Every doctor knows that prescription before diagnosis is malpractice. You have to understand the sickness before you can find the right remedy, and much the same holds when we want to deal with the failings and shortcomings of our news media. 

Three years ago the Sunday Times retracted and apologised for a series of stories it had been publishing for years: the Cato Manor “death squad” story, the “illegal renditions” story and the SA Revenue Service (Sars) “rogue unit” story. Each of these had started as exposés by the paper’s respected investigative unit and it continued to publish them for years, even as it became clear to almost everyone else that these stories were fundamentally flawed...

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