“Write drunk, edit sober,” was the mantra of the great writer Ernest Hemingway. One South African journalist took this a little too far this week, causing huge damage to the journalism industry. Jacques Pauw wrote a piece for the Daily Maverick documenting his own arrest, claiming it was for not paying his bill at a Cape Town restaurant. He claimed that he’d been unlawfully arrested, that the management of the business was to blame, and that the police had stolen his money. A few days later, Pauw retracted the entire thing, saying he was drunk at the time and had gotten his facts wrong. Ouch.
Pauw is the author of the best-selling The President’s Keepers, which exposed how former president Jacob Zuma abused his power.
Several high profile journalists and media organisations have condemned Pauw’s latest piece, noting how he abused his power and privilege. The Daily Maverick said it tried to fact check his claims, and apologised for publishing the piece. They will no longer publish his work. We need a media that is trustworthy and accountable, and actions like Pauw’s threaten to break down the public’s trust in journalism. And that’s bad for all of us.
This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 18 February 2021. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.