The New Age, a newspaper in South Africa, announced last month it is getting a public editor, according to News 24. The public editor decision came after the newspaper decided to quit the press council.
The New Age said it was leaving the council’s jurisdiction and setting up its own system because it didn’t like the ombudsman system.
“There has been growing unhappiness on our side about the ombudsman, hence the decision to appoint an independent person to be known as a public editor to attend to complaints from our readers,” New Age CEO Nazeem Howa said, the South African Press Association reported. “The appointment will be made in the next two months. In the meantime we have appointed an attorney to deal with readers and viewers complaints as they arise.”
The New Age is a daily national South Africa newspaper established in Dec. 2010.
South African Press Ombudsman Joe Thloloe confirmed to iMediaEthics, “New Age has indeed sent us a note to tell us they are withdrawing from our system.”
Despite the claimed by The New Age that it quit because it didn’t like the press council, Thloloe said the newspaper withdrawal came because it failed to respond to a complaint against it. “We pressed them for the response because we felt they were dragging their feet,” Thloloe said.
Technically, the New Age wasn’t a member of the Press Digital Media South Africa, an “industry body that covers almost all the publishers in the country,” Thloloe said. Despite not being a formal member, New Age still subscribed to the press council’s moderation in handling any complaints, Thloloe said.
“For a while now they have accepted our jurisdiction, until this sudden turn,” Thloloe wrote to iMediaEthics.
Thloloe argued that the loss is the New Age‘s and not the council’s, minimizing the newspaper’s signfiicance in his e-mail to iMediaEthics: “In the scale of things, New Age is a minor player in the industry and their departure from the Press Council’s jurisdiction is not a serious loss.”
“Instead they will find that they have lost the advantages of being members of the Press Council who subscribe to our code. For example, they have told us they will be appointing an internal ombudsman, but unfortunately for them, such an ombudsman will not enjoy the credibility that our independent system carries. They will also not be enjoying some of the exemptions that Parliament has conceded to publications that subscribe to our Press Code,” Thloloe wrote.
iMediaEthics has written to The New Age for comment.