Black September in cloud-cuckoo-land

Jeremy Gordin |

22 September 2022

Jeremy Gordin says the country’s headline writers appear to be naïve if not delusional

If you’ve been a journo for as long as I have, there’re a few things, among others, that you know for almost certain.

One is that readers shouldn’t blame writers/reporters for the headlines on particular articles. Headlines are affixed by a subeditor – but more often than not are rewritten by someone further up the food chain, i.e., the chief subeditor and often by the editor.

This is because the editor or those near the top of the hierarchy are more in touch (or believe they are) with the “marketing needs” of the publication, i.e., the necessity to grab the attention of readers at all times, i.e., the vital need to pen the best “clickbait” possible.

Secondly, if you’re a “working journalist” (bit of an oxymoron, but no matter), if your daily beer depends on being constantly in touch with important people’s spokespeople and such-like, you can’t afford to be “negative” all the time or maybe even some of the time – because the spokespeople, etc. will stop being your best friends and won’t feed you those tasty morsels of information and gossip on which you thrive.

Regarding this second point, I also understand that remaining as cosy as possible with your main “sources” is exacerbated if one is covering a “niche” segment, such as entertainment or rugby. This is because those controlling access to entertainers or leading sportspeople, not to mention to those all-important free tickets, don’t like you being “too critical”.

The reason I’ve been musing for some 240 words on what will seem pretty obvious, even banal, is that in recent days I have encountered some rather odd headlines as well as content.


Now then, unless you are, alas, in a coma, or very poor indeed, i.e., so poor that you don’t even have an illegal connection in your Diepsloot abode – you might have noticed that we have in recent days been living through what is quaintly referred to as loadshedding, including level six for a day or two, though level five seems just as bad.

During level six’s four-hour blackouts even those of us fortunate enough to own an inverter find it wailing at us after some three hours as the battery loses power, though this obviously depends on the size etc. of the squat little beastie.

For example, call me a sentimental old fool and closet anglophile if you like, but I wanted to watch HM Elizabeth II’s state funeral from soup to nuts. I enjoy pageantry, love the skirl of the bagpipes, and, reactionary that I am, love even more watching the anti-monarchists getting a few in the eye.

But on Monday, a level six day, I couldn’t watch the state funeral in full because the inverter chirped plaintively and shut down.