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.

[email protected]

    [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?]