Newspapers, it is often said, are accountable to their readers. But few newspapers translate that sentiment into real transparency and explanation of their news production processes. The Mail & Guardian’s response to Judge John Hlope’s attack on its coverage is an excellent example of accountability: being transparent about what it did, how and why it did it, and what it did wrong. Reporter Sello Alcock explained how he got and conducted his interview with the judge, and an editorial defended his methods. This goes way beyond the usual knee-jerk “we stand by our story”, and restored this reader’s faith in the newspaper. Sure, they made a serious error which may come back to haunt them – Alckock really should have taken notes – but they admitted the mistake, and explained how it happened. A great case study for my media ethics students. Would that all news media (bloggers included) practiced such accountability!
Mail & Guardian’s lesson in newspaper accountability