Entertaining clients not unusual

ONCE again, I am forced to write a letter to the editor in order to redress putrid journalism on the part of a so-called “reporter”, and unethical and hypocritical conduct on the part of The Herald (“Roland’s freebie under spotlight”, March 21).

Companies throughout South Africa and in Nelson Mandela Bay regularly host client functions and, depending on the industry within which they do business, various officials from the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality are invited to such functions.

Typically, financial institutions would invite treasury officials, construction and engineering companies would invite those in these respective departments, and cellphone companies invite corporate admin officials.

This is part of their public relations activities to promote their respective brands.

Over the 12 years that I’ve been with the municipality, officials (and councillors) of the communications office have been invited and hosted by a number of companies operating in the media industry. Some of the names that come to mind are Times Media (The Herald), AlgoaFM, SABC, Media24 and Boomtown.

Depending on the company’s plans for the year as well as its budget, such PR activities are held at different times, sometimes when the company is actually doing business with the municipality and, at other times, when the company is intending to do business with the municipality. This is normal practice in the corporate world.

Indeed The Herald has done exactly the same on numerous occasions, even when it was punting for business from the municipality. On one occasion, when times were good, The Herald (Times Media) flew clients and prospective clients as well as their spouses to Cape Town, booked us all in a five-star hotel and took us on a game drive.

On other occasions The Herald took us to Fish River Sun, the Addo Elephant Park and, in leaner times, we were hosted at breakfasts and dinners.

Some of the dates were when The Herald regarded the NMBM as a prospective client.

Again, this is normal PR practice and has absolutely nothing to do with any tender processes.

Media24’s annual stakeholder function invites and hosts about 150 people from throughout the country. Do you genuinely believe that it decides on this annual date based on some printing tender process in one of its client cities?

The fact that you have decided to present such normal practice by your competitor (Media24) as an act of alleged collusive behaviour is really scraping the depths of so-called “journalism”, not to mention the spittingly obvious hypocrisy on your part.

The fact that you have decided not to report on similar occasions by others over the years even when specifically brought to your attention is proof of your malicious intent toward the official you have decided to victimise.

The fact that you have thieved photos from my Facebook page is evidence of the nadirs you would grovel to in order to contrive something that is normal business practice and present it as “news”.

No doubt, our intrepid editor would add a note at the bottom of this letter (“The Herald sticks by its story”, “We have no malicious intent”, blah, blah, blah). Fantastic, wonderful – you have a front page story. And now, better still, you have feedback – does it help with your declining sales? I hope so.

The fact remains that you have baselessly and intentionally cast aspersions on my character and integrity based on hollow nothingness, but driven by malice, artful contrivance and hypocrisy.

And by the way, for the record, I really don’t play golf.

Roland Williams, head, communications department, NMMM

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