Friday, November 05, 2010

SA Sports Illustrated Correspondence - Epilogue

Email to Brendan Cooper, editor of SASI, Angus Powers who commissioned and article, and Ryk Neethling, Cameron van der Burgh's 'agent' and 'manager'

Howdy Gents

Ryk finally called me this afternoon [after MANY emails asking him to] and we had a chance to chat a little bit about what good manners are.  I obviously understand now that Angus and Brendan were being honest after all when you say Ryk wasn't happy with the piece and didn't want you to publish it.  Sorry, I had a hard time believing that, firstly because I thought I knew Ryk since being with him at school, since swimming with him during the Simon Gray days, and secondly because I'm a swimmer and I tried to write an article that would have both technical information for a swimmer like myself but also be of interest to someone who had never heard of Cameron.  You might be surprised to hear that very many people don't know who Cameron is.

On whether or not I knew Cameron had been to the last Olympics, I can't say I knew either way. He told me during the interview how young he was which made me wonder.  I asked the question along the lines of:  So have you ever been to the Olympics, what was that like?  The point of the article was to look at the Commonwealth Games and the next Olympics.  If it makes Ryk and Cameron uncomfortable that I am not going to have them bask in their own glory, sorry.  The Q&A I wrote certainly doesn't reflect any lack of knowledge, and the point of the interview was to get to know this guy better.  Do any of you know that I have done an Ironman.  No, and it doesn't matter.  It's irrelevant.  Just as irrevelant as asking him about Graeme Smith.  But of course if you have an agenda you can find fault with anything. 

It's a pity that Ryk sent me one message and another to you guys, and expected you to convey me the different message to his own and not expect some sort of fallout.
Ryk, you must sometimes be a man and own up to your decisions.  In this case, even if you think Brendan and Angus back you, you're wrong.  You can claim to be a literature expert, but you're not.  Stick to what you're good at and what you know. 

Further to that, in this case, you calling me today and telling me 'fuck you' and 'get over yourself' says a lot about your state of mind and hints at some sort of personal problem you have with me. This whole charade about professionalism and preparedness starts to look shaky given today's conversation.  It seems your problem with my story has a lot to do with your sister Jean Marie.  I actually originally interviewed and photographed her with the view to getting her, ironically enough, into this very magazine [perhaps one of you will remember, but I think there was another editor in charge 2-3 years ago].  I think the thinking at the time was that she was too young and also that she had not achieved anything noteworthy, but that something in the future when she was a little older was certainly possible.  Perhaps Jean Marie conveyed to Ryk that I had just interviewed her for my own blog, or my own gratification.  In any event, Ryk and I discussed Jean Marie for some minutes today, which demonstrates that this isn't REALLY about my writing.

The fact that even you, Brendan Cooper, can't see that, is quite bizarre.  Brendan you telling me that the first sentence is inappropriate shows me you don't really know swimming, or you're just pandering to Ryk, the latter is to some extent understandable.  And even if you feel in your gut that that first sentence was wrong, you had 200 words you were free to cut, so why not just edit out what you don't want?  Most of what I used were Angus' questions anyway.

It's a pity that none of the three of you had the bones to call me and have a decent, reasonable, mature conversation.  You haven't even had the decency to offer to pay me for the work I did.  That sort of arrogance is worrying gents.  Are you in the habit of expecting people to do work for you, kicking them in the balls and then walking off into the sunset with a clear conscience.  SIES man.

In terms of professionalism, I think Angus is probably aware how long it took Ryk to get his act together for me to contact Cameron.  Ryk took a long time to respond to emails, and I think I eventually got Cameron's number through Angus, not Ryk.  I don't know if Ryk took exception to me not adding the various additional sponsors he wanted me to mention; I certainly did him the favour of adding him to a piece that was really supposed to be about Cameron, and he had no problem with that [in fact his one bit of advice was to add a little bit to that section as I say, on sponsors].  I did the story with due diligence at the sort of quality level I invest in ALL of my work, finished it ahead of deadline [after much badgering from Angus] under very difficult circumstances, and wrote the piece through the night before I had to make a trip over several hundred kilometres into Namibia.  And this is the backhanded response I get?

It's sad that you guys didn't just publish the damn article.  It was good enough, and it did justice to Cameron, who is a classy swimmer.  I realise that it's important to humor Ryk who probably has a lot of contacts in the industry and has obviously featured often in your pages.  However, this sort of thing is an embarrassment to all involved.  Please don't blame bad writing.  You can carry on believing that if you like, join the queue, but then you'd best avoid most mainstream publications out there who obviously feel otherwise. FXXXXXXX is a very intelligent publication, Ryk, one I doubt you even bother to read.  Check it out, I often have articles published in there on the economy.  I'm not quite as stupid as you seem to think I am.  I have an article soon to appear in XXXXXXXXh, which is a better publication than SI, hands down, on any day.

Let me know when you're going to pay me, and Ryk - sad man.  I've lost a lot of respect for you over this and I can tell you now, a lot of other people have too.  I don't mean that vindictively, I just wouldn't expect this sort of behaviour from you.  I don't think Angus or Brendan did either, but worst of all, you've let Cameron down.  You call this doing your job?

All the best with your future endeavours.  I trust from here on out we don't need to work with one another again and none of us will be the worse for wear.

Cheers
Nick

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Would be interesting to read his response... do keep us informed! Michelle

Devin Isaacs said...

Speaking out is never easy because it just does not encourage confidence in the whistle blower. We all have a whistle in the form of the internet. Who is right or wrong is a matter of opininion and if the dispute is of importance to you investigate further.

Much respect to you Nick. If you feel you have been wronged, say something. Not enough people speak out and if more people did this world would be a better place.

Keep up the good work.

Devin

Anonymous said...

Nick, I commend you. Admitting u were wrong takes a big man and u certainly are.
I'm sure I'm not the only one who is absolutely shocked and disappointed at Ryk's behaviour - the respect and admiration I had for him as a person has certainly gone down the drain now.
It's such a pity that his "fame" seems to have gone to his head - humbleness is a far more likable quality.
D

Anonymous said...

Interesting experience. Havent you broken the cardinal rule of journalism and made yourself part of the story?

Nick van der Leek said...

Uh...no story is being published, that's the story.

Anonymous said...

Nick, what's their response been to this?

Nick van der Leek said...

No response thus far.

Anonymous said...

Stumbled across this and don't know the long and short of it. Obviously there's an agenda at work...nothing wrong with your writing. I don't know you but even this email is well written. Good luck with your efforts Nick.

Anonymous said...

Cardinal rule of journalism? Are you a first year journalism student? Haven't you heard of the Oprah Doctrine. The leatest in journalism is to be part of the story, feelings, thoughts, emotions, - all the passion, all the drama.

Anonymous said...

This isn't a very good ad for Ryk or for Si. Thanks Nick for outing them.