The news was sometimes slow. On days like these we reporters at Die Burger newspaper would have a couple of stand-by stories to offer the news editor, the kind of things we could always pull out of the file and rehash for the next day’s edition.
Prof Chris Barnard’s latest bout of cosmetic surgery, the run-down state of the Cape Castle and the colourful language used by the Adderley Street flower-sellers in describing the rising cost of living were perennial favourites which could easily fill newspaper space when not much else was going around.
Today the state of the South African wine industry seems to be one of these convenient page-fillers for newspapers lacking headline-grabbers.
A few months ago, for example, the pinko, agenda-driven and skewed Human Rights Watch report provided material for hectares of print and digital copy. And last week the Sunday Argus slapped together a truly weird report on the industry’s current financial state. Grabbing a few random quotes here and there, as well as misinterpreting a VinPro presentation, a sorry picture of the Cape wine-lands was painted.
This was nothing new as it is the kind of story that has been appearing in various segments of the media on an annual basis, and will no doubt continue to do so whenever another slow news-day dawns.
And why shouldn’t it? The wine industry is a high-profile and international mix in the South African fabric, the most exciting of which is that our full potential has yet to be realised.
However, whenever journalists do start asking questions about the industry as a whole, they find themselves with two problems.
Firstly, there is no one-stop body on which reporters can call to get straight answers to straight questions. VinPro, Sawis, Wieta, Wosa, Winetech, Wine Cellars South Africa?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-+?-+.all these cover ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ or purport to cover ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ a different aspect of the local industry. There is, inexplicably, no one ,voice or person willing or able to talk on behalf of the South African wine industry. Instead reporters are given a snippet of information here and then told to go and get the rest somewhere else.
Wosa is more willing to talk than others, but the fact that its CEO and communication department suffer from permanent Greater African Foot-in-Mouth disease does not help much, either.
And then should the news reporter get it wrong in his or her story, all hell breaks loose over this seeming incompetence when the problem lies at our own door. Namely the lack of transparent and inclusive communication.
The second problem media face from local wine authorities is an ingrained suspicion of journalists. (Note: I am not talking about producers, many of which can teach the authorities a thing or two about communicating.)
Behind closed boardroom-doors, however, there is still a tendency to regard the press as nosey trouble-seekers, with talk of wanting “to moer that so-and-so” not being uncommon. Quaint as this may be, it all is so, well, yesteryear.
Not only does the industry need a cohesive voice able to talk sense on behalf of the whole gamut, but a proactive communication strategy and a total overhaul of the image we want to project is needed.
It will help the country understand the potential of and the problems within the industry. It will assist producers and stakeholders. Who knows, it could even inspire national government into embracing the wine industry as an African jewel.
Right. So who is going to be responsible for this?
I rest my case.
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