brand anne

Icon

Mother of two, living life in small-town South Africa

Mbeki gone: an act of newspaper heroism

Peter Bruce, the editor of Business Day (and a former sub-editor, which means he understands the trenches only too well), wrote a great column in Monday’s newspaper about how a “reporter with a great news story” managed to get The Weekender a world exclusive, breaking news of the ANC’s decision to recall President Thabo Mbeki.

Although they had already put the paper to bed on Saturday night with an inconclusive, ho hum Mbeki story, political editor Karima Brown responded to an SMS sent at 1am carrying news of the NEC’s decision. This was the biggest South African news story since the fall of apartheid. Hell, how could she let her paper miss it?

Describing it as an act of “newspaper heroism”, Bruce explains how Brown and other key Business Day/Weekender staffers remade the paper in the early hours of the morning. By 3.55am, Executive Editor Rehana Rossouw was able to send Bruce an update: Mbeki gone. New headline. Paper changed. We got it right.”

Just brilliant, writes Bruce. And I have to agree: this is the kind of thing that could only happen at a newspaper. Just brilliant.

By the way, if anyone out there cares to do a search to find out when this news hit the web, let me know who got it first. This may just turn out to be a case of “print got it first” and that would delight an old codger like me who is nostalgic for the adrenaline of a newsroom. A very cursory browse of online archives shows that IOL’s first confirmation story ANC officially asks Mbeki to go was posted at 9am on Saturday. News24 had a tentative Mbeki asked to resign? at 11am, while the M&G had ANC dumps Mbeki, moves to ‘heal rift’ at 1.30pm.

Update, 11.20pm – 22 September: Rehana Roussouw, executive editor of the Weekender, explains in Business Day about what happened in their newsroom (and at the NEC) on Friday. Headlined, “The little paper that can”, she writes:

The Times website had been reporting from about 5pm that the NEC had already decided Mbeki must be axed. They were quoting Sunday Times staff. It looked to us like an inspired guess. Despite our best efforts, we hadn’t been able to confirm that fact ourselves.

I’ve been digging around the Times website (impossible to navigate or is it just me?), trying to find these references, but the closest I can get to a “confirmed story” is the Breaking News blog’s Mbeki recalled from office, which was published at 6.46pm on Saturday 20 November. (Incidentally, Ray Hartley carried the news on his blog at 12.13pm.)

Once again, I’m reminded that the Weekender’s scoop was only possible because there were experienced hands at the helm who had the right contacts, who could trust the information being sent through and who had enough experience to change an “inspired guess” into an on-the-record, confirmed story.

Advertisements

Filed under: Blogging, General, Newspapers, , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: