Media24 has launched an investigation following its publication of the controversial blog “Could It Be Time To Deny White Men The Franchise?” on Huffington Post South Africa.The blog was posted on April 13 but removed from the publication's website on April 15‚ after it could not “confirm the veracity of the source”‚ a Media24 statement said.
“This has been hugely damaging not only to the Huffington Post South Africa brand but also to Media24. Responsible journalism is at the heart of what we do; it’s the currency we trade in. In an era of fake news‚ I know only too well that our editors spend an inordinate amount of time checking the veracity of information before they publish. When our systems fail‚ we’re not just alarmed‚ we’re outraged. This is a sad day for journalism‚” said Media24 CEO Esmaré Weideman.
The blog was authored by an individual called Shelley Garland‚ claiming to be an MA student in philosophy at the University of Cape Town.
The blog "went viral" according to a response piece by Huffington Post South Africa editor-in-chief Verashni Pillay.
Sipho Hlongwane‚ the Blogs Editor at Huffington Post SA‚ tweeted about the amount of traffic Garland's blog had received. Pillay's article and Hlongwane's tweet were both later deleted.
Huffington Post South Africa took Garland's blog down after Cape Town-based writer Laura Twiggs began questioning the authenticity of the writer.
Twiggs had discovered that Garland's online presence was thin and that she had only recently joined Twitter.
Tweeting Garland‚ Twiggs found more holes in the author's story.
Who is #shelleygarland? HP brand @HuffingtonPost @ariannahuff @HuffPostSA @HuffPostSANow @BellPottinger @CapeTalk pic.twitter.com/zEP8uTYYkz— Laura Twiggs (@laura_twiggs) April 15, 2017
Garland then closed her Twitter account.
Media24's Andreij Horn said the incident was being thoroughly investigated.
"As a company we make an enormous investment to ensure quality journalism‚ precisely because we know that trust is non-negotiable."
In an interview on radio show Talk @ Nine with Karima Brown‚ on Sunday evening‚ Huffington Post South Africa editor-in-chief Verashni Pillay said that no identity checks were previously done on blogs carried by the publication.
“We're in an environment where there is an onslaught on the news. People who would deliberately want to mislead readers. In this environment we should definitely start doing identity checks‚” she said.
She said she now believed that the blog may have fallen short of the South African press code's standards and that it had been submitted to the press ombudsman for analysis.
The Democratic Alliance's John Steenhuisen joined the conversation‚ calling for Pillay's resignation.
“I think that the credibility of Huffington Post has been completely undermined by this. Not even the most basic of fact-checking was done. Verashni herself wrote a piece a little while ago about the importance of fact-checking in the modern news era and she hasn't held herself to her own standards‚” he told Brown.
He also criticised Pillay for editing the piece she had written responding to Garland's blog‚ before it had been taken down.
Last year‚ as editor of the Mail & Guardian‚ Pillay apologised for the publication of a story suggesting that DA leader Mmusi Maimane was taking lessons from FW de Klerk.