INDABA Newsletter | March 2013

Newsmaker event – book now!

Members are reminded of the 2012 National Press Club – Aon South Africa Newsmaker of the Year event, which will take place at the CSIR International Convention Centre in Pretoria on Friday, 12 April 2013. Paid-up members can attend at no cost and partners or spouses are required to pay R150.

Book your space at the event now by contacting the secretariat on tel 082 257 0305 or e-mail

The names of the winners in the National Press Club – North-West University Journalist of the Year competition will be announced at the dinner.

The 2012 Newsmaker of the Year is the South African rhino.

Oscar fever – the temperature will rise

It has been six weeks since Oscar Pistorius shot Reeva Steenkamp but the tragic story still dominates the news.

It is clear from almost daily news reports that the media will continue to do their best to obtain exclusives and this story is far from over. In fact this is only the beginning.

Apart from the facts of the matter, there is also a lot of speculation about what is going to happen and how this unfortunate event will play out.

Many journalists are now, for the first time, forced to venture onto a new path – that of court reporting. In the past, most first time journos started their careers in the magistrate court, as it teaches one to be extremely accurate and factual. But as time changed, this practice has also changed and for many this is new ground.

As this is familiar territory for me – having covered courts for many years – I share a few interesting points and myths.

Several reports after Oscar’s bail hearing stated that his trial is due to start on June 4 in the Magistrate’s Court. As many of us know this is not true, but public can be misled by such reports.

Zelda Venter

There is still a lot to be done before this can happen, including that Oscar and his legal team must be served with the indictment and they must get the complete case docket once the police investigation is done.

It is also not a given that the case will be heard in the Magistrate Court. This decision lies with the Director of Public Prosecutions. It was an easy decision in the past, as the benchmark was: if you were likely to get life imprisonment, you were tried in the high court. But this is now a grey area as the regional court also has the jurisdiction to impose a life sentence.

A senior DPP member explained that there is no fixed policy in this regard. “We go on feeling that there is no longer a specific criteria.” He added that family violence murders and those generating a lot of publicity normally went to the high court. The measure of violence used as well as whether the murder is coupled with rape or robbery, normally sways it into the high court direction.

But strong indications are Oscar will be tried in the high court.

Speculation is rife whether there will be a plea bargain.

Perhaps yes. But once again, a complicated process with both State and defence agreeing to the conviction and sentence will have to take place. The victim’s family must also give the go-ahead and actually sign the plea-bargain agreement. However, if in the eyes of the judge it is not acceptable, then that the end of that. It will not stand.

Take former Blue Bulls player Bees Roux. His deal took weeks to finalise and it was no easy matter. He was charged with murder in 2011 but this was changed to culpable homicide, for which he received a suspended sentence and he had to pay R750 000 to the family of Metro cop Johannes Mogale who was beaten to death by Roux.

Good luck with the Oscar fever ahead.

Zelda Venter, National Press Club exco member

Much more than Kim Kardashian’s breakfast

It has long been argued that the instant and direct messaging of Twitter is changing the way people consume news – this became so much more evident with the arrest of international athlete and South African golden boy Oscar Pistorius.

Police arrested the athlete at his luxury Pretoria East home on February 14. He’d shot dead his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

The news broke on Twitter with a tweet from Afrikaans daily Beeld stating that Pistorius had allegedly shot his girlfriend, mistaking her for an intruder. I was second to get the message out in English and the word spread like wildfire.

News consumers no longer need to wait for the information to be broadcast on the radio, or even for the details of a particular event to make it to the a newspaper the following day.

Information is broadcast directly from the scene, 140 characters at a time. It doesn’t require massive resources and individual reporters are easily equipped to harness the medium.

Barry Bateman

Within days my Twitter followers grew from below 10 000 to peak at 139 000 by the time Chief Magistrate Desmond Nair granted Pistorius bail of a million rand. And I wasn’t the only reporter gaining followers at a massive pace – my colleagues Mandy Wiener and Alex Eliseev as well as eNCA’s Karyn Maughan gathered thousands of new people looking for the latest news on the athlete.

Many new followers told me that they had been awakened to a new way of using the medium – Twitter goes far beyond finding out what Kim Kardashian had for breakfast. It has the ability to take news consumers to the scene, it allows them to interact with the journalists as the news is unfolding.

There were many reporters tweeting exactly the same information I was tweeting, but my followers grew exponentially. I attribute this massive growth to the numerous exchanges I had with followers. Many people do not fully understand the criminal justice system, they may have missed the latest information on Pistorius and they enquired about it – and I took the time to answer as many questions as possible.

The impact of Twitter became particularly clear when the bail application started. Cameras and recording devices were barred access – but the restriction on broadcast media did not apply to Twitter. News consumers were given a blow-by-blow account of everything that was happening – from the facts presented in court to descriptions of people’s faces, the tone of their voice.

The power of Twitter as a reporting medium continues to grow and will again feature predominantly when Pistorius returns to court for his trial.

Barry Bateman

Lekker local vs Americano

Local is most certainly lekker but as much cannot be said for the experience of local media during the Oscar Pistorius bail hearing.

Hours after the news broke on Valentine’s Day, hordes of international media and correspondents started arriving in the city for, arguably, the biggest news story since 9/11.

Ask anyone where they were and what they were doing when the news broke, and they can tell you exactly.

The phrase, “when the first plane hit the towers I was…” was now replaced by “when Oscar pulled the trigger I was…”

No one could have anticipated the magnitude of the hearing and most certainly not the court which allowed international media to bully them and the local media.

The media madness that erupted every morning before the start of proceedings became more hectic as each day dawned. On one particular morning a journalist of a local paper had to follow proceedings via Twitter on the pavement of the court as he was not allowed access to the courtroom.

This followed after a screaming match between court officials, who desperately tried to manage the chaos, and several journalists speaking ‘Americano’. The loud accents ripped through the overcrowded passage, jolting all communications to a halt for a few seconds.

They were granted access, after all, they are from America you know. My question is, what makes the American journalist more deserving than the local journalist who had to spend the day on the pavement?

You would think that one day of chaos would be enough for the court and they would come forth with a plan of action the next day. The attempt by the court is not worth a mention and every day was exactly the same as the previous day.

With his next court appearance only three months away, I hope the court will speak local and not Americano.

Yolande du Preez

Welcome to new press club members

The National Press Club welcomes the following new members:

Paballo Thekiso – Saturday Star, Lynette Louw – Plaas Publishing, David Harrison – Mail & Guardian, Belinda Moses – eTV, Mapi Mhlangu – eNCA, Thabiso Thakali – Saturday Star, Dimakatso Modipa – Daily Sun, Phanuel Shuma – SABC, Rapula Mancai – Daily Sun, Solly Mphatsoe – SABC, Simon Manda – Thisability Newspaper, Ellekia Dire – Daily Sun, Lauren Clifford-Holmes – Mail & Guardian, Glynnis Underhill – Mail & Guardian, Marike Brits – Plaas Publishing, Du Preez de Villiers – Plaas Publishing, Neels Jackson – Beeld, Gary Scallan – Scallan Communications, Gilbert Lekokotla – Dept of Correctional Services, Duduzile Mwelase – Nissan SA, Benedict Masenamela – University of Limpopo, Robert Bellermine – Damelin College, Poloko Tau – The Star, Mia Malan – Mail & Guardian, Sandra Sowray – FTI Consulting, Ayanda Masina – LACF Sports, Carly Ritz – The New Age, Zola Ntutu – SABC, Kevin Ritchie – The Star, Lali van Zuydam – Pretoria News, Nicky Troll – Carte Blanche, Gia Nicolaides – Eyewitness News, Darren Taylor – Freelance, Amalia Christoforou – Carte Blanche.

We hope to see you at a networking forum soon!

See you at emBARgo

Members are reminded about happy hour at the press club bar emBARgo, every Friday from 17:00 to 19:00. The bar is in the cellar of the Orange Restaurant in the Court Classique Hotel, corner of Beckett and Francis Baard (previously Schoeman) Streets, Arcadia.

Thank you for paying membership fees

Thank you to those press club members who have already paid their membership fees for 2013.

Members who have not yet done so, are requested to pay their fees as soon as possible.

Membership fees are R220 for full members, R350 for associate members and R150 for student members.

Members are requested to use their invoice number as reference when payment is done, so that it can be picked up easily by the secretariat.


Please send any news, suggestions or information for this newsletter to Martin van Niekerk at the secretariat on, 082 257 0305. Website | Facebook | Twitter