Letter of complaint from the TVRA

Mandy Da Matta, TVRA chairperson

We hereby place on record our formal complaint with regards to the article “Stormy weather for TVRA” (Tabletalk July 20), and the editorial piece “TVRA or TV soapie” in the same edition.

The article and coverage is unfair and vexatious as it shows a clear political bias. The article was not well researched, nor was the material sourced at a public meeting, nor were the respective individuals interviewed for comment. We place on record that the journalists and editor of the Tabletalk do not engage with the community, nor have they attended public meetings of the ratepayers’ association, CPF meetings or neighbourhood watch events during this exco’s tenure.

As chairman of the current exco, I have not formally met with either of the two journalists or the editor. However, Summer Jacobs has emailed me randomly for a response to questions on articles of her choosing.

They have failed to cover any community issues raised in recent months. The sources were not researched and the information published was completely out of context and contained glaring mistakes. The quarrel on Facebook was not published in its entirety and displayed subjective opinion rather than objective, verifiable facts. If it is argued by Tabletalk that items on Facebook are in the public domain, then we question why the sewage spills, water contamination levels and results, the lack of law enforcement, vagrancy, illegal informal trading, volunteer clean-ups, the TVRA One20 initiative, general lawlessness and the lack of service delivery by the CoCT have not been reported on or investigated for that matter?

All of these items have been regularly published on the TVRA Facebook page.

Where too is the publication that the exco had met to resolve these matters? This is a glaring omission and based on the severity with which the initial article was written, was a critical point, and the oversight of such indicates a lack of all journalistic integrity and ethics.

It is noted as a general observation that the Tabletalk has consistently attempted to destroy the credibility of the various candidate councillors standing for the local government elections on August 3; while consistently promoting one party and its associated candidates. There has been a consistent failure to report on existing councillors’ ineffectiveness and non-communication to this community for the past six months.

How is it possible, that as an editor and as journalists, you were able to take a non-political organisation and put it on the front page of a community paper and deal only with individuals and their political affiliations? Regardless of who sits on the executive committee, the TVRA works in the interest of the community. To be labelled as a “spring board” for individual political gain is highly offensive to both the organisation and the individual exco members.

The fact that neither the journalists nor the editor could distinguish the difference between Mike Channing, a member of the TVRA exco, and Mike Cleary, a member of the public, who is “clearly” not on the IEC candidate councillor list is shocking at the very least. A fact that is easily determined, by consulting the IEC list or the Facebook exco membership list, means that nothing was verified in the front page article. We have noticed the apology to Mike Clery for naming him as part of the TVRA exco. That, in itself, is a public admission that the Tabletalk and their reporters are negligent for not ascertaining their “facts”.

Where is the apology to Mr Brendan Keith Shaw, for quoting him out of context, and for accusing him of going on “daily rants”? That is a subjective opinion. Mr Shaw, in fact, is highlighting and co-ordinating very relevant shortcomings on the MyCiTi bus service, which are relevant to an entire community that makes use of that service daily.

We would like to point out that while our ethics and even our characters were being questioned on social media, this exco was working hard for this community, as is required in the vision and mission of the Table View Ratepayers’ Association.

We would like to take this opportunity to highlight the good standing of this association, within this community and our commitment to working with your journalists, who have, at their own volition embargoed our meetings, and have elected not to report on the very real issues that this community faces on a daily basis.

Please do attend our public meetings, please do engage with this community and then, just maybe, professional journalism will become the order of the day as articles based exclusively on Facebook commentary can clearly, never replace journalistic integrity.

* Ms Da Matta’s letter has been shortened due to space constraints, but all her points of concern have been included in this edit.

* Editor, Chantel Erfort, responds:

Over the past few weeks much negativity has been hurled in Tabletalk’s direction, much of it on Facebook.

It is not, however, my intention to enter into a protracted debate on this letters page, but to respond to some of the main points and accusations raised in Ms Da Matta’s letter.

With regard to the accusations that Tabletalk is politically biased: we are confused as to who the TVRA feels we are biased toward. A look through our recent election coverage will show that we have included the DA, ANC, ACDP, EFF and Freedom Front Plus in our reporting.

In addition to this, most of the current ward councillors in the Tabletalk’s distribution area, as well as the sub-council chair, are DA councillors, and so if they appear on our pages, it’s not because we have a bias toward them, but because they were voted into power by the residents and just happen to be the officials who are driving some of the community initiatives Ms Da Matta accuses us of not covering.

With regard to the accusation that we have “consistently attempted to destroy the credibility of the various candidate councillors”, I would like to see evidence of this.

When Leon Alhadeff announced his candidacy earlier this year, he was featured on the front page of our February 3 edition, in a story that ran on to page 3. It was neither negative nor critical of this candidate councillor.

Mr Alhadeff was featured primarily because he was a well-known community leader who had decided to contest the local election. No other councillors running for election were featured individually, apart from Marissa Jansen van Vuuren, who was sacked from the DA and is contesting the election in Ward 23 as an independent candidate.

In both of these instances, our decision to cover these stories was based on their news value. And while Ms Da Matta may not feel the same way, we believe it is of news value, and of community interest, if well known residents or community leaders, in this case members of the TVRA decide to run for office, which is why this was highlighted in our July 20 edition.

I also fail to understand how Ms Da Matta can argue that the very public argument, which played out among its members on the association’s Facebook page, is not of public interest.

As reflected in our story, we contacted both Mandy Da Matta and Leon Alhadeff for comment, but Ms Da Matta refused to comment, saying “At this stage the Table View ratepayers Association is declining to comment”, and while Mr Alhadeff initially spoke to Tabletalk, he eventually retracted his comment.

When we heard about a meeting which was to be held to resolve the matter, we attempted to follow up with the TVRA, but Ms Da Matta told our reporter “why did you think you would be invited, if such a meeting is taking place?” As I had been informed that the TVRA would be responding to Tabletalk in writing about the matter, we decided to hold off on pursuing the story about the “mediation” meeting until we heard from the association.

I also have to refute Ms Da Matta’s contention that she has never met our reporters and that Tabletalk does not attend or report on community matters or meetings.

In case this is not common knowledge, Tabletalk does not only cover the Table View area, but rather the huge area, stretching all the way from Brooklyn and Rugby to Melkbosstrand and everything in between. So Ms Da Matta actually has no way of knowing which, or how many, community meetings our reporters attend – unless she attends all of these meetings herself.

While our reporters may not have attended TVRA meetings or met with Ms Da Matta during the current exco’s tenure – all of two months, I believe – Athina May clearly recalls making Ms Da Matta’s acquaintence at a CPF meeting.

Based on conversations which have happened on the sidelines, and emails which have arrived in our email and Facebook inboxes, I do believe that there are many unresolved matters the TVRA should focus on rather than making Tabletalk the focus of its smear campaign which is currently playing out online.