Not the stuff of dental journalism

Andrew Donaldson |

27 April 2022

Andrew Donaldson writes on the M&G’s brief foray into Zweli apologism


I BEGAN looking for a job in journalism soon after arriving in the UK. Nothing too ambitious, mind — perhaps some dash work as a down-table sub-editor, minor copy-tasting on the foreign desk of some regional rag, a bit of proof-reading maybe. All to no avail, not a single response to scores of applications.

I later met with a Zimbabwean actuary who told me that he, too, was in much the same boat. No-one in the City, it seemed, was interested in him or his excellent qualifications. In South Africa, the big counting houses just couldn’t get enough of the guy. But in the UK? Nothing doing. I wondered if this was the result of racial discrimination. He thought not, probably more a class issue. “You see,” he explained, “you and I did not go to the right schools or universities. It’s as simple as that.” 

He had a point. Nevertheless, I persisted in trying to find a job and, as it happened, was duly interviewed for a sub-editor’s position on a lowly trade publication: a magazine that specialised in modern dental technology. Of all things.

Being “foreign”, I had to do one of those patronising grammar tests to gauge ability to communicate with the native dentist readership: “Delete where applicable: ‘Johnny [is/are] a bad person. He does not brush his [teeth/tooths]. They will rot and fall [off/out]…” 

This was followed by a grilling from the editor-publisher and an HR humanoid. Why did I want this job? Did I know anything about the hi-tech requirements of the modern dental surgery? Would I be prepared to attend oral hygiene conventions, even after hours? (This stuff was no laughing matter with these people. They’d no doubt heard all the jokes before; nudge-nudgery about feeling a slight prick, etc.)


I made the short list — only to be told the position had, alas, gone to someone who, incredibly, actually had experience in the field of dental journalism. Cut his or her teeth in the game, as it were. “No hard fillings,” the HR humanoid said. That, at least, is what it sounded like on the telephone. 

This, I consoled myself, was one lucky escape. What could be more dull than editing copy for a specialist dental tech magazine? 

That was in 2019. I still don’t have a proper job in journalism, but this week I discovered that there is, in fact, an even more tedious task in the fish-wraps — and that is editing the propaganda that readers of the Mail & Guardian must endure from time to time. Consider:

“In the spirit of renewal, the question that most ANC members need to ask themselves is what kind of members and leaders they need to have moving forward. One could say that they need to have ethical members and leaders in their organisation. Being ethical means that a person has integrity, trust, fairness, transparency, respect and honesty. An ethical leader will have a set of values and principles that will be recognised by the majority of South Africans. It is very rare to find a leader who resigns when their reputation is compromised in the ANC or their name has been brought into disrepute on the basis of allegations.”