Date: 18 June 2015 Read: 4452
I am a regular reader of your online version of the newspaper. I am giving feedback to highlight something which does not sit well with me regarding an article you published. The article I am referring to focused on the installation of Chief Netsianda, of Gwamasenga, Tsianda.
Would you please accord the traditional prefix or title when you address the name of His Majesty King Tony Mphephu Ramabulana? In your article, you simply address our king as if he is a commoner.
You cannot refer to our King as just “Mphephu”. That is very wrong and disrespectful. He is King Mphephu, the Vhavenda tribe’s king, and he deserves at all times to be addressed as “King” whether in writing or speaking.
The public rely on you guys as journalists, so it is vital that you portray our leaders in a positive and respectable light. The tone you use in writing has a powerful message on how the subjects relate to the King. Your tone in article has the potential risk for people to interpret his Majesty’s position in an undermining and disrespectful manner.
You have the responsibility, as much as you are a commercial newspaper, to accord the necessary respect and honour to the King if you deem fit to report on his name.
Thank you very much for keeping us posted on real local news.
- Tebogo Mafela, Maebani
Your letter is appreciated and your sentiments are much in line with that of readers across the globe. I recently took part in a similar discussion where the participants were mostly from the United States of America. In that specific discussion the “aggrieved party” was a doctor (the academic kind) who took offence to newspapers not referring to him as “Dr Smith” throughout the story. As in your example, the newspaper referred to his title once and thereafter only referred to him as “Smith”.
Journalists (and more specifically the sub-editors) try and stick to various style guides. These guides are very useful to state, among others, what the norms would be for punctuation, the use of quotes and how to report in an unbiased manner. These “rules” assist in a variety of issues such as deciding when or not it is plagiarism or to choose between words such as among and between.
The accepted standard is to refer to the person’s title early on in the story and thereafter, when quoting him or her, just use the surname, i.e. “President Jacob Zuma welcomed the investigation into the Fifa scandal” and then later “Zuma later stated that any official implicated in the matter would be extradited”. (I’m joking about the subject matter, of course)
You need to keep in mind that reporters are supposed to be unbiased and the use of language should also reflect this. Not all readers of the Limpopo Mirror are subjects of King Tony Mphephu Ramabulana. The balance between respect (because it should be there), factualness and practicality (space is always limited) needs to be maintained.
Hope this answers some of your concerns.
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