The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) notes the closure of the Huffington Post hot on the heels of the closure of the AfroVoice just a few weeks ago. And in November last year we saw the closure of the print version of the Times.
On Monday, Media 24 and the HuffPost announced plans to end its South African licence. The companies launched the HuffPost South Africa as a partnership in November 2016, with Media24 operating the newsroom and driving the commercial aspect of the partnership.
In terms of attracting an audience the HuffPost has done well. It has consistently featured on the list of the top 10 news sites in South Africa and has drawn a readership of 1.63m unique users. Further, it has been an important new voice in South African journalism and has attracted new audiences. However, despite these successes, it has not been able to attract sufficient advertising revenue.
SANEF notes that the HuffPost has not been uncontroversial. The site came under fire a year ago after publishing a controversial blog titled “Could it be time to deny white men the franchise”. The blog was supposedly written by feminist activist “Shelley Garland”. It later emerged that Garland was a pseudonym for political science graduate Marius Roodt, who said he wanted to expose the lack of fact checking in South African newsrooms. Also, more recently, in April 2018, the site came under fire for posting a video clip of an interview conducted with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela where the struggle stalwart named and shamed prominent journalists claiming that their journalism had supported the aims of apartheid. The HuffPost did not give these journalists right of reply.
Overall, we record the worrying loss of jobs in our industry and the impact of this on the moral of journalists and the profession as a whole. Also, we note the loss of another voice in terms of issues of media diversity. Our industry may be thriving in terms of the successes of various investigative units but it is also, simultaneously, under enormous financial pressure. SANEF believes that this has the potential to erode the quality of news as a whole and its critical role in strengthening democracy.
For more information please contact:
Kate Skinner – SANEF Executive Director
082 926 6404