/ 24 January 2018

News24 apologises to Michael Holding for ‘failure’

The West Indies' Michael Holding celebrates the dismissal of Tony Greig during the fifth Test against England at The Oval in 1976.
The West Indies' Michael Holding celebrates the dismissal of Tony Greig during the fifth Test against England at The Oval in 1976.

Former West Indian cricketer and commentator Michael Holding became the subject of a media storm after mediahouse News24 published a blatantly racist article “Holding Hypocrisy” by Jason Stoneman on Saturday night which attacked Holding’s personal life, even taking a dig at his marriages and children.

Shortly after sending questions to News24 editor Adriaan Basson on the racist Michael Holding attack, News24 published an apology to the West Indian great.

Social media rose up in support of Holding which lead to the article being removed, but not before angry tweets and Facebook posts called for action to take place, citing the removal of the head of department who allowed the article to be published.

News24 Editor Adriaan Basson said that the piece had been submitted by a reader and was published by an experienced freelance content producer.

Basson said the article was disabled as soon as it came to the attention of his editorial team, because the article was “racist and sexist and not at all representative of the high qualities we set for News24”.

The content producer, who would help News24 on some weekend shifts, has since been fired, and the media house is putting in an extra layers of approval systems for blog posts on MyNews24.

According to News24’s current terms and conditions, the media house “does not vouch for the credibility or accuracy of any content submitted by [its] users”. It further claims that users of the website “may be exposed to content that they may find offensive, inaccurate or harmful.”

However, its terms and conditions do support its readers to report “untrue, inaccurate, defamatory, illegal, infringing and/or harmful content”. News24, with appropriate validation, will either correct or remove the piece.

News24 placed the onus of its reader-created content on the user who must not “post content to the News24 web site that may be illegal, defamatory, infringing, harassing, obscene”.

This may change with News24’s newly appointed Public Editor Professor George Claassen who will be tasked with improving the media house’s system of checks and balances for its user generated content, so that it is “on par with world standards”.

“We are deeply saddened and regretful of this episode and have taken firm action to prevent this from happening again,” Basson told the M&G.

“We will be issuing an apology to Mr Holding and to our readers for this failure.”

Holding, who was one of the fastest bowlers ever to play test cricket, was in South Africa as part of the Supersport cricket commentary team for the South Africa versus India test matches.

Viewers have enjoyed Holding’s commentary, saying he has “a brilliant cricket mind, no loose talk, sharp and relevant insight”.

This is not the first case of a media house publishing a hateful commentary by one of its readers.

In 2017, the Huffington Post, part of the Media24 stable, published a piece of commentary by one of its bloggers. The piece “Could It Be Time To Deny White Men The Franchise?” published on April 13 2017 led to an uproar which cost then Huffington Post editor Verashni Pillay her job. Following an investigation led by former M&G editor and editor-at-large at HuffPost, Ferial Haffajee, the website has put in strict quality protocols on the content that it will accept.