Covering Mandela health, reporters face various obstacles

by Gill Moodie (@GrubstreetSA) The classic Hollywood image of pushy reporters stabbing each other in the back and stepping over the body in the quest for an exclusive is often just that: a celluloid stereotype.

And it’s when the story becomes really difficult – such as with the ailing Nelson Mandela – that you find journalists sticking together and helping each other out with information, leads on the next development and contacts.

This may lead to some homogeneity of the news – and aside from Debora Patta’s scoop for CBS of Mandela’s ambulance break down, we haven’t seen many exclusive breaks in the Mandela story over the past month. In fact, the lack of genuine scoops is an indication of how challenging it has been to cover this story.

In both Pretoria – where Mandela has been in hospital for a month – and in the Transkei – where reporters are racing between Mthatha, Qunu and Mvezo covering the family fight over the remains of Mandela’s three children – journalists are battling with a lack of official information or are being chased away by police and security guards.

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