SA’s latest newspaper isn’t sure its audience can pay – but is printing anyway
- The Telegram is edited by former Daily Sun editor, Themba Khumalo, and will focus on rural areas with a "pro-development stance".
- Its recent launch was heavy on government dignitaries, but it says it is fully independent.
- The target audience may not be able to pay its R12.50 cover price, though – when it eventually starts to charge.
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South Africa's latest newspaper, two-week-old The Telegram, is mostly being funded out of the pockets of its funders – while it is giving away copies for free.
That, it hopes, won't last. Once demand increases, it hopes to charge R12.50 per copy, and it has some advertising support eventually.
But it is intentionally targeting an audience without money, a problem it has yet to solve, but is talking to potential funders about.
The Telegram was launched on 3 May at an event featuring high-profile politicians: tourism minister, Mmamoloko Kubai-Ngubane, Joburg mayor Geoff Makhubo and special advisor to the minister in the presidency, Lumko Mtimde.
But the publication does not have a pro-government stance, has no government funding, and has no intention of being a government mouthpiece, say its founders Baloyi, Mbangwa Xaba, and Themba Khumalo, the former Daily Sun editor who now edits The Telegram.
Baloyi is a journalist who writes for a variety of publications and serves on the advisory board for the Oxpeckers Centre for Investigative Environmental Journalism. Xaba is a former government spokesperson and communications professional.
For the first edition, 10,000 copies were printed. The copies are currently distributed at airports, petrol stations on the borders of Gauteng, and agreements have also been reached with long distance buses and taxis to distribute the paper, Baloyi said.
The Telegram’s founders want to reach areas typically ignored by the mainstream press, which focus on what happens in the country’s metros.
“We are not competing with the mainstream papers but we want to go where most mainstream papers are not going, like in your rural areas. Our kinds of stories are stories that will talk to development in your Ladybrand, Mbombela… so that people here in Gauteng who are from those areas get to read what is happening in those areas… There are too many people in our urban centres, and the infrastructure is not good. People here in Gauteng, they need to hear about what is happening in the villages so that they can go back and invest there,” said Baloyi.
“We are biased towards underdeveloped areas,” he said.
The Telegram has yet to sign up to the South African Press Council, but this is on the cards, says Baloyi.
“We have xenophobia, and people living like animals in shacks, because this government has its priorities wrong. But right now we’ve reached the ceiling. It’s time we decentralised to make sure development reaches the areas it needs to,” Baloyi said.
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