Colourful Eastern Cape icon Weekend Post hits the streets one last time

Media legend calls it a wrap

Arena Holdings staff from all departments gather to bid farewell to Weekend Post at the media house's office at The Atrium in Greenacres this week
END OF AN ERA: Arena Holdings staff from all departments gather to bid farewell to Weekend Post at the media house's office at The Atrium in Greenacres this week
Image: Fredlin Adriaan

It’s the end of an era as the last edition of Weekend Post prepares to roll off the press after nearly 80 years.

The Herald’s sister newspaper, Weekend Post was in many ways the voice of the Eastern Cape, colourful and diverse, interrogative but leisurely, the perfect friendly companion to a Saturday morning coffee.

But times have changed, and it’s time to call it a wrap.

Rochelle de Kock, editor of The Herald and Weekend Post,  said it was not easy to say goodbye to a product she and her team were passionate about.

“You always question what you could have done differently to keep it going, but ultimately it comes down to the reading patterns of consumers.

Weekend Post has played an important role in keeping the residents of Nelson Mandela Bay and surrounding regions informed for more than 76 years.

“It was part of the Saturday morning ritual — waking up to collect your paper and reading news and leisure over a cup of coffee.

“Not having that any more on a Saturday is going to be an adjustment.”

She said newspapers were struggling the world over, with declining circulation, the rationalisation of titles and retrenchments.

“Our organisation has not been spared from this.

“Trends show more readers prefer to get their news on digital platforms, and the reality is we have had to evolve to accommodate that.

“Saturday newspapers are struggling everywhere. It’s not just a problem in SA.”

She said Weekend Post’s strength had been in its variety.

It was a family newspaper, with a little bit of everything for each member of the family.

“There were some hard-hitting stories, some that were more in depth, as well as fun, leisure and helpful content.

“We often had personal stories about people we could relate to, or those who inspired us.

“Sport used to be a big factor in Weekend Post before we had news online.

“Many readers talk about the swap column that was immensely popular in the 1980s and 1990s.

“With online agencies such as Gumtree and Marketplace, the swap column fell away.”

De Kock said the aim with the new Weekender was to give readers all the leisure content that they enjoyed in Weekend Post — and more.

It will be inserted in The Herald on Fridays, which is still a very popular read among our audiences.

“The Weekender will include all the food, wine, travel and household content our readers have come to enjoy, but will also include some of the big reads and interviews with Eastern Cape movers and shakers.

“We want it to be a treat for our readers, something extra that they can read at their leisure.”

Ryan Megaw, Eastern Cape general manager of Arena, which owns Weekend Post, said for many readers the purchase of their homes started from an advert in Weekend Post.

“It has formed part of the fabric of many people’s lives for many years, so we are very sad to say farewell to Weekend Post.

“It served our community well through the years, and is an iconic brand in the minds of many in Nelson Mandela Bay and the Eastern Cape.

“But at the same time we need to embrace change. 

“The Weekender which we are launching is exciting and is designed to engage our readers and bring a fresh approach to the weekend.”

He said Weekend Post’s content was in greater demand than ever before.

“But over the weekend, many readers are either relaxing or on the move, and consume their news online on their phones.

“Advertisers have also changed their approach, and are concentrating their print advertising during the week where engagement is high, and are embracing digital advertising to a greater degree.

“We need to reposition ourselves to meet the needs of our customers.”

He said Arena believed the Weekender was exactly what readers would enjoy.

“We believe it will enhance their weekend experience by providing both a relaxing read, but also exciting things to do and experience.

“We hope it finds a place in the hearts of our readers and in time will become an essential part of everyone’s weekend.”

Megaw said the Weekender would be launched on Friday March 1, as a separate section of The Herald.

The Weekender website, to be launched two weeks later, would differ in approach from HeraldLIVE, in that it would present lifestyle-type content in a fresh and exciting way.

The lineage of Weekend Post includes the EP Herald (SA’s oldest newspaper, which started in 1845) and the PE Advertiser (1865) and, more recently, Saturday Post (1947) and Daily Advertiser (1948).

In 1949, British newspaper proprietor Lord Iliffe acquired enough shares of EP Newspapers to give him a majority holding.

He bought the Saturday Post and combined it and the Daily Advertiser under the new title Evening Post, which was first published in 1950.

Later, the Saturday edition of the Evening Post became the Weekend Post — and by Weekend Post’s 50th anniversary celebration in April 1997, it had the largest circulation in the Eastern Cape. 

Circulation figures rocketed from 34,767 in mid-1994 to 38,421 in mid-1996. 

One of the happy 50th anniversary wishes was from then Bay mayor Nceba Faku who applauded Weekend Post’s stance against racial injustice and continued watchdog role, taking the lead from its legendary inaugural editor, John Sutherland.

In 2011, Faku, then no longer mayor but still regional leader of the ANC, was quoted by a number of media houses as calling for The Herald to be burned down.

Together with The Herald, Weekend Post covered this incident and other fraught and complex political stories through the decades.

But there was also business, community wrangles, concerns and triumphs, and dramatic court sagas.

One of those that captured the headlines weekend after weekend in the late 1990s was the murder of leading attorney and rugby personality Merwe Swart.

In terms of ownership, after EP Newspapers came Johnnic, then Times Media, Avusa, Times Media again, Tiso Blackstar, and today The Herald and Weekend Post are owned by Arena Holdings.

In 2003, Weekend Post was repositioned from Saturday afternoon to Saturday morning, in line with the call from readers and advertisers.

The new distribution time meant retailers had an opportunity to reach readers before the weekend shopping was done.

Afternoon publication was also an anachronism, harking back to the days when there was little or no entertainment, whereas now it was competing with endless TV sport and shops open all day on Saturday.

The Herald and Weekend Post chief sub editor and former Weekend Post news editor, features editor and assistant editor Louise Liebenberg said this week the demise of a long-established newspaper was something to be mourned, even if a part of it would live on in a new form.

“I will always be grateful to Weekend Post for its role in shaping my media career over a period of nearly 20 years,” Liebenberg said.

“I salute the fine editors, news editors, journalists and photographers, along with the dedicated production, sales and circulation staff, who gave so much of themselves to a publication which, at its height, was the leading weekend newspaper in the Eastern Cape.”

Weekend Post and Herald sales manager Shelly le Roux said Weekend Post had in the past been renowned for its strong classifieds section, but few alternatives were available back then.

“Weekend Post was a great publication and served our advertisers well over the years.

“However, we as the advertising team are very excited about the new Weekender and all the opportunities it presents.

“It’s new and fresh, and will focus on local relevance in the trendiest way.”

Former Weekend Post editor Jeremy McCabe said managing and editing Weekend Post was the most rewarding period of his long career in journalism. 

“In our heyday, the paper was selling more than 36,000 papers every weekend and was a must-read newspaper in the Eastern Cape. 

“I worked with some amazingly talented, dedicated journalists who were committed to keeping the newspaper’s readers informed. 

“A gauge of the professionalism of our journalists was highlighted by the number of awards the newspaper received at the annual Vodacom Journalist of the Year awards.”

McCabe was on the committee that formulated and established the Journalist of the Year awards in the late 1990s/early 2000s.

“This may be the final Weekend Post, but in my heart this wonderful newspaper will live forever.” 

Charmain Naidoo, Weekend Post managing editor from 2006 to 2010, said Weekend Post in that period had been an extraordinary paper not least because it was run by a team of extraordinary women.

“Helen Crooks oversaw the production team with quiet fierceness, ensuring that deadlines were met and copy was pristine before it went to print.

“Samantha Smith and Louise Liebenberg handled the newsdesk with expertise and the kind of professionalism that was demanded in the pre-digital era.

Not for our reporters the posing of questions to an interviewee on Instagram or Facebook; no reaching a contact via TikTok, or DM-ing someone for a quote.

“Face to face was what we did best, and the result was that Weekend Post was seen to be an integral part of the then Port Elizabeth community.”



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