Should American Reporters Be More Like South Africa’s?
This February interview of Johannesburg mayor Amos Masondo by Chris Barron of The Times is making the rounds, thanks to Radley Balko, Andrew Sullivan, and many others. The set-up is that Joburg is going to be hosting the World Cup and is being touted as a “world-class city.”
I think we are.
What about the potholes?
We are addressing that problem.
What about the trenches that are left open for months for people to fall into?
Again, that’s one of the big problems.
What about the broken traffic lights?
It’s being addressed in an ongoing way.
What about the street lights that don’t work?
You keep on mentioning these things one by one. And my answer is an honest one, to say yes, there are gaps, and we are working on addressing the problems.
What about the missing street signs?
The matter has been raised with the mayoral committee by the executive director of 2010. And, again, a commitment has been made that we’ll be upgrading these in the next two to three months.
What about the litter?
The city’s much cleaner than it used to be.
There’s still a lot of rubbish around, though, isn’t there?
There is a lot of rubbish around. Pikitup is working on a programme that seeks to mobilise communities.
What about the blocked stormwater drains?
Yes, because it rains quite heavily. Some of the problems … have been exposed and we are addressing them.
There’s much more at the link but you get the point.
The consensus seems to be that American journalists should conduct interviews in this manner, rather than being stenographers for politicians. But I’m not sure that they don’t. Many American reporters are quite tenacious in interviewing politicians.
The difference, I think, is the politicians rather than the journalists. Most American mayors would decline to participate in an interview with someone who’s going to grill them in this fashion. Further, most big city mayors and other seasoned politicians are simply better at giving non-answer answers to reporters’ questions.
Further, it’s worth noting that, for the most part, we tend not to have a lot of open trenches, broken streetlights, blocked storm drains, and strewn litter in our cities. Goodness knows we’ve got our problems with bad politicians. But they’re a whole different kind of bad than is typical in the developing world.