?” Consider the fact that if I pour the same substance (ie water) into an ice tray and stick it into a freezer, the freezer produces ice. Retarded analogy, I know. That’s just how I roll. Asking the same question differently: If Tito addresses the press and the press produces seven different versions of what he said, whose fault is it? I know the conventional answer, “He should have been clearer”.

I personally think the steam is the kettle’s own fault. Unfortunately, using the words “media” and “fault” in the same sentence is sacrilegious and instantly turns one into a fascist who does not support freedom of speech, freedom of expression and a free, “vibrant” media. So I won’t type “I think it’s the media’s fault”. If anyone accuses me of fascism, my response will be to eat my skid-marked boxers.

That’s my long-winded way of saying that I have been toying with the idea of starting my own newspaper. I must put a disclaimer here and mention the fact that one of my friends, Maswazi, sowed the initial seed for this idea. But don’t worry, I’ll give him the 1.5% due to him. In any case, I will call my newspaper The News. Without any payoff lines like “The paper for the factually-minded”. That would be attempting to influence prospective readers. And my newspaper will not exist to brainwash anyone. It will exist for the sole purpose of reporting the dry facts.

What will set my newspaper apart is the fact that it will have columns upon columns of nothing but the news. And each article will have exactly the same subheadings: “When? Where? Who? What?” I might be missing out on a few more important details. The idea is still very much in its infancy, you see. I will tell you one thing with certainty, though. The articles in my newspaper will not have any “Why?” or “How?” subheadings. This is because I will impress upon my journalists that it is impossible for them to know the rationale employed by other human beings, leading to their actions. We can only be certain about what they did or didn’t do. I will stress the fact that journalists of The News are not paid to read people’s minds but to inform the public about what happened.

I will not hire journalists from our esteemed schools of journalism because … well, I don’t trust learned journalism professors to not brainwash journalism students with this notion that journalists are some kind of social commentators and activists. No siree, I will train my journalists myself in my Just-Report-The-News-Academy (JRTNA). My journalism course will include modules such as:

“Are you a clairvoyant? Then shut up and just report the news”
“Angle: A dirty, filthy word in journalism”
“You didn’t study economics. Nobody cares about your retarded economic theories”

And so on. I think you know what I mean. Again, I have only now started giving the idea serious thought so I still have to refine the module topics some more.

Another feature of my newspaper is that under every one of the subheadings I talked about earlier, the news will appear in bullet format. Here is an example of how this might work.

    When:

• 07 May 2009, 11h03 – 14h17 GMT+2

    Where:

• The Houses of Parliament, Cape Town, Republic of South Africa

    Who:

• 400 Members of Parliament.
• Judge President Pius Langa.
• 176 members of the analysts-formerly-known-as-journalists (AFKAJ).
• Some hangers-on, hobos and other general riffraff.

    What?

• 394 MPs were sworn in by Judge Langa.
• Baleka Mbete was there but was not sworn in.
• ANC MP Winnie Madikizela-Mandela nominated ANC MP Jacob Zuma for the presidency of the Republic.
Some other arb ANC dude seconded the (e)motion.
• Cope MP Mbhazima Shilowa nominated Cope MP Mvume Dandala for the presidency of the Republic.
• Some nondescript, vocally-wounded ANC MPs burst into unprovoked song as a way of inducing a trance-like state in other MPs and turn them into Zuma-voting sheep.
• The MPs voted via secret ballot.
• ANC MP Zuma received 277 votes.
• Cope MP Dandala received 47 votes.
• Some illiterate MPs spoilt their ballots.

This is what I would probably submit to a sub-editor if I decided to become a junior reporter in my own newspaper. Granted, my article is not factually accurate. I wasn’t there myself. Unfortunately I had to rely on newspapers to give me these facts but I didn’t feel like wading through an 800-word analyses of what Mbete’s body language relayed. The sub-editor’s job in my newspaper would be to either nip out or rephrase the bits I have bolded to take out any of my subjective sarcasm from the article. No commentary allowed, you see.

And then, at the bottom of each article I would have a link to The News’ website (www.thenewswithouttheusualbullshit.co.za) with actual video footage of the entire event, but without the vocal commentary because my future readers will have eyes and ears, you understand. They won’t need to hear, “You will notice that Blade Nzimande is seated quite close to Zuma which is an indication…” No. The News readers will be the type of individuals who don’t care about the verbose guesswork (or is that gaswork?) of some double-chinned political analysts from this-or-that Centre Study for Fishing Stuff from the Lower Colon.

My newspaper won’t have an editorial page because, quite frankly, I will trust my readers to make up their own mind about what they have read. But of course my rag will be a tad drab compared to the infotainment in the mainstream media, so I won’t expect super profits. Just enough to buy paper, ink and beer. I will only concentrate on the 0.1% of the population that cares about accuracy of information. That’s roughly 30 000 out of the adult population — assuming the media can be trusted. So I don’t expect to make a dent in the market share of the big guns.

So they will continue writing sangoma bones-inspired articles about what’s going on inside President Zuma’s mind. And then they will meet in smoke-filled rooms afterwards to slap hands and pat each other on the back when their predictions happen to be spot-on. They will continue to use hypnotic methods such as running faucet-headed cartoons to influence public opinion about public figures. They will dress it up as “Calling the truth the way we see it” (read: producing steam and blaming the water for it). And their cup will runneth over as it always does.

But I won’t be swayed. My newspaper won’t speculate. It won’t analyse. It won’t take sides — heck it won’t even recognise the existence of camps. My readers will only get raw data to process and make up their own minds. In bullet format to avoid misunderstandings.

Tell me you’re not already salivating.

silwanekanjila@gmail.com

    [Your homework: pretend you’re in the funding department at the IDC, the DTI or any other funding institution and I presented this blog as an overview of my business idea. Would you fund it?]
  • Bonginkosi

    Ndums,

    I will not give you the money but will shower you with all the luck!! Figure that one out.

    The idea is a tempting one. I rather like it.

  • Bonginkosi

    Where do I deposit my investment moola? Allocate me 10% share of the paper.

  • Deliwe

    Yep I would fund it, am so tired of the misleading headlines, poor spelling and misinformation. I was amazed that the SABC expected us to listen to some analyst from same dodgy central centre for centralised studies to give analysis during the inauguration, really the dude looked bearly out of high school. Is a certain amount of life experience not a requirement these days to be an authority in analysis and social comment?

  • http://robertbrand.wordpress.com/ Robert

    …and nobody will read it. So, to answer your final question: NO!

  • Dee

    that would definately be worth sacrificing a bottle of my poison.

  • Maswazi

    Only 1.5%?

    Dude?

  • Red Panda

    I’m sorry to say that you would only have a readership of about 5 people (and I would be one of them). Sadly, people don’t even buy the giving-opinions-and-quoting-sources types of papers in great numbers. They want the fact-free news found in the Britney-Spears-elopes-with-Canadian-moose and Man-in-Limpopo-has-sex-with-ex-wife’s-goat type papers!

  • http://mynewsblogs.24.com/sipho.hlongwane Good Charlie

    I would fund it, most certainly.

    reading newspapers (and online news sites) has become an exercise of sifting the raisins from the sheep dung. we need a facts-only newspaper these days.

    excellent read, mapholoba!

  • SarahH

    Hmmm, now that you put it like that, I will support your newspaper and simply add my own vivid imagination to spice up the details. Why not, ‘experts’ have been shown up to be overrated and I am as opinionated as the next person?

  • Sthokza

    You have one reader already, and yes yes yes would definately fund you and not as a loan but a grant and mind you a full (100%) grant

  • http://www.spoken.co.za Themba Phakathi

    I’d like to take you up on your offer. Please repair the URL, I am going to register it and you will take it from there.

  • Moss

    But then we’d be deprived of your profound insight, as showcased by this piece. In fact, let’s pretend that this was written for your “newspaper” and was therefore immediately spiked. Ah, that’s much better.

  • JR

    how will you phrase your frontpage headline?

  • Lazola Mweli

    i would definitely subscribe to The News. it’s about time that the public get what really happened not what people wanted to happen.

  • Milongo we Longo

    Great idea indeed. Am going to register the fan club and become life-president for it. I would fund the idea for mischief’s sake.

  • Dithabana

    Silwane

    I would advise you to give “our economy” a chance to “get back on its feet again” before you can come with your request.

    What does that mean? That means I would first ask you to take Economics very seriously and use economics reasoning to back your “request” for funding. For an example I would want you to write me a proposal that goes something like this “considering the 23.5% unemployment that is expected to spike a bit in the next few quaters, I would like you to fund my proposal as my entity will imply 0.014% negative growth of unemployment and 0.009% positive growth of our revenue in the form of tax receipts” and so on.

    On second thoughts; I nearly forgot that you are hopelessly scientifically inclined so you would probably not know what the word “news” means to the average news agent in the media industry.

  • http://www.youtube.com/elections2009 Siphiwo Siphiwo

    ndumiso

    1. how would you report sport (local & international)?

    2. how would you report court cases if your reporters are not allowed to go in, or you’re not permitted by the court to quote verbatim?

    3. and how would you report international news i.e hurrican ike in central america, military junta in burma/ fiji, or the financial crises in america? won’t you have to rely on the edited (read:subjective) reporting of the main stream media?

    good intentions though…

    😉

  • http://www.youtube.com/elections2009 Siphiwo Siphiwo

    silwane

    would we be allowed to blog or twitter at TheNews?

  • brigs

    Dude, where can I bye it? A news paper which actual news. What a novel concept.

  • sidakwa

    thats why i use google news .

    i just get the head lines of the stories that i want .

  • Ayanda

    “…it is impossible for them to know the rationale employed by other human beings, leading to their actions”

    Meaning that they can only comment on the symptom not the cause, unlike those who report the symptom and possible cause(s)?

    hwat’s raw data again ?

    i, alone, get seriously entertained by the varied “misdiagnosis” i read. They open avenues of thought that i never would have stumbled upon in my higher-than-a-kite modes of thought.

    Gone to make small talk in the wild…qethu

  • Mwenebobo

    Deliwe – I can’t bare pore spelling either! The moat in our own eye etc.

  • http://207506923ukzn.ac.za Thabani

    Good one as usual Mapholoba, I rarely buy newspapers because of the same crap that is written in them. It amazes me that the number one paper in terms of sales is the Daily Sun. That’s one tabloid I’d never buy… Speed up your concept man!!! Keep walking.

  • http://mandrake.amagama.com Mandrake

    Silwane, when i worked at Exclusive Books about 6 years back there was a newspaper produced by a good Nigerian businessman called “This Day”. He had one of the most factually correct newspapers in SA.

    Problem with these is that business doesn’t want to invest in a publication which has shears for anyone and everyone.

    Google “This Day”, give the guy a call. I’d help on this one. I’m getting tired by the blatant subjectiveness of reporting these days. Even eTV has lost it, i struggled collecting my jaw from my stained carpet last night when Ben Said practically mused as to why “x is greater than y, maybe-kind-of”.

  • Jerry

    You are a bit late, check these agencies SAPA,Reuters,AP for a bankable proposal.

  • Sipho Lukhele

    I would buy the paper! I would also like to believe it would have less than 10 pages, which is good for the environment. I still don’t know why I keep on buying the Sunday Times newspaper paper and I don’t even make it to the Business section, when the next Sunday comes. It’s even worse this days when I have to read columns by Blade Nzimande and Tony Leon to mention just a few. Not to say they are not good writers, but I prefer to read Mtungwa and Mondli’s column.

    Great blog!

  • brent

    Great article love your writing, you should be a permanent fixture on this site.

    Objectivity is impossible, what must be strived for is balance. Using the example of Tito giving a speech/interview papers should report it word for word (unless it is too long) and then have two people comment: one with conservative views and the other with liberal views – both openly proclaiming their pre-concieved views to the readers.

    I have a Swiss colleague and a few years ago there was an attempt to bring in legislation that would change things a lot – every voter (yes 100% worldwide) got a pack from the Government that had three things: 1. An explanation/factual document by civil servants on the details on what was being proposed and the likely future results 2 a document by the proposers of the new law explaining their view and 3. a document by the party opposing the new law explaining why.

    On reading the above the voter/public is armed to vote un-clutted with party potlitcal gumph.

    Brent

  • Natalie

    I’d buy your paper heck… can’t you start with an online version? Then i can read it via my Blackberry and save the rainforest.

  • Shoki

    “No siree, I will train my journalists myself in my Just-Report-The-News-Academy (JRTNA).”

    LOL you kill man……..

  • zozo

    Very subtle!

    If your question is real my answer would be NO!
    Because there is so much raw data around us that we are unable to intepret already.

    If the purpose of this letter is to demonstrate to us “little people” that news from the media is the best we can hope for then I would agree with you 100%. But I must say you are one of few smart people around and subtlity of your point make peopl like David Bullard pale in comparison

  • James Tobias

    Perhaps a topless politician on page 3 would entice readership?

  • pete ess

    Well, no ways your scribblings would make it into The Boring Blat. Your column would be one big black khoki pen blackout.
    Imagine a paper reporting government and corporate blurb verbatim!!!!! Your newspaper would have more lies in it than the current media BY FAR!

    Anyway, the days of pulping trees and adding ink to them, then selling them on street corners are so O-OVER.

    Start a brewery. Call it The Not-the-SAB Brewery. I’d buy.

  • http://letpeoplespeak.amagama.com/ Lyndall Beddy

    If you are REALLY going to do it – you need audio clips with people like Helen Zille speaking IN THEIR OWN WORDS not journos and the ANCYL speaking for them or interpreting.

    Which is why I listen to the radio channel which does the most interviews AND lets the politicians answer questions from the public.

  • Jama ka Silwane

    Mapholoba,

    I’m willing to hit busy intersections in freezing Joburg weather to help peddle your bias free 100%, factual newspaper. Call it my way of contributing to the continued survival of the human intellect, like Steve Irwin with the Crocodiles.

    With the pandemic of herd mentality going around and AKAJ’s like Debrah Patta at the apex of it, we truly need news that aims to be nothing but that, the news. Not insight, not analysis just news.

    Where do I sign up and get my glow in the dark lined busy intersection outfit?

  • http://cheruloksyahoo.com Eddah

    hi, am from kenya and been following your blogs for a year now and i enjoyed what you wrote and i still do. dont stop. your blogs always puts a smile on my face 😉

  • Tshego

    can i join your journalism school? i have four years of serious unlearning to do…

  • http://mandrake.amagama.com Mandrake

    James T, the question is which SA politician would be eligible for page 3? Choices are extremely limited here my friend…maybe their PAs

  • Lunte23

    hehehe Mandrake the exact moment your jaw dropped, mine did as well, because I couldn’t believe i was hearing an unnecessary opinion from a reporter…REPORTERS SHOULD REPORT THE NEWS NOT HAVE AN OPINION ON THE NEWS….I blame biased CNN and Rupert Murdoch….

  • http://www.lbuku.blogspot.com/ Luzuko

    I first want to ask, so as a journalism student at Rhodes University you will never employ me because I have been brainwashed by Professors such as Guy Burger? Or do I have to take your course before I get employed?

    In terms of the home work, I would definitely fund the newspaper, but with certain conditions though. For instance the general idea of this fact finding no other crap reporting is indeed a good one, but the manner in which the articles would be structured will have to change from the bullet points to a headings style but with concrete sentences. I personally believe that in as much as newspapers are supposed to feed the public with factual information, they also need to help in the fight against illiteracy. The bullet point type of reporting will never improve the readers understanding and appreciation of written material. It will also not help in terms of improving the writing of the writers who will be working in this paper. That’s unless you are thinking of modernising English or any language that your newspaper will use.

  • M3

    “Skid Marked Boxers”…Iyo!

  • http://yahoo nondumiso

    Nice one Fuze.

    Being a journalism student myslf, i’d definatelty attend your Just-Report-The-News-Academy

  • Sandile

    Please contact me if you need funding… Im tired of this poor commentary in the news. We want facts, we can make up our own minds.

    Most definitely… Count me in.

  • http://lolonga.taligmail.com lolonga tali

    I happen to be a journalism student myself and i must say that your idea of an alternative newspaper sounds plausible indeed. Sadly,sounding plausible and being viable are two different things and as i have indicated your idea sounds more plausible but is hardly viable. Let me explain why i say so:what is news is not determined by readers as any journalism 101 student will tell you.Journalists and others have arrogated upon themselves to tell what is news and we have accepted that without so much as a whine.Your rag, for all its good intentions, would not even threaten a local community newspaper its factual news notwithstanding. I understand that you know what i am on about and you want to go against the grain. Let me put it to you in rather unambiguous terms that it is not only about going against the grain but in succeeding as one does so!After all why one would waste precious time for a hopeless cause!? In any case,you have a right to dream as much as you like. Isn’t South Africa a land alive with possibilities? Dream on Brother!

  • Bongukwanda

    I wouldn’t fund it. it would be like reading another textbook at school…

  • MK

    Thank you. It would be 9c to read hard core news for once….materiliaze the idea tuu…