Have we run out of black editors already?

David Bullard asks whatever happened to the old Model T rule for editorial appointments

Has the supply of black newspaper editors dried up already?

It's taken some time but the Mail and Guardian have finally announced who is to replace little Nic Dawes as editor when he goes off on his Indian odyssey in a couple of months. The official spin is that a thorough search for the right person for the job had to be undertaken but closer to the truth is the fact that suitable candidates as newspaper editors are a bit thin on the ground these days. One only has to look at the sort of people Times Media have dredged up to edit their titles.

So the lucky winner is Angela Quintal who has been editing The Witness since 2011. By all accounts she is a dedicated and hard working journalist who probably deserves something more challenging than The Witness to edit, where she has apparently been hampered by a lack of resources. Presumably that means no money and not enough people.

She does have large shoes to fill though. Despite the need to be seen as obsequiously politically correct, little Nic has been a bold and courageous editor. The M&G is a tad too left wing for my tastes but one has to doff one's Panama at their investigative journalism. If only they would introduce some levity occasionally and employ some decent columnists as they did in the old days.

Chris Roper has been appointed editor in chief which, as we know, is a sort of consolation prize in journalism. Mondli Makhanya was given a similar title after he was booted as editor of The Sunday Times. Roper likes to come across as fashionably uncouth (as all lefty journos aspire to do) but, in fairness, he has built the M&G website over the years to "become a leading and credible voice". The M&G website's chief attraction is that it's free. It would be interesting to see how well it would perform should it erect a pay wall.

A recently departed (and somewhat disillusioned) M&G journalist described the paper as an "ageing hippy colony" and we wait to see whether Angela Quintal can bring some much needed gravitas to the position of newspaper editor. Compared to the UK media, our newspaper editors are intellectual and cultural featherweights. Put them in front of a TV camera and they mumble incoherently. Invite them to a black tie event and chances are they will turn up in jeans and a t-shirt. Quite simply they lack class and I find it quite extraordinary that newspaper publishers allow such people to represent their key brands.

However, more interesting to me is the skin colour of the new editor. Ten years ago the Henry Ford Model T rule applied when the Sunday Times was looking for a new editor. You could have any colour you wanted as long as it was black. That proved to be an absolute disaster and finally a whitey, Ray Hartley, had to be sent in to rescue the paper from its downward spiral.

So the question is, has the thin seam of black editorial talent in SA been fully mined? After all, one would have imagined that a lefty newspaper like the M&G would have preferred a black editor in these enlightened times but maybe that's one of the reasons the search for a Dawes replacement took so long. That and the reality that the job of a newspaper editor doesn't have quite the cache that it used to.

But if there are no suitable black editorial candidates surely the journalism schools have been doing something wrong these past 20 years? Isn't it the job of the bouffant haired Prof Anton Harber and his cronies to ensure we have a steady supply of articulate and bright young black journos to take the reins of our major newspapers? Something appears to have gone horribly wrong doesn't it?

As you know, I am probably the last person on the planet to advocate that we should reserve jobs on the basis of skin colour but in this particular instance I find it extraordinary that in 2013 the Mail and Guardian cannot find a single black candidate to fill the post of editor. So much for transformation in the media.


Every year I upgrade our DSTV bouquet for one month from the cheapest available (we are pensioners after all) to the premium bouquet. I do this to watch the Wimbledon finals and the Tour de France in high definition.

Obviously I surf through the other channels to see what's on offer and that is enough to persuade me to revert once again to the cheapest package which gives me all the international news channels that I want to watch and not much else. I cannot believe the drivel on TV these days, particularly those programmes masquerading as reality TV. And if I see Jeremy Clarkson trying to destroy a Toyota HiLux bakkie one more time I'll go crazy.

Why doesn't somebody tell the honchos at DSTV that car shows don't age well? We're still getting repeats of Top Gear made in the days when Jeremy Clarkson had a full head of hair and the Renault Megane had a vertical rear window. Maybe the soon to be launched OpenViewHD can bring us something more up to date.

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