Reporters on the Job

Origin of a Story: The genesis of today's story about empowering black entrepreneurs was a university lecture.

Staff writer Scott Baldauf was invited to a university in Johannesburg, South Africa, to address a journalism class. He was asked to discuss the Monitor's approach to news coverage, in particular the value of providing context and analysis. "I gave them the speech about doing more than telling readers just what happened. Also, as reporters, they need to test their analytical thesis by bouncing it off experts," says Scott.

During the question-and-answer portion, he turned the tables and asked the students what he should know as a new correspondent in South Africa. "One young black woman complained about 'all these people driving around in their fancy BEE cars' as symptomatic of a major problem in South African society. I stopped her to find out what a BEE car was," he says.

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The Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) policy – a state program giving preference to black businessmen – is seen by some as a scam for the ruling African National Congress party. "Many of these students seemed to be liberals whose whole lives have been shaped by the success of the freedom struggle. But now, they say, they're disillusioned by the corruption of the idea."

Later, Scott saw another facet of that disillusionment. He and his wife were shopping for a used car. "We kept noticing that all of the cars were only one year old. We asked the car salesman about it. He told us that these are the cars that white South Africans are selling. 'Everyone is leaving for Australia. These are the cars of people giving up on South Africa.' "

David Clark Scott
World editor

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