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By Hein Kaiser


Newsman, Ray White, has no off switch

Managing the process and curating news that makes it to air is a challenging job.

A newsman through and through. And if you haven’t heard Ray White on radio anytime in the past three decades, where have you been?

Radio news is like a drug said the Eyewitness News (EWN) managing editor.

It’s been three decades, and he cannot get enough of it.

He said that it’s so fast paced, that every moment presents a new story and that in South Africa, the sheer volume of news, coupled with what’s happening on the international stage, keeps him very busy.

Eyewitness News serves 702, Cape Talk, 94.7 and KFM’s news services with a combined audience of millions of South Africans.

Insofar radio is concerned, the EWN team sets the news agenda in South Africa.

He said that radio is still the most accessible medium in the greater media mix.

“We are friends with everybody. In other words, we are always in the living room, the kitchen or the car. Radio becomes a part of everyone’s life.

“You can then take news to the people, tell them about what is going on. If you have a look at something like state capture, were it were not for the media, we would not have had the whole Zondo commission.

“That is what it is all about for me, it is sticking up for everyone. Being in the know about current affairs and the media’s role in keeping companies, politicians, rainmakers and newsmakers accountable is as essential as oxygen, said White.

“If we didn’t have it, the country would suffocate. I always say it is like taking this gigantic mirror and holding it up to the wall to say, ‘Hey, world, this is what you look like’ and everyone can see.”

And radio news in particular lives in the ‘now’. It goes from story through to broadcast at breakneck speed with a team of reporters across the country filing real-time stories.

Managing the process and curating news that makes it to air is a challenging job.

White said that every piece of reportage is carefully weighed and considered, its relevance measured against what matters to South Africans.

He added: “Because of the highly interactive nature of stations like 702, we receive a constant stream of feedback based on what is broadcast.”

It becomes a valuable mix of citizen journalism, sourced news and information.

And while the next elections remain about two years out, one of the most consistent and hottest topics remains whether people will entrust the ANC with their votes, again. But at the same time, he says, a shared point out there is that there is little choice.

“I think if somebody wants to win in 2024, it is going to be somebody who puts up their hand and says, ‘hi, I have got this. I am your guy’.

“That was the thing about President Ramaphosa when he became president.

Everyone was happy to see him because he was this big businessperson coming along and he told us that he was ‘going to do this thing’, which was great.

So, if you have that charismatic politician and if people believe him, or her, it could be next guy or lady in the top job.”

Apart from the 2024 elections, a large amount of news covers the ANC and its factions, its doings and undoings presently, he says.

There’s a fight for the soul of the ANC. We have the old faction under former president Jacob Zuma who has been outlined as the bad guy.

We have the new guy who has come in. Ramaphosa “was the good guy with his new dawn. Yet we are still waiting for elements of that dawn to present”.

He goes on to explain. “This is part of the basis of the fight for the ANC. The problem is that the country is the victim of this fight. And while they are fighting, there is no service delivery, there is nothing. Eskom breaks.

“They need to wake up to the fact that in 2024, if they are still fighting, the public will be moving on.”

Incompetence hacks the headlines as much as fraud and corruption these days. White says he does not really believe any politician anymore.

“We have our deputy president, David Mabuza. I am not sure what he does with his day. We have a Sports, Arts and Culture Minister, Nathi Mthethwa, who I think should just pack it up, because through the whole of Covid, artists were simply not assisted.

“And then he comes along with his flag. He has tried now with the National Symphony Orchestra, but it is too little, too late.”

White said: “I think most of them should just call it a day. As South Africans we are done now. We really are, done.”

He added: “You cannot have a president who has a media conference and then only answers four questions and goes.”

White said he struggles to switch off, much to the annoyance of his partner, also a journalist.

“The news cycle is so rapid there is just never an off-switch.”