A newsroom that punched above its weight

‘SA journalism will be poorer without Weekend Post’

Some of the Weekend Post editors, news editors and reporters in recent years
Some of the Weekend Post editors, news editors and reporters in recent years

Over the decades, Weekend Post adapted to the changing times, each era bringing a newsroom with its own flair and flavour.

Saturdays of old used to see three editions published within hours of each other, with readers embracing award-winning journalism, tongue-in-cheek writing and a swap column that had bargain hunters lining up around the block of Newspaper House.

Over time, this gave way to lifestyle pieces, in-depth investigations and the occasional scandal — all tailored to the Nelson Mandela Bay readership.

Former news editor Brett Adkins said he believed Weekend Post had done all it could to keep up with the times, and its closure was the next logical step.

“Its time has come and gone. I never saw a newspaper morph as much as Weekend Post had to, to stay relevant.

“Over the years we tried several approaches to revive it; some worked while others didn’t.

“But I believe the longevity of the publication can be attributed to the people who worked there and had the passion to keep it afloat, even in later years when it started to suffer an identity crisis and started to lose its relevance.”

Former Weekend Post news editor Brett Adkins recalls some of his best moments during his years at the paper
STAYED COMMITTED: Former Weekend Post news editor Brett Adkins recalls some of his best moments during his years at the paper

Adkins had several stints with the publication, but started working exclusively for Weekend Post in 1996.

A team of only three reporters and a news editor was behind three separate editions on a Saturday, and Adkins remembered how his way into the office was barred by hundreds of readers waiting for the first edition and the popular swap column and Classifieds.

“This was before websites like Gumtree and the Classifieds were exactly that — it was classified information that saw people trying to bribe newspaper employees to give them the inside track on things that would come up for sale,” Adkins said, laughing.

He remembers many of his own stories, among them Weekend Post’s coverage of the September 11 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York.

“It happened on a Tuesday and our editor, Jeremy McCabe, wanted us to find some kind of local link.

“I interviewed a young family and their two daughters, aged about eight and nine, who had visited the Trade Centre just days before the attack.

“Their biggest concern was the friendly ladies who had served them ice-cream at the top of one of the towers. It was a sweet, heartbreaking story.”

It was enough to win Adkins a Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award.

The next year the awards went national, and the paper continued to rake in the accolades for outstanding journalism.

Between 1991 and 2014, Samantha Smith also held several titles at Weekend Post, ranging from intern to deputy editor.

She recalls frantically chasing breaking news stories for the later editions on a Saturday afternoon, and labouring away over the “hot press” with typesetters before the final product was sent to the printers.

Former Weekend Post deputy editor Samantha Smith
KEY ROLE: Former Weekend Post deputy editor Samantha Smith

“In 1994, I was one of the first reporters to cover the brutal murder of a 13-year-old girl [Ciska du Toit] in her Mount Pleasant home — allegedly by intruders.

“It was a secret note thrown into her coffin at her funeral by her 16-year-old sister [Amanda du Toit] that raised suspicion and ultimately led to the teen’s arrest and conviction.

“Many of the stories I covered were traumatic and shocking, but there were also so many stories of inspiration, hope, happiness, fun and entertainment.

“Weekend Post punched above its weight, and SA journalism will be poorer without it,” Smith said.

Former reporter Brian Hayward learnt the importance of not just writing stories that served up facts, but giving readers context, and hopefully enlightening and empowering them.

He started at Weekend Post fresh out of university in 2006, and had worked his way up to chief reporter by the time he left in 2016, winning numerous regional and national awards along the way.

Brian Hayward
LEARNT A LOT: Brian Hayward

“One of my more amusing takeaways from Weekend Post was never to discount a spouse or politician with an axe to grind. It was the source of some of our top scoops. 

“Among the many stories that come to mind, I remember the cloak-and-dagger affair of the contentious Kabuso Report, leaked to me by a politician in a busy suburban shopping centre parking lot.

“The report accused various politicians and Bay municipal employees of mismanagement, and had wide-ranging ramifications.

“Breaking news was never a solo affair. It was a team effort, from colleagues to subeditors, news editors and the big bosses.

“I loved that camaraderie, and I miss it in our increasingly siloed, digital world,” Hayward said.

Working alongside Smith and Hayward, former Journalist of the Year award winner Nicky Willemse fondly recalls travelling to Beaufort West with photographer Fredlin Adriaan and discovering the town’s rich history, and a museum in honour of acclaimed heart surgeon Chris Barnard.

Nicky Willemse

“But our most memorable story there was about Antoinette Pienaar, an actress turned ‘herb queen’.

“We interviewed her and Oom Johannes Willemse, the Griqua herbalist who in 2001 healed her from cerebral malaria and who went on to become her teacher in natural healing.

“We travelled well off the beaten track to find Antoinette and Oom Johannes at the foot of a mountain, where they lived.

“The trip was not only educational but filled with warmth, laughter and incredible anecdotes.”

Lauren Cohen’s relationship with Weekend Post started when her letter to the editor was published while she was still in matric.

“Little did I know I would later spend three years working at Weekend Post, becoming deputy chief reporter and winning four Vodacom Journalist of the Year awards,” Cohen said.

Lauren Cohen

She remembers receiving updates from police spokespeople via fax and covering stories about a haunted house in Buckingham Road which repeatedly burned down.

“Deadline day was always stressful.

“What I will never forget is the excitement and roar of standing next to the printing press late on a Friday night to get a copy of the following day’s Weekend Post — literally hot off the press,” Cohen said.

Current news editor Kathryn Kimberley said it was bittersweet to be sending the Weekend Post on its twilight cruise.

Growing up in the Karoo town of Graaff-Reinet, she remembers how her father would buy the paper religiously, and read it back to front — always starting with the sport section first.

“And now here I am, the last news editor of Weekend Post after a long line of predecessors.”

Before her latest role, Kimberley established herself as one of the country’s leading court reporters.

The Herald and Weekend Post news editor Kathryn Kimberley
FINAL GOODBYE: The Herald and Weekend Post news editor Kathryn Kimberley

She said the merging of The Herald and Weekend Post newsrooms meant there was no longer a team dedicated to work throughout the week on Weekend Post.

Instead, both publications became everyone’s priority, meaning a longer work week.

“But it also meant having journalists dedicated to court, crime, politics, health, education, and the list goes on, ensuring a larger variety of news.”

For her, Weekend Post always had a different feel to other newspapers.

“It is an honour to have led a joint team of Herald and Weekend Post reporters over the past couple of years in ensuring we put out the best weekend read.

“At the same time it is heartbreaking to see a product I am extremely proud of be put to bed one last time.”



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