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The last word

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The last word

by Laverne de Vries
26 Sep 2007
The Peoples Post
The Peoples Post

A friend and I recently had a debate about the role of the media in todays society. He is of the opinion that the media is a necessary evil. They (television, radio, internet, newspapers - us, me) are responsible for almost every evil under the sun.

Why does a happily married man cheat on his wife? Because of the media.

Why are tourists afraid of visiting this wonderful corner of the earth? Because of the media. Why are so many children using drugs or involved in sexual rituals in public toilets? Because of the media.

Why are South Africans so apathetic to the state of the country? Because of the media.

If it weren't for journalists such as me, men would not be drawn to the "greener pastures" they see on TV and on the cover of magazines.

Our economy would be boosted by the influx of tourists had they not read about South Africa's high crime rate in almost every daily newspaper. And, if we didn't create the hype around delinquent teenage behaviour such as using drugs and indulging in sexual orgies, teenagers, who are pliable because of their fragile sense of self, would not be tempted to try out something that "everyone else is doing anyway".

Although I did not agree with every point raised, I did hang my head in shame for the valid ones that pierced my soul.

And then he levelled me with what seemed to be a final blow: When last did you read something positive in a newspaper?

At which point I lit up, because last week I read about thousands of residents whose defective homes will finally be repaired after a lengthy fight with officials. (People's Post, Athlone/Lansdowne editions.)

I read about an unemployed Retreat man who, despite all odds and without any means, achieved his dream of travelling to Europe to compete in a snooker competition that he later won! (People's Post Retreat/Grassy Park editions.)

I read about one woman's fierce determination to bring to life a project that will severely cut down on crime because of innovative DNA projects. (People's Post City edition.)

I read and I read...

And it may not have been evil, but it was necessary, because as a community newspaper our job is not only to report on the crime, the hardships, the social injustices, the never-ending problems with governmental officials, the dirt, the grime, the corruption and fraud, the endless complaints... but it also means we have to commemorate a person celebrating their 90th birthday, the nine-year-old who receives their Western Province colours, a feeding scheme which aims to feed 200 people a day - anything and everything that affects, shapes and builds a community.

The "evil" that exists is already ingrained in society. Our reporting on it does not increase the level. Many a time it is our reporting that roots, or at least strives to, root it out.

Reflecting on the year and a half that I have spent at People's Post, I know that I cannot hang my head in shame, because in the short period of our existence, we have proved to people that we do "tell it as it is".

And the trust and support of our readers is indicative of the high esteem they hold for us.

As I depart for the next part of my life's journey, I know I take certain elements with me - part of the social responsibility embedded in the heart of People's Post and a lingering desire to change the world.

Information has changed and shaped the world and as the people's first choice of information dissemination, I will hold my head high knowing that People's Post will continue to report on both the good and the evil.

It is necessary to root out corruption, to reduce crime, to be the government's watchdog, to honour those who help make the world a better place, to validate those who triumph when all the odds are stacked against them and to be the unblemished mirror reflecting the cold and sometimes dreadful reality, and divine beauty of life.

Because of the media a little girl hopes to be an Olympic swimmer.

Because of the media a cruel and unjust Apartheid era was crippled and killed.

Because of the media one man took a little country on the corner of the earth and showed the world that it can forgive, grow and change the world.

Because of the media...

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