New vision for Cape Times 140 years later

By DOUGIE OAKES AND CARLO PETERSEN Time of article published May 19, 2016

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Dougie Oakes and Carlo Petersen

FOR 140 years the Cape Times has been one of South Africa’s pre-eminent newspapers of record.

We have brought the always unfolding story of our country to our readers in various ways, including by horseback, telegram, telephone, telex, tape recorder, e-mail, smartphone and internet, and by long-hand, shorthand, typewriter and computer.

And, make no mistake, in our rapidly evolving world, there will still be many other ways of recording and disseminating the news.

Our reporters have seen and written about much that we, as South Africans, can be ashamed of. But we’ve also recorded events that can make us enormously proud.

Over the years, we’ve brought our readers stories about riches and poverty, about natural disasters, about pestilence and prejudice, about sporting triumphs, about incredible political changes and much, much more.

Who would have thought, for instance, that when the National Party came into power in 1948 on a promise of Afrikaner dominance and apartheid, that so many of us would see democracy being attained in our lifetime?

There were dark days – and it was tough. And many people went to prison or paid the ultimate price in a long, and often bitter, fight for freedom.

But through the Struggle years, the Cape Times was there to tell their stories. We even told the stories of those who continued to believe in apartheid.

We’ve seen amazing changes over the years. We’ve seen people change. We’ve seen politics change. We’ve changed too. We’ve had to – because our country, like the rest of the world, has not stood still.

Today, we pride ourselves on being a “Voice for All”.

And it has been a series of fundamental changes within our parent company that has enabled us to reposition ourselves.

When Sekunjalo Independent Media Consortium acquired a controlling share in Independent Newspapers in 2013, it was forthright about its intention to launch Independent’s print titles and other platforms on a new growth path, executive chairman Dr Iqbal Survé said.

Survé insisted that the need for change at Independent was indisputable. “The need to change is borne out by the simple fact that, judged by all the relevant performance indicators for a media company, Independent lags behind its competitors and is caught in a vortex of stagnation that will require immediate, bold action and substantial financial investment to halt,” he said.

Survé said under-resourcing and “years of neglect” by the previous Irish owners, headed by Tony O’Reilly, had resulted in delayed investments to bring Independent into the 21st century world of news-gathering and dissemination.

“Because of a lack of funds and the absence of a strategic vision from the owners, our print titles still look and feel much the same way they did before the turn of the century, and have predictably lost readership and circulation share to both our traditional competitors and newer print entrants.”

“Doc”, as he is fondly referred to among staff, aimed to arrest this decline through reinvestment in technology and human resources, as well as articulating and driving a new vision for the group which allowed for greater enhancement of editorial content.

“The fact that the Cape Times has been able to hold its own in spite of its detractors who have gone to great lengths to try to bring about its demise, is admirable. This, of course, says a lot about our readers, current and new, and about the editorial offering which has received positive feedback from many quarters.”

Editor Aneez Salie added: “I would like to thank our loyal readers, subscribers and advertisers for their support of the Cape Times. The appointments are a direct result of a change in ownership, leadership and ethos at the Cape Times. This is indeed a historic day in the life of the Cape Times, established in 1876 and still going strong.”

* Don’t miss the second instalment of the Cape Times’ 140th anniversary supplement in Friday’s paper.

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