What is it Like Working in Print Media in SA?

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“Print is dead”, they said. About 3 years ago, there was a brief moral panic about the insurgence of digital media, mostly due to the threat that it posed to the print media industry. The same conversation was being had on South Africa’s Twitter streets as news of print publications moving to provide content digitally alongside the print products. We’re now in 2018 and print media is fine; one of the main issues seemingly being publications not creating the content that people want to see hence the fall of sales. It is a lot more complex than that sole reasoning though, but South Africa first needs to deal with the access to internet before we can really see a threat to print media.

The small insider world of magazines and newspapers is often very different to what we see in television and movie depictions (i.e., The Devil Wears Prada, Scandal SA, The Newsroom) . We found three women who work in some of the most recognizable titles in South Africa who tell us what it’s really like to create content for consumption by hundreds of thousands of people.

 

Busi Manunga

Beauty Assistant at Ndalo Media

I used to cut up magazines with my friends and create scrapbooks of my favorite celebrities;  Beyoncé, Victoria Beckham and Paris Hilton (I cringe now at this now haha). They would have their own A4 128 page exercise books that I would stick their pictures in. I’d then make a point of buying magazines that had as many pictures of Beyoncé, Paris and Victoria Beckham in them as possible. This was so pricey, I’d have to buy Heat, People, YOU and OK! Because those were the magazines that always had pictures of my idols.

 

Afika Jadezweni

Online Content Producer at Marie Claire

I used to read my mom’s magazines as a child to enter competitions and then I would cut things out and recreate my own ‘magazine’. I had an Ebony magazine subscription when I was 8 years old (I’m not sure why, but I just know every month a magazine full of black women came in the post for me) – I think one of my parents paid for it. I then started collecting magazines again in high school and haven’t stopped since.

 

 

 

Pearl Boshomane Tsotetsi

Editor at Sunday Times Lifestyle

Believe it or not, the Sunday Times was my introduction to newspapers. I always loved reading as a kid, and I started reading the ST when I was nine going on 10. My favourite section was the magazine (which later became Lifestyle). That’s when I decided I wanted to become a journalist and I fantasized about writing for the Sunday Times magazine. Almost two decades later – even after I had long forgotten about it and/ or gotten over it – my childhood dream was fulfilled. Not only do I work for the ST magazine (Lifestyle), but I’m its friggin’ editor! The universe always remembers your hopes and dreams, even if you don’t.

The Job

 

I love being surrounded by creative energy and having conversations about ‘giving the people what they want’ because ultimately that’s what the industry is about – What do people want to see? What important conversations are they having? What do they want to buy? What matters to them? And those questions are always such an important part of my job. – Afika Jadezweni

The Industry

 

 

Busi: Other magazines are no longer our competitors, we now have to look at what people are putting out online as their content to see where we should be going. There are so many people producing amazing work who have never shot a published editorial, it’s crazy. It’s amazing as well because it gives everyone the opportunity to prove themselves. Right now, magazines are still considered the fashion and beauty authority, in two years – who knows?

Afika: We’ve moved away from that ’10 sex tips to please your man’ or ‘How to go blonde’ era with white Hollywood cover stars on every magazine. Now we’d much rather encourage women to please themselves and own their sexual autonomy, talk about afros and cornrows rather than just blonde hair, and cover stars are people of colour, trans people, queer people, and dark-skinned people. And that’s thanks to the new guard and the few remaining editors who are open to change.

 

 

I love newspapers but I no longer romanticise them the way I did when I was younger. I consume information as digitally as possible. If I can’t get it on my phone, what’s the point? – Pearl Boshomane Tsotetsi

 

 

 

The Access to Content

 

Afika: I actually think the move to digital media has made information more accessible to people than it previously was. People aren’t buying newspapers and magazines as much as they used to because information is constantly at our fingertips. We get news at the mere tap of a screen, the biggest horizontal network of news and social movements is accessible for free to MTN users – it’s a free app even if you’re not on MTN.

Pearl: Newspapers aren’t as far reaching as radio. And many more people have access to radio than they do to any type of print media, for various reasons, including lack of literacy. And besides, newspapers are expensive. We live in a country where millions go to bed hungry each night, so if you’re faced with the choice between a loaf of bread and a newspaper… it’s easy to see which would win.

That’s not to say people without financial or economic privilege don’t seek knowledge and information. They do. But there are cheaper or more accessible ways to get news and information with radio (and wireless ones too).

 

I’m always happy with the content I produce because I work with a solid team and make it a point to leave my sets proud at the end of the day, even if it means completely scrapping an idea and making something new work. – Busi Manunga

The Love