Pearl Thusi vs Sunday World

Complainant: Pearl Thusi

Lodged by: Sarit Tomlinson

Article: Pearl’s Neutrogena dreams bite the dust

Author of article: Sixolisiwe Ndawo

Date: 31 October 2014

Respondent: Sunday World

Complaint

Actress and TV presenter Thusi is complaining about an article, published in Sunday World on 28 September, headlined Pearl’s Neutrogena dreams bite the dust.

She says that the story/journalist:

  • inaccurately stated that negotiations had taken place regarding a job at Neutrogena;
  • wrongly attributed to her comments to that effect; and
  • intended to destroy her career.

The text

The story, written by Sixolisiwe Ndawo, said that Thusi (“the new ambassador for Europa Art Shoes”) “failed to bag an endorsement deal [at Neutrogena]that would have put her on the same level as ‘It Girl’ Bonang Matheba” – despite the fact that, as one of the candidates, she had been tipped to fill that post.

Thusi’s manager, Simphiwe Majola, reportedly said he was never engaged in any negotiations with Neutrogena regarding Thusi: “It’s blatant rumours, which were started by a few people with the intent to hurt and stunt a person’s growth and happiness.”

Analysis

Negotiations

Thusi denies that she was ever engaged in any negotiations with Neutrogena regarding this matter.

Milazi quotes Neutrogena’s company director, Laura Nel, who wrote: “I can confirm with certainty that Pearl Thusi is not being unveiled as the face of Neutrogena. She was one of several candidates considered for the role, but was not successful.”

I have no reason to disbelieve Nel, or the newspaper, on this issue.

Wrong attribution

Thusi complains that the story incorrectly said that her manager (Majola) denied the existence of such negotiations – while it was actually Tomlinson who did the denying.

The editor says that Ndawo directed her questions to Majola, and copied Tomlinson on that email. The reporter then received a response from the latter’s office, after which Majola phoned to ask if she had received a response. She was therefore justified in believing that she could attribute the response to him.

Given this explanation, I believe that the newspaper was justified in attributing the quote to Majola.

Intention to destroy Thusi’s career

Thusi complains that, what she calls the sensationalist and fabricated story, is destroying her career. The effect is that other product houses are now concerned about her image. She says: “Making unnecessary defamatory remarks have major commercial impacts on a person’s life and you as the media have a responsibility to report accurately and fairly.”

Milazi denies any malice or mistakes on the newspaper’s part.

I have no reason to uphold this part of the complaint, as I do not believe that the newspaper did anything materially wrong.

Finding

The complaint is dismissed.

Appeal

Our Complaints Procedures lay down that within seven working days of receipt of this decision, either party may apply for leave to appeal to the Chairperson of the SA Press Adjudication Panel, Judge Bernard Ngoepe, fully setting out the grounds of appeal. He can be contacted at Khanyim@ombudsman.org.za.

Johan Retief

Press Ombudsman

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