1/2 A newspaper eulogy

At some point in the lives of South Africans, reading a newspaper was as much a daily task as waking up and making the bed. Very few people to none ever imagined that they’d wake up one day and have the news that they’d ideally get on a newspaper, one button away. Instead of leaving the house with at most, R20 to go buy their favourite dose of compiled news, one can now just unlock their smartphones and access a website. Have you ever imagined waking up and only needing to press a button to have your bed covered neatly with all your sheets, duvet and pillows in place, according to your preferred style?

I must say, ever since news and everything else moved to the digital world, a lot has changed. Probably the borders of imagination have also expanded. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that a child as young as 10 years old has already imagined themselves in Dubai. Whether it be to be in a thong, on a yacht, sipping on some Veuve Clicquot or to experience the country’s culture, architectural excellence and the shopping, is a whole different story.

Exposure. That’s what’s actually behind the shift in these imagination borders. I can almost guarantee you that Alakhe Mdoda, Anele Mdoda’s son, will never be intimidated by anyone or any space because he’s been exposed to such from a very young age. At almost 7 years old, he’s recognised by the Formula 1 industry and personally known by one of the McLaren drivers, Daniel Ricciardo. If anything, he might never even need a mere CV in his life. Yes! In this country’s economy! He has imagined a life outside South Africa because he KNOWS a life outside of it. Keep affluence out of it because one can KNOW anything because the net affords anyone that luxury.

You’re probably convinced that digitisation is the greatest thing to ever to happen to humankind now, right?

Maybe, but to journalismkind (Yes, I just made up the word) … it isn’t [at least at face value]. If anything, it has been the demise of many newspapers’ lives in the country. As befittingly headlined Death Of Newspapers In South Africa – And The Rise Of Online, digitisation has had a seesaw effect on print media. Advertisers are placing bigger bets on the digital world because that’s literally where a large chunk of people spend 80% of their time… daily. A rise of this means a direct fall in print. Recent research by the Audit Bureau of Circulation, though bleak, has found a plummet in the country’s circulation figures. Daily Sun, The Star, Sowetan, Sunday Times and the Beeld, 4 of the biggest daily newspapers have circulated between 70% and 89% less than they did 10 years later. News publications have had no choice but to give into this by moving their production to their websites and changing their business models to accommodate the ‘new normal’. Just as this buzz concept gained momentum in rounds during the COVID-19 pandemic, it further posed a loss to print. Again, the seesaw effect.

Many newspapers’ lives may be lost and many more may continue to face the slow classic sounds of a funeral setting like the New Frame but for a passionate journalist like me, there’s still value in the few lives left. Perhaps this value is derived from nostalgia. It comes from the many times I would impatiently wait for my grandfather to finish reading every new copy of a newspaper so I can have my chance at indulging in it and ripping its sections apart until my grandmother comes to its rescue with some scoulding. This was order of a newspaper’s life cycle in the Matlala household from when I could read until sometime between my mid-teenage years when a newspaper creeped into rare sight. At the time, I thought it was because my grandfather was now on pension and wasn’t heading out to town as often or needing to keep himself updated as much. But now we know why I also began seeing less of the newspaper vendor at our main street corner right?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s