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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.

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

Journ students start blogging

When someone asked me recently how one could possibly teach sub-editing, I got all sweaty and nervous. But then I reminded myself it is a skill. There’s a lot you can learn about grammar, headline writing, the editing process. But in many ways it is much more abstract than the simple nuts and bolts. What subbing is, really, is engaging with the world in an entirely different way. It’s about developing a critical mind – and eye – and caring about the little things. As Jeff Baron wrote on washingtonpost.com recently:

Copy editors might be the only people who can discuss, cheerfully and seriously and on their own time, when to hyphenate a compound adjective. Normal people, I have found, deeply do not care.

Sub-editors are not normal people.

So reading, writing (and thinking about writing) is a crucial component of the sub-editing course I am teaching to fourth-year Journalism and Media Studies students at Rhodes University. And, really, I’m discovering that the best way to encourage this is by blogging.

Last week, the students set up their blogs, which they will run for the duration of the course. I’ve aggregated them all under one banner (I heart WordPress!), including each of the student’s contributions as RSS feeds. Have a look at the classblog and let me know what you think.

Filed under: Blogging, Newspapers, ,

Jenni.cam reinvented as Justin.tv

 From the New York Times: JUSTIN.TV, a San Francisco start-up that provides live video programming on the Web, wants to make you a star as a “lifecaster.” No singing, dancing or storytelling skills are required — only a willingness to broadcast every moment of your quotidian existence in real time. That’s 24 hours a day, seven days a week, wherever you go.

Filed under: Blogging, General, , ,

Hail! The bloggers of Burma

Fascinating insight into what bloggers risked to bring news and images to the world of Burma’s Saffron Revolution: ‘Bloggers who risked all to reveal the junta’s brutal crackdown in Burma’

This is cyberactivism at its best – and most dangerous. The Bloggers of Burma are living in fear, but managed to transmit some of the most powerful images and information about the revolution before the government responded by switching off all access to the Internet.

As the Times article ends off: “… if there is ever a monument to the heroes of the Saffron Revolution it should certainly feature a statue of a skinny boy in a T-shirt and thick glasses hunched over a computer and a digital camera”.

Filed under: Blogging, , ,

Burma: raining tears

Burmese monk

It was Archibishop Desmond Tutu, of course, who brought what’s happening in Burma a little closer to my consciousness when he likened what’s been happening in Burma to the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.

“It is so like the rolling mass action that eventually toppled apartheid,” he said. “We admire our brave sisters and brothers in Burma/Myanmar and want them to know that we support their peaceful protests to end a vicious rule of oppression and injustice … Victory is assured. They are on the winning side, the side of freedom, justice and democracy.”

He’s said this all before, of course. But perhaps I wasn’t paying attention. Or, perhaps, it wasn’t accompanied by images like this one. This beautiful photograph is from a Guardian slideshow, and was posted by Sokari on BlackLooks. And then there’s the point, raised by Caitlin Fitzsimmons on OrganGrinder, that what makes this year’s protests different from all that has gone before is “the advent of the internet and video-capable mobile phones means that the eyes of the world are on Burma more than ever before”. Check out what’s been coming through the blogosphere.

As Fitzsimmons says: “The flow of communications to the outside world can only benefit the citizens of Burma and the brave individuals who are risking life and limb to highlight the plight of their country deserve nothing but admiration. It’s no easy job, but technology has made it a whole lot easier than it was in 1988.”

Filed under: Blogging, General, Photography, , ,

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