Well, folks, it’s official. The ink has dried on the final editions of some of South Africa’s most beloved newspapers. Media24, the media giant, has announced the closure of five print newspapers, transitioning three of them to digital-only formats and cutting 400 jobs as a result.

Beeld, Rapport, City Press, Daily Sun, and Soccer Laduma are among the newspapers that will no longer grace your breakfast table in their traditional print form. Additionally, the digital (PDF) editions of Volksblad and Die Burger Oos-Kaap, as well as the digital hub SNL24, are also biting the dust.

Rapport, City Press, and the Daily Sun will live on in the digital realm. Whilst the print editions are set to be closed, Rapport and City Press will now be housed on Netwerk24 and News24, respectively. Daily Sun will continue its journey as a standalone, free e-news site. 

According to Media24 CEO Ishmet Davidson, the shift is all about keeping up with the times. “In South Africa, like elsewhere in the world, consumer preferences have changed. People now read more news than ever, but most prefer to do so on their cell phones or laptops,” Davidson said. And let’s be honest, how many of us are guilty of scrolling through news feeds during meetings or on the loo? Davidson pointed out that this move is part of a larger strategy to strengthen Media24’s core digital brands, News24 and Netwerk24. 

The decision to shut down these print editions wasn’t made lightly. Falling circulation numbers played a significant role. For instance, Rapport’s circulation plummeted from around 335,000 in 2000 to just 60,000 today. Similarly, City Press saw a dramatic drop from 233,000 to a mere 14,000. Beeld also suffered, falling from over 100,000 to 20,000. It’s clear the maths just doesn’t add up anymore.

Now, here’s where it gets tricky. As many as 400 jobs will be axed, and an additional 400 positions will transfer to Novus Holdings with the sale of Media24’s community newspaper portfolio and media logistics operations (This means that some of the 400 employees who form part of the transfer may retain their positions). The consultation process with staff members is anticipated to conclude within the next three months, with 30 September designated as the final publication date for the affected newspapers.

The consequences of shrinking newsrooms extend beyond job losses. A reduced workforce means fewer stories get covered, and critical local news might fall through the cracks. It’s a tough pill to swallow, especially in a country where robust media is essential for democracy. The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) emphasised the importance of a vibrant media landscape, stating that the survival of these entities is crucial for holding power to account.

Opposition to the closure of these print editions has come from various quarters. Special interest group Solidarity emphasised the significant cultural and historical importance of newspapers such as Rapport and Beeld, particularly within the Afrikaans community. 

For those wondering if this shift to digital really matters to audiences, the answer is both yes and no. For many, the nostalgia of holding a newspaper is irreplaceable, and the loss of these print editions marks the end of a significant era in South African media. However, the reality is that the majority of readers have already migrated online.

So, here’s to the future – may it be as engaging and informative as the past, even if it’s on a screen.