Listeners shouldn’t be on air

Forget what social media tells you, you’re probably not qualified to be on radio.

My last post seemed to upset some people. That’s good. Those people needed a shake-up. I suspect this post will win me few friends.

Jeremy Maggs asked me an interesting question the other day. It was to do with a new talk radio station launched last week called Times Radio. He asked me what I thought of it and whether the concept would work in South Africa.

Some context: Times Radio is the latest offspring of controversial media baron Rupert Murdoch, but don’t rush to judge it - it has promise. It’s part of the Wireless Group, which is owned by Murdoch’s News Corp, which also owns News UK, which publishes The SunThe Times and The Sunday

How many is ‘many’?

There’s a nasty little trick being used to argue for ending - and extending - the lockdown.

How many is ‘many’? It’s not a silly question, it’s actually quite important, especially now. Over the next few weeks, you’re going to hear arguments for keeping and ending the lockdown. Commentators from both sides of the argument will want to provide authoritative weight to justify their position. They’re also going to suggest statistical significance to that weight.

And that’s where the word will crop up: ‘many’. Example: “Many scientists are saying that…” or “Many businesses are facing…”. On the face of it, there’s a degree of accuracy to the claims; but if you dig deeper, there’s a flaw. To uncover it, all you need to do is ask, “How many is ‘many’?".

To explain my point: In a room

Dark times ahead

We haven’t seen the full effect of Covid-19 yet, and when we do, fingers of blame will hone in without due diligence.

I’m going to put my boot in. This thing’s not over; not by a long shot.

When lockdown is over and the coronavirus takes hold in densely-packed townships and informal settlements, running rampant amongst those denied the luxuries of isolation and working from home, it’s going to enjoy its second breath.

And when people start dying by the dozens, even hundreds - and they will - South Africans will look for someone to blame. Social media has thrown up potential candidates: whites or ‘the rich’ - the two terms are apparently interchangeable.

But surely, that wouldn’t happen? After all, such claims are irrational. 

Think again. In an 

The gossamer wisdom of ‘they’

How can I tell if you’re spreading fake news about Covid-19?

Simple. I ask you one question: Have you ever commented about Covid-19 using the phrase ‘They say that…’? If you have, then, sorry, but you’re probably guilty.

If someone comments with some measure of authority on something using the phrase ‘They say that…’, and I’m within earshot, my reaction is to ask, “Sorry, who are ‘they’?”. It irritates my wife, who I suspect continues to use the phrase simply to return the favour.

There’s a reason for my pernickety inquisition: In journalism, significant value is placed on the credibility of the source of any story or comment within a story. It’s why journalists are very protective of their sources.

If, say, a story breaks about some cutting-edge research, and I have the lead researcher on

Don’t blame Covid-19

Alright, I’ve had enough…I have to say something. As a science journalist and writer, I’ve been keeping an eye on the coronavirus with a mix of fascination and grim satisfaction. Fascination, because such viruses are rare, and grim satisfaction because the blind panic taking hold is what happens when qualified science journalists are cut from the news equation. Let’s get the science stuff out the way: Firstly, this coronavirus is so new there’s still confusion over what it’s called. The virus itself is called SARS-CoV-2 because it’s related to the SARS coronavirus we saw in 2002-2003. It’s sometimes referred to as the ‘novel coronavirus’, meaning ‘new’, because it was only identified at the end of last year. The World Health Organisation refers to ‘COVID-19’. That’s not the virus, but the disease that develops from the virus - an acute respiratory illness akin to a nasty bout of flu.

The wretched imbalance of popular interest

Abstract: The tragic tale of two tweeters exposes the imbalance of popular interest... For those interested in following someone else's thoughts, there is little to beat Twitter. Unfortunately it's dominated by the followers of so-called reality; when in fact the true stories are found in real life. I am willing to bet all the money I have that the typical fan of Kim Kardashian has never heard of Tony Nicklinson. For those clever enough to shun reality TV, Kim Kardashian is the undisputed queen of this turgid genre of entertainment. She is a celebrity because she is on TV and she is on TV because she is a celebrity. She busies herself shopping, having her nails and hair done, and enduring the 'OMG' rigours of a celebrity lifestyle. The good news is that evolution will eventually trim the human species of her ilk; the bad

When your brand goes viral, untethered

Abstract: What breakfast radio can teach us about the secret of social media... In the cut-throat world of commercial breakfast radio there's a golden measure of the impact of a show, the holy grail as it were of how powerful it is; and here's the twist: it's a measurement that, itself, can never be measured. But wait - as the saying goes - there's more: it now holds the key to your, and your company's image. Concerned? You should be. Commercial breakfast radio is a rather fickle beast. Keep it well fed, unexercised, and it will purr along contentedly, occupying the room with little attention, a bit like an overweight cat. Ignore it and it will whine in the corner, become disruptive and invite all manner of maladies, until you have to get rid of it. It'll be somewhat feral. If you really want

“But it’s in the public interest”. Really?

Abstract: Heads up if you're in corporate communications - the media have a sneaky weapon... If I had 5c for every time I had been misquoted in the press, you wouldn't be reading this. I'd be wallowing on a world cruise, travelling first class, sunning myself on deck, sipping Harvey Wallbangers and collecting cherries in my navel. But I have, and I'm not, and you're about to be the beneficiary. It's been said that I have been shaping public opinion as both a broadcaster and columnist for well over 20 years, but not everything has gone smoothly. Just as I have made comment about public events, I have been the focus of public opinion, most of it entertaining, some of it unjustified and quite hurtful, and as such, I have a renowned love-hate relationship with the media. So why am I telling you this? Because