Thursday, October 28, 2010

Let's Not Kid Ourselves - New Media Has No Immediate Impact on African Newspapers

Arnoth Mabunda

Wallace Chuma once said that our education has very little to say about the African ways of thinking. As such, we tend to think that whatever affects the west affects the whole world or Africans.

Quite often we just accept western values uncritically. We don’t even look at our immediate environment to see if they really relate to the nature of our society. Now that the new media is affecting many newspapers in the United States of America - they want to make it seem as if it is also threatening our local media and that is totally wrong.

They are busy saying that the new media is affecting our local newspaper companies and some of them might close down, that’s a complete lie. These are the people like Michael Salzwedel (2010 Rhodes Journalism Review, 65) who stood firm and say “in with the new, out with the old”. Salzwadel argues that the 21st century audience is getting tired of the old media system”today, the Internet and the mobile phones are our steam whistles. When we publish a hot story online, we Tweet it and let our more than 700 Facebook fans know about it,” he writes.

His claim has been severely denied by the print media experts, particularly in South Africa, who confidently vow that “no matter how advanced future civilization may become, humans will still enjoy the look and feel of the newspapers in their hands.”(Harrower, 2008,)

Just a simple question, which website do you visit to for some updates on local and national news? Many of you might be going to or; these two companies are the same companies that dominate the press industry in South Africa. In the words of Jude Marthinus, “everything changes, nothing changes.”

In America it is Google versus the New York Times, just to cite an example, but in South Africa it is still the same Naspers, Avusa, Caxton and Independent Newspapers going online. This is what I dubbed NACI monopoly . If you don’t buy these companies’ printed papers, you still Google them. Once again, “nothing changes, everything changes.”

I want you to think

Look at your immediate environment, not in the suburbs where only the petit bourgeoisie live, not even in universities where many students get introduced to new trends - but in your local township or village where the majority of South Africans live.

You will find that many people are still consume traditional media and teachers still store files on walls as computers and all things digital remain the future.

Of course rural people do have advanced phones, but they only use them for making and receiving calls. A small number might even use them for social networking.

Really if we are to think that the internet is the present then I would like to ask why there aren’t many internet journalists’ positions being advertised? How your friends apply for jobs online? The question was about your friends and not you as you clearly have access to the internet since you are reading this.

I will keep on saying this; new media has no immediate impact on Africa as westerners would like everyone to believe.

Some often say the newsroom in Africa is getting smaller because of the new media’s impact, which is wrong. I believe that the news room is getting smaller because contemporary journos are are learning various skills now. These days it is not unusual for an African reporter to cover a story and take photographs for that story as well.

Some newspapers might not want to employ more journalists because they are trying to save costs as young journalists want massive salaries. There are also issues of high taxes being imposed by the state on our newspapers.

I would like to close my argument with a quote from editor of Die Son Mark Herman when he said: “There is still a huge gap left for newspapers in South Africa.”


  1. you are right technology is not that advanced in our immediate enviromentI realise that wen looking at my home town in Tsakane it is a township with some privilladges that people from rural areas dont have but still people dont have much access to the internet cafes coz either they are expensive or far.

  2. least one person realises that the media in our emmediate enviroment has no impact there was it is suppose to that is the 1st step we just hope the media houses that we have in our country could also have their eyes opened on this issue so that they can see hey....