The public has the right to know

Neil Manthorp –  03/12/2000

It may seem odd to respond to a fellow columnist with a column of my own, especially given the fact that Dave Richardson and I have spent the first four days of the Port Elizabeth Test match working in adjoining commentary boxes. We do talk, and yes, we have discussed the contents of his latest column which appears alongside this one.

As expected of an attorney and a man with his sensitivity and understanding of sport and people, there is nothing that can be successfully disputed in his column. He is, of course, quite correct in his assertion that sportsmen are also people and deserve to have their privacy as much as the rest of us.

I have two questions, however. Does the man who pays his money at the gate deserve to hear what the man who scores a century has to say about his innings? I think he does.

Does the man who pays his money for his daily newspaper deserve to hear what the sportsman has to say or should he have to read what the journalist has to say, day after day. It doesn’t matter how good a writer is, or how entertaining his copy is, he does not – and cannot – represent the feelings of a man who has scored a hundred or won a Test match.

The second question is this: do national sportsmen feel they are talking to Colin Bryden, Peter Robinson, Trevor Chesterfield or any other individual journalist when they answer questions in a press conference or have they been reminded that they are, in fact, talking the hundreds of thousands of people who watch and follow cricket in South Africa and throughout the world?

A final thought, also in reference to Dave’s column. How would a business executive react if he found a used condom on his desk when he arrived for work? Is a sporting dressing room not a place of work? If the used condom found in the Springbok rugby dressing room caused sufficient disgust to disrupt and divide the squad, would that not constitute ‘news’?

As David says in his column, some sportsmen do still regard the media as the enemy. But that attitude will never prevail because, ultimately, the media are driven by you, the consumers.


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