It’s late at night. It’s cold. And the rain isn’t helping either. Huddling close together, they talk and speculate on what’s going on inside. They’ve been locked out and are desperate to get it. They want to know what’s happening – and so do you.
“They” are the journalists at the Milpark Hospital in Joburg. There, former South African president Nelson Mandela – the world’s last true hero – has been treated since Wednesday. Local and international media flocked to the hospital hoping to get comment from friends, family, officials, whoever, just to find out exactly what condition Madiba was in. Information was scarce as rumours flew.
For all their work, journalists were labelled “vultures” and heavily attacked for being there and not allowing Mandela to “recover in peace”. The criticism was heavy and endless – and even now after Madiba has been sent home for treatment, the attacks continue.
My response to this? Bullshit.
People who made these criticisms are being such hypocrites. They are also being completely stupid and ridiculous, but let’s rather focus on the hypocrisy.
These are the same people who, when they hear about a shooting in their neighbourhood, say: “Oh, no! What happened?” These are the same people who crank their necks to see why there are police lights on the highway en route home. These are the people who read celebrity magazines and want to know what Victoria Beckham is eating during her pregnancy. These are the same people who log on to social media, read news online, pick up a newspaper, listen to the radio, watch TV news and follow journalists and news organisations on Twitter. These are people who want to know what’s going on and what happened. These are people who want the news. And we are the people who provide it.
Now they have the audacity to criticise the people who bring them that news and label them “vultures”? You’re being a hypocrite. Stop it.
I recently went to do a news story at Port St Johns on the Transkei Wild Coast. People found out I was a reporter and they immediately asked me a plethora of questions. Guess what they were about? Yep. Mandela. “Have you heard anything? Why is the Nelson Mandela Foundation being so quiet about this? Do you have any colleagues there giving you information?” The questions never stopped (until I swiftly changed topic to Zuma’s rape case and kept them quiet for a while…).
That right there is the point. People want to know what’s going on. People are desperate for news – and for the past two days they have been desperate for news on Nelson Mandela. If the reporters hadn’t been there, you (yes, I direct this at you, vulture-name-calling-man-or-lady) wouldn’t get the news you crave. If the reporters weren’t there, you wouldn’t be able to log on Twitter and know what’s happening virtually minute-by-minute. If the reporters weren’t there, you would be in the dark about Madiba’s health.
A vulture? No, I’m a journalist. And, damn right, I will do my job. And you know what? You will be thankful I did.