WHILE “the end is nigh” predictions for the print media abound, the gogo of South African newspapers has posted a notable achievement. She’s a remarkable old lady, not only the oldest daily in the country, but still one of the few publications that may win in what is widely regarded as a losing battle.
At a time when most newspapers suffer severe circulation losses The Herald has more than held its own. The latest Audit Bureau of Circulation figures actually show an increase in The Herald’s sales during the past quarter.
The paper’s ability to resist the onslaught of the electronic media and to stand firm while big-city newspapers with far greater resources are swept towards the drain should be of much interest to analysts and experts.
They will, if they do some research, find many reasons for what seems to be a phenomenon. The main one is probably that The Herald provides a high percentage of content that readers won’t find anywhere else in one package.
One can easily spend an hour or more reading a copy of The Herald, which adds up to value for money.
In addition to excellent coverage of local news, the paper regularly breaks stories of national importance.
The old lady may not win prizes for good looks and literary writing, but it offers a sensible mix of news, columns (some better than others), articles and often brilliant photographs.
Whatever happens in local government, especially behind closed doors, The Herald will find out and convey to its readers. Hardly any serious crime is committed without The Herald reporting on it.
You can still read about club and school sport in The Herald, even though few people realise how much work it takes to obtain the information. By counting the number of news items in any edition of The Herald and comparing it with the acres of easy-way-out syndicated copy that other papers publish to fill pages cheaply, one can pinpoint the main difference.
Newspapers often receive more criticism than they dish out, and The Herald always leaves room for improvement and generously, too. But those who enjoy an enriching dose of daily reading on paper will do well to applaud the “old lady’s” staff.
They may just succeed in proving there is still a place for newspapers.
Gerhard Burger, former newspaper and magazine editor, Port Elizabeth