The Oscar Dilemma

South Africans continue to be bombarded with news coverage pertaining to the Oscar Pistorius case and we can only expect it to heat up in the weeks prior to his next court appearance on 19th August this year.  Granted, the news cycle did slow down following his bail hearing on 22nd February but I did smile to myself as the juggernaut of photographic exposés and documentaries started appearing prior to his court appearance on 4th June.

Understanding the news cycle is key when managing a crisis from a communications perspective and Pistorius’ camp would have done well in understanding the flow and ebb; thereby enabling them to plan and preempt what was coming down the line.  It’s important to emphasise that I’m not saying that they didn’t understand it and this has nothing to do with whether the man is guilty or not.  However, one cannot deny that this is going to make a great case study when the final verdict is handed down and the dust settles.

The news cycle usually unfolds in more or less the following way:


In my opinion the Oscar Pistorius story has progressed through the above process since the horrific killing of Reeva Steenkamp on 14th February and that was four and a half months ago.

One just needs to refer to the 24-hour coverage on eNCA when the story broke including interviews with the general public about their shock at the news.  This was followed promptly by the City Press expose which included an info-graphic and the speculation about the use of the bloodied bat found at the scene.

References to the last big event came in the form of references to the OJ Simpson case and the slaying of his wife Nicole in equally brutal circumstances.  The media that tended to make themselves a ‘hero’ in the situation were numerous as many outlets claimed to have the next big scoop.  What’s interesting is that Oscar’s participation and golden boy status at the Olympic Games in the UK the previous year was a common thread and continues today.  The last point refers to the nationalising of a regional story; this is apt although it wasn’t the last stage but rather a concurrent theme throughout the news cycle as the story went global within minutes.

An interesting perspective and food for thought to say the least.


Kim Hudson is an Associate Director at FleishmanHillard SA.