Disturbing trend

I was a bit hesitant to react to your second editorial in last week’s Kormorant lest I be taken for a grumpy old rightwinger, which I can assure you I am not. But I had to react to that editorial which to me represents a disturbing trend in the South African media – that of racial nit-picking and needless self-reproach.
You asked the question why did the one instance of a boy drowning get more media coverage than another – clearly implying that the reason was that in the one instance the boy was from a well to do family (which is debatable in any case) and white, while in the other case the boy was from a poor black family. I am amazed that such a question had to be be asked by a professionally trained journalist, unless the intention was to score browny points with those who, under the guise of liberalism, are forever looking for the most obscure signs of racism in society and the media.
The one story concerns a mother doing her washing and while her back is turned her toddler drowns in a bucket of water. It is tragic, but that is all there is to it – no law enforcement, no dramatic rescue efforts. The child could not be resuscitated. The race or social standing of the child had nothing to do with it. (By the way, with a little effort you could have found out the name of the child and published it.
The other involves a fun-filled family outing on a public waterway. There is talk of safety precautions not being adhered to, a tragic accident and a toddler disappearing when the boat capsizes. Police and rescue services are involved, there is drama of rescue workers being turned away at the gate, police divers and a day long search for the little body. Once again, the race or social standing of the child had nothing to do with it, but it certainly sparked a debate on safety law enforcement on inland waters.
I am all for equal treatment by all South Africans in the media, but grasping at every little instance of difference in reporting on different incidents as proof of the inherent racism of the media and society is a bit much. In this instance, it was simple news values and drama at work, taking into consideration the audience to whom the news was presented. It had nothing to do with the race of the people involved and you can rest assured: Nobody can accuse you of racism simply because you gave more prominence to the incident where more drama was involved – albeit equally tragic.
Anyway, keep up the good work.

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