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Dispatch reportage on Shell is the new journalism, says Heard

The role played by the Daily Dispatch in “galvanising public opinion to safeguard the ocean against new threats” was intrinsic to the newspaper’s 150-year history, said Anthony Heard, the decorated former Cape Times editor and consultant to Nelson Mandela’s first democratic government.
The role played by the Daily Dispatch in “galvanising public opinion to safeguard the ocean against new threats” was intrinsic to the newspaper’s 150-year history, said Anthony Heard, the decorated former Cape Times editor and consultant to Nelson Mandela’s first democratic government.
Image: SUPPLIED

The role played by the Daily Dispatch in “galvanising public opinion to safeguard the ocean against new threats” was intrinsic to the newspaper’s 150-year history, said Anthony Heard, the decorated former Cape Times editor and consultant to Nelson Mandela’s first democratic government.

He was speaking in a recorded video at the newspaper’s 150th birthday celebration in East London on Thursday and Friday night.

A family tragedy on his life partner’s side had prevented the 84-year-old’s trip to the newspaper of his old friend, Donald Woods.

He said: “There is much to do today in our democratic country, with the vast terrains of poverty amid the bubbles of prosperity for the few; there is despair, horrific crime, abuse and violence against women and children and others who find themselves vulnerable.

“Also, we now face daily environmental degradation and climate change.”

Heard said the Dispatch had been on the side of fighting “old and new wrongs in society. Its campaigns have made national impacts.”

Under the theme he launched when receiving the Allan Kirkland Soga lifetime achiever award at the SA National Editors’ Forum’s Sikuvile journalism awards in July, Heard exhorted Dispatch journalists and media generally to “never give up!”.

Dispatch reportage of public protest against Shell’s seismic blasting made it to the top three in the hard news category at these national awards.

Heard told the Dispatch community: “Challenge without fear or favour in the public interest, shine your light in dark corners, build on past successes and avoid known pitfalls.

“News media, intensely human institutions, ideally are there independently to tell the public what is really going on, and to comment on this with maximum objectivity

“News media, intensely human institutions, ideally are there independently to tell the public what is really going on, and to comment on this with maximum objectivity, and with whatever force they are free to choose subject to law and good taste.

“Indeed, challenges, as was the case under apartheid, remain today, though in such different contexts.”

“There is moreover massive work ahead  to combat corruption that effectively robs from the poor, who should have been the prime beneficiaries of our democracy.

“We all know that story, or should, but the evils need constant articulation and exposure. Who is better placed than reliable independent media and protected whistle-blowers to achieve this?

“The Dispatch has risked a lot in its history to expose such things, and to get them remedied, whatever hostility this has engendered among the powerful, and whatever frustrations remain to this day among those, far too numerous, who rightly feel left out in a vaunted freed society.”

“By being true to their calling the media can be influences for good in opposing the fraught and hostile trend in our national, regional and local politics.

“We must discourage the spirit of toxicity abroad in our society, or we shall trample our own hard-won democracy, and with it the influence of principled media.”

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