by Tauri Kerr
One silly mistake can change everything for a journalist.
In an ideal world, the word ‘journalist’ should be synonymous with reliability. Sadly, the journalism industry is under constant scrutiny for their credibility or lack thereof. Most journalists dedicate their entire career to becoming a legitimate and reputable reporter but unfortunately there will always be one bad apple that turns the whole fruit basket rotten.
Many people do not give you glowing reviews when you ask them their opinions on journalists. This is because people remember the bad things more than they remember the good that journalists do. Journalists should be seen as pillars of society who educate the public and report truthfully on the events happening around them. Most of the time, this is exactly what journalists and reporters do – they write articles with hard facts and they ensure that their information is 100% concrete and correct.
Karyn Maughan, Barry Bateman, S’thembile Cele, Shahan Ramkissoon – these are well respected South African journalists who are devoted to reporting and informing the public with their work. If this article were to be have been written a mere month earlier – Jacques Pauw would have probably been the first person on that list of reputable journalists. Pauw is an author of several books, including The President’s Keepers, and was the recipient of several accolades which sing his praises as a successful journalist. Ironically, he was even awarded the Nat Nakasa Award for Media Integrity in 2007.
He spent his life working towards exposing politicians and ensuring that the facts were being reported. Pauw was a founding member of the anti-apartheid Afrikaans newspaper, Vrye Weekblad, and he was responsible for uncovering atrocious underground activities which were happening within governments all over Africa. It is safe to say that he had an outstanding reputation which he managed to destroy in the space of a few days.
Jacques Pauw, up until recently, wrote for Daily Maverick and was a highly valued contributor to Daily Maverick’s content. On the 6th of February 2021, Pauw attended dinner with a lady, whose identity has not been disclosed, and he caused quite the scene when it came time to pay the bill. He kicked up a fuss after being too inebriated to pay via card machine and had to draw money in order to cover the cost of dinner. He was arrested for his rowdiness and was detained by the SAPS.
However, Pauw had an opinion piece published in the Daily Maverick where he accuses the SAPS of manhandling him as well as stealing his cash after the restaurant had refused to provide any alternative ways to settle the bill. Daily Maverick had published his opinion piece after the restaurant refused to comment on the recent events as well as the SAPS. They also refused to provide security footage to back up Pauw’s allegations. His article was published because he was a reputable reporter and people believed what he had to say – they had no reason not to believe him.
Pauw proceeded to put an apology on Twitter where he states that his accusations were false and he retracts his opinion piece – he did this without contacting Daily Maverick. This blatant dishonesty did not only ruin his reputation, but it dealt another blow to media integrity. Pauw was able to use his power to leverage his reputation as a respected journalist and to ensure his traumatic experience was heard. In having deceived the public about the events, not only has he destroyed his own credibility, but he has also undermined the authenticity of those less powerful who have been victims of police brutality and wrongful arrest.
If anything, these events simply reiterate the severity of dishonesty in this industry. Pauw has not only ruined his career but he has also thrown the publication into disrepute. Credible media is an integral contribution to our democracy which makes this case even sadder. Pauw has undermined the credibility of himself, his publication and journalism and has contributed to further erosion of trust in our media.
This pandemic has highlighted the dangers of misinformation and disinformation. Real journalism has real journalists going to real professionals to get the real facts. The more people are able to freely access quality journalism, the greater the potential impact on society. If you starve people of the truth, you open an opportunity for that truth to be appropriated, re-written and delivered to the most vulnerable by those who want to serve personal agendas to the detriment of South Africa. This is how Maverick Insider was born. Maverick Insider is about supporting quality, independent journalism and ensuring that it is accessible to loyal readers.
Publications are constantly trying new ways to ensure the credibility of the information that they are providing to the public. The journalism world should not be shamed due to the handful of untruthful journalists but rather celebrated for the work they do to aid our democracy. John C Maxwell said ‘Credibility is a leader’s currency. With it, they are solvent. Without it, they are bankrupt.’ Journalists are dedicated to remaining solvent and to provide the public with the facts.