There has been a set of mixed fortunes in the past week for e.tv and its popular programme 3rd Degree. While 3rd Degree's Anna-Maria Lombard scooped the CNN MultiChoice Award for HIV/Aids reporting over the weekend, the show presenter and editor-in-chief Debora Patta continues to be criticised by ‘sensitive' viewers who believe that they have had enough of her ‘unobjective', ‘immature' and ‘aggressive' techniques that they believe are destroying the show.
A couple of viewers have used The Citizen newspaper's letters section to take out their frustration and have a go at Patta. In addition, many people who spoke to Bizcommunity.com expressed their concern about what they called ‘falling standards' of the show and Patta's arrogant attitude towards her interviewees.
A reader and self-proclaimed media guru named Jessica Clarkson wrote in the 13 July 2009 issue of The Citizen (“Debora Patta's 3rd Degree no longer burns”): “Debora Patta has ceased to be objective eons ago. Perhaps the limelight has gone to her head".
Clarkson accused Patta of trying to force her point of view by not giving other people, who are either part of her story or her work, a chance.
Clarkson also said Patta “hijacked” the story of RDP houses, a fine piece of investigative journalism aired on 7 July and done by e.news reporter Tumaole Mohlaoli in collaboration with Sowetan.
”Flogging a dead horse”
Another reader wrote in The Citizen issue of 14 July (“Patta's cakes”): “Patta, in my view, does not understand in-your-face, aggressive journalism. She has instead resorted to insulting, abusive and nasty journalism practised without poise and maturity.”
The debate went on in the same newspaper on Monday 20 July, with Farouk Laher of Mayfair, Johannesburg, writing under the headline “Ms Patta flogs a dead horse” that the reason why many people cannot stand Patta's interviewing persona is that she usually transgresses the bounds of professionalism and dignified broadcasting by flogging the proverbial “dead horse.”
Bizcommunity.com spoke telephonically to Patta on Saturday from Durban, where she was attending the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist of the Year Awards, asking her to defend herself against the criticism currently levelled against her by a range of viewers.
Later the same day, however, e.tv head of publicity Vasili Vass sent an email to Bizcommunity.com, stating that Patta would not comment.
Don't like the programme? Change the channel
William Bird, head of Media Monitoring Africa (MMA), told Bizcommunity.com: “Some people certainly may find Debora Patta's approach offensive and antagonistic. I am not sure that her approach has changed since she started, but certainly a number of her guests on her programmes have said so during interviews.
“For what she does, given that she represents a commercial as opposed to public service channel, I think she does it well. Does she take the limelight? She probably does, but that is an issue that should have been discussed between e.tv and Sowetan when they did the story.
“As MMA we welcome diversity and encourage people and interviewers to take positions, and provide information that serves to inform, educate and entertain. Where an interviewer fails to do so, or does so merely to humiliate and belittle the person being interviewed then it may be entertaining for some but ultimately viewers have the power to decide if they like that approach, and can vote by simply changing channel.”
Issa Sikiti da Silva is a winner of the 2010 SADC Media Awards (print category). He freelances for various media outlets, local and foreign, and has travelled extensively across Africa. His work has been published both in French and English. He used to contribute to Bizcommunity.com as a senior news writer.
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The thing with Deborah Patta is that as a viewer, you end up unable to bear watching her. She has this hostile look the moment she is on the screen. She is not welcoming at all. While I accept what William Bird has to say about etv being a commercial broadcaster that is allowed to take on a perspective as well as to have an identifiable approach towards their programming, etv still needs to allow you as a listener to be part of the approach. Patta is scary and repels me as a viewer!
I do not regard myself as a 'sensitive viewer' but I cannot watch her interviews as I start focusing on her rather than on the subject and respondent. that takes away from good journalism and it is also not helpful as an interview technique to be so overbearing and aggressive and attacking. As a respondent being interviewed by her, I might just clam up and not be able to think straight! That's not the objective of an interview. I agree with the view of her style.
when people hear what they dont want to hear they always say negative things, at the same time when those things are not being said they still have an issue. you can never satisfy the public. So Patta should just go on doing waht she does best.
What exactly does DP do best? Certainly not interviewing. She used to be an average newsreader who, through political contacts it seems, shoehorned herself into a position as editor and used that to put herself in the limelight. Because she put herself in the limelight, now we can judge her. And the judgement is not very positive
why? cause after 9/11 when every journo in the world rushed off to the middle east, our debbie went to NY and had her hair done. She didnt have any insight then and nothing has changed. She is a below par journalist with below average intelligence who hides behind some weird agressive interviewing style.
3rd Degree is obviously produced by a bunch of hard-working and driven real journalists who now serve as nothing more than Patta fact checkers (if facts are checked at all). When last was Patta on the field? When did she shift from being a JOURNALIST to being e.tv's equivalent of a CONTINUITY PRESENTER. She is not particularly knowledgeable about any given topic, on her own show, leading one to question her involvement and actual participation in the process. If you ask me she's probably being fed facts minutes prior to recording and her vacuous expressions on the live show are a dead give away.
Patta should be put out to pasture, she's old, bland, offensive, often plain ignorant and BORING...
Gimme a break, I say out the Patta generation, bring on a fresh, YOUNG presenter. Not a granny pretending to be a Journo.
The woman who runs Interface at 7.30 on Sundays has adopted the same 'in your face' bullying tactic and she doesn't listen either. Perhaps both ladies should ask the gentleman who does Askhulume at 6.30pm Sundays on SABC1 to mentor them.
Issa - I was delighted to read your article in biz community as I don't read the Citizen and hadn't seen that plenty of other viewers feel as I do. Our household long ago ceased watching 3rd Degree because it's nothing more than gutter journalism of the most repulsive order. Debora is so unprofessional, so venomous and so rude that one feels only sympathy for the person she's interviewing, regardless of whether they're a serial killer. I'm so pleased to see that people want politeness and fairness. Your article has made my day! )) A. Besseling
I think Debora Patta is doing a fantastic job! Sure she is not the best out there, but in the same light she is not the worst. She may not be on the field reporting 24/7 but what has that got to do with anything? She's giving other young up-and-coming journos a chance - I think she should be commended for her current success in the industry. she has paved the way for other women to come :)
- note: she is also editor-in-chief of eNEWS, that is her MAIN job now