A FEW weeks ago City Press published a story “Bosasa scandal 1: Big boss in k-word tirade” https://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/big-boss-in-k-word-tirade-20180902
The story is about the tirade racist Angelo Agrizzi had which is based on an audio recording. A closer look at the contents of the City Press story shows it is very similar to the one leaked to UnCensored. However, the City Press’ does not include the bit about the Agrizzi’s ability to “fix the press” and the fact that News24 editor Adriaan Basson and other journalists are named as people the racist had cultivated relations with over four years.
The question that arises is whether the recordings are similar and if they are, why City Press would have not published a very crucial aspect of the recording which hinges on the independence of the media.
Although Media24 finds nothing wrong with the proximity of Basson to Agrizzi, who boasts that the former visited his home regularly and with his children, there are serious ethical questions that arise. Media24 would not provide its policy regarding the relationship between journalists and their sources but one of the guiding practices in ethical journalism is for reporters to remain impartial and report without favouritism and ensure their relationship with sources does not create the impression that they have favourites.
Here’s the New York Times’ advice on the personal relationship between journalists and sources. Its an excerpt from a handbook titled: Ethical Journalism: A Handbook of Values and Practices for the News and Editorial Departments
Relationships with sources require the utmost in sound judgment and self discipline to prevent the fact or appearance of partiality. Cultivating sources is an essential skill, often practiced most effectively in informal settings outside of normal business hours. Yet staff members, especially those assigned to beats, must be sensitive that personal relationships with news sources can erode into favoritism, in fact or appearance. And conversely staff members must be aware that sources are eager to win our good will for reasons of their own.
Even though this topic defies hard and fast rules, it is essential that we preserve a professional detachment, free of any whiff of bias. Staff members may see sources informally over a meal or drinks, but they must keep in mind the difference between legitimate business and personal friendship. A City Hall reporter who enjoys a weekly round of golf with a City Council member, for example, risks creating an appearance of coziness, even if they sometimes discuss business on the course. So does a reporter who joins a regular card game or is a familiar face in a corporation’s box seats or who spends weekends in the company of people he or she covers. Scrupulous practice requires that periodically we step back and take a hard look at whether we have drifted too close to sources we deal with regularly. The acid test of freedom from favoritism is the ability to maintain good working relationships with all parties to a dispute.