I apologise, dear readers, for beginning on a solipsistic note but waar die hart van vol is, loop die mond van oor – and my usually gloomy waking hours yesterday were transformed by a hilarious piece by David Bullard and then became even more risible when I read that media group Tiso Blackstar (Business Day, Sunday Times, Financial Mail, Sowetan, Daily Dispatch, etc.) is resuscitating Vrye Weekblad (VW).
VW, in case you’ve forgotten, was the “groundbreaking progressive, anti-apartheid Afrikaans national weekly newspaper launched in November 1988 and forced to close in February 1994”. Nogal, it will be “armed with a power crew” – founding editor Max du Preez and his former henchpeople, Jacques Pauw and Anneliese Burgess – and it shall be written in Afrikaans and of course be digital.
For those of you as arithmetically challenged as I am, may I take the liberty of pointing out that 1994 was 25 years ago. And I want to take the liberty of suggesting that during the passing of a quarter of a century there are quite a few changes in circumstances and attitudes.
First, the preponderance of the Afrikaans-language reading public is not, to put it simply, where it used to be in relation to “its” publications. It is, as the lawyers say, common cause that not only have the circulations of such newspapers as Beeld and Rapport fallen desperately, but that there was a palpable movement away from these publications when, for example, Adriaan Basson was editor of Beeld and calling the editorial shots in general at Media24, where he is now editor-in-chief. (Former Media24 CEO Esmare Weideman inter alios was at the time rather exercised by the whole thing.) I’m sorry to have to call Basson out by name – he’s a sweet fellow, and there were others besides him – but, as former minister Roelf Meyer might have said, the troof is the troof.
To put it bluntly, it has become apparent that most Afrikaans language newspaper-buyers are not comfortable with Basson’s (and others’) political line: pro-ANC-ish and not particularly pro the volk. Think I’m exaggerating? Have a look, if you will, at the beginnings and especially the later remarkable growth of an organisation such as AfriForum. A major factor in its germination, and its Maroela Media publication, was its members’ dislike of what was happening in the Afrikaans press (as well, of course, as generally in the country). Times change, as they say.