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'DRUM' set to stop printing, 'Sunday Sun' set to close as COVID-19 hits Media24

Media24 announced on Tuesday that it was considering the closure of a number of magazines and newspapers, the consolidation of some business operations and unfortunately, job losses.

Drum Magazine. Picture: @DrumMag.

JOHANNESBURG - The impact of coronavirus and the lockdown continues to be felt across the media industry, affecting more household staples.

Media24 announced on Tuesday that it was considering the closure of a number of magazines and newspapers, the consolidation of some business operations and unfortunately, job losses.

DRUM magazine, which has been a staple for decades and was a symbol of defiance against apartheid in its early days, will no longer to be physically printed but will instead be online only.

The media company said that the planned interventions were expected to affect around 510 staff members (with a proposed reduction of close on 660 positions) out of a total staff complement of 2,971, largely across the print media and distribution divisions.

“From the earliest days of the pandemic in South Africa, everything we’ve done focused on two main priorities. Firstly, the health and safety of our people, and secondly, business continuity – by implication also protecting employment for as long as possible, said Ishmet Davidson, CEO of Media24.

“However, the pandemic has accelerated the pre-existing and long-term structural decline in print media, resulting in a devastating impact on our own already fragile print media operations with significant declines in both circulation and advertising since April. For many of our print titles, the benefits of prior interventions to offset the structural declines and keep them on the shelf no longer exist and they’ve run out of options in this regard."

Below is the full list of affected titles:

Magazine portfolio:

• Closing Move! and the Hearst portfolio (Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Bicycling, Runner’s World).
• Publishing DRUM in digital format only.
• A licensing agreement with editor Helen Schöer to publish the parenting titles (Baba & Kleuter and Your Pregnancy) independently.
• Outsourcing the editorial production of the remaining monthly portfolio (Fairlady, SARIE, SA Hunter/Jagter, True Love, tuis | home, Weg! | go! and Weg! Ry & Sleep | go! Drive & Camp) as well as the fortnightly Kuier.
• Reducing the frequency of the monthly magazines to six issues per year, and eight issues for tuis | home, SA Hunter/Jagter and Man Magnum.

The flagship weeklies Huisgenoot, YOU and Landbouweekblad will continue to be produced and published in-house.

Newspaper portfolio:

• Closing Son op Sondag and Sunday Sun.
• Closing the Eastern Cape edition of Son.
• Publishing Volksblad and Die Burger Oos-Kaap as weekday digital editions only, available as complete PDFs on Netwerk24.
• Closing four community newspapers in KwaZulu-Natal: Amanzimtoti Fever, East Griqualand Fever, Hillcrest Fever and Maritzburg Fever.
• Consolidating Noordkaap and Kalahari Bulletin into a single newspaper, Noordkaap Bulletin, and Kroonnuus and Vrystaat Nuus into Vrystaat Kroonnuus. At the same time, incorporating Theewaterskloof Gazette into Hermanus Times.
• Accelerating the digital transition of The Witness.

Staff at the company's media distribution business, divisional and corporate services departments will also be reduced related to the proposed reduced print media operations.

“Even with a return to pre-COVID-19 economic levels, the impact of the pandemic on our print media operations will be unrecoverable. Sadly, we have no choice but to restructure our business now to curtail the losses in our print portfolio and allow us to focus on keeping the retained titles sustainable and in print for as long as possible, said Davidson.

THE ACCELERATED DEATH OF PRINT IN SA

This is yet another list of printed publications that have been enjoyed by many South Africans that are seeing numerous job losses and closures in an already struggling industry.

Just earlier this year, Associated Media Publishing (AMP), which published titled such as Cosmopolitan announced its permanent closure.

In May, the board of directors of Caxton and CTP Publishers and Printers Limited (CAT) announced that it had begun a process of withdrawing from magazine publishing and associated businesses. CAT published magazine titles such as Bona, Rooi Rose and Garden & Home.

THE MAGAZINE THAT DEFIED APARTHEID

While most magazines that are around today were first printed in the 80s, 90s and even 2000s, DRUM magazine happens to be a heritage title, which directly bridged the racial divide and broke apartheid law in its early days.

The magazine, originally named African Drum was started in 1951, just three years after apartheid was formally legislated in 1948. It was founded by cricketer Bob Crisp and writer Jim Bailey.

It detailed urban township life under white minority for the black majority. In a few years, the magazine hired black journalists and photographers, many of whom, such as Peter Magubane and Nat Nakasa, would go on to become legends in their own right.

Journalists of different races often worked together and covered many stories of oppression by the regime, leading to run-ins with the law.

In 2004, the movie Drum was released, detailing the life of DRUM investigative journalist, Henry Nxumalo.