The Herald's Anonymous Sources, Rumor RE S.African Mayor Criticized

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Screenshot detail above shows headline of the published letter to The Herald newspaper, criticizing the South African newspaper for its article. (Credit: The Herald)

A South African newspaper has been criticized for publishing an article on the mayor of a metropolitan district, Zanoxolo Wayile.

The newspaper, The Herald, and its Saturday edition, The Weekend Post, published the letter criticizing the newspaper for its article, “Mystery mounts over fate of metro mayor,” the lead story for The Herald’s Sept. 29 issue. The letter, written by the communications director for Nelson Mandela Bay municipality,  claimed the article was “based on rumour, premised by mutterings from anonymous sources.”

Communications director Roland Williams further criticized the newspaper and its journalist for publishing the “rumour” despite having on-the-record comments from politic ans, “all of whom emphatically deny such rumour.”

The Herald’s article claimed that there’s a “move to oust” Wayile from his position before his term ends in March 2011.  But, Wayile was quoted as saying “Those rumours (that I have resigned) are unfounded. I am around.”  The party leadership, which the Herald reported was behind the move to remove Wayile, also denied any such intentions.

But, the story still was published, as was an editorial “comment,” which Williams labeled “riddled with mistruths and distortions.”

“The negative spin of The Herald, its deliberate omission of facts and figures, its continued reliance on so-called ‘sources’ and its total disregard for any media ethics in reporting on matters of the NMBM point to an obvious agenda on The Herald’s part to (falsely) propagate a message of an unhealthy state of local governance,” Williams wrote.

In response, the newspaper’s editor defended its article:  “The article was not run on a whim, but rather after several days of in-depth interviews with a host of reliable and established senior ANC members, locally and provincially,” the editor, unnamed, wrote.

The editor claimed Williams “missed the point” of the article, which the editor wrote was to report that there was tension in the mayor’s office to resign, but not that the mayor was in fact resigning.

Also, the editor asserted that “there is also no ‘negative spin’ and Williams would be wise to reflect on as many positive stories the paper has carried about projects undertaken by the metro.”

Brian Hayward, who wrote the article for The Herald, wrote in an e-mail to StinkyJournalism that only the editor can comment on matters concerning the newspaper, but “I can confirm that the posting was carried on the paper’s letters page, accompanied by the editor’s response, in which she mapped out how we came to run the articles in question, and clarifying that the officials who could not be named were tried and tested. ”

We have asked Hayward to pass our e-mail on to The Herald’s editor and will update with any response.

UPDATE: 10/13/2010 1:54 PM EST : See more on The Herald in our Oct. 13 report here.

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The Herald’s Anonymous Sources, Rumor RE S. African Mayor Criticized

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