Letter from the editors – 4 March 2022

[ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN SUIDERNUUS, 4 MARCH 2022]

 

When we put Suidernuus back on the shelves, we started looking at what else is on the shelf. Who are these brave people who put koerante wat jy kan vashou on the stands in a time of Facebook, WhatsApp en Twitter?

There are, of course, the stalwarts people read to know wat gaan aan in die land Die Burger, The Cape Times and The Daily Sun. Sondae is daar Rapport en die Sunday Times.

On Fridays: Daily Maverick, the paper Branko Brkic launched at a time when others are closing them down. Give that man a Bell’s!

In our closer community there are also a few plucky papers:

There is Gans-Berg News, whose journalist Hardus Botha has a fine soul. Like us (Editors’ letter, 18 February 2022), Hardus has also noticed the power of the elements (‘The unpredictability of nature’, 18 February 2022).

Dan’s daar TransOverberg, wie se Sydney Armoed duidelik sy vinger op die pols het van die gemeenskap op Caledon en omgewing. He writes with a fervour and frankness that most won’t have he guts to show (‘Wanneer gaan iets hieraan gedoen word?’, 17 Februarie 2022).

Op die rak is ook Twee Oseane Nuus van Jannie Marais wat sorg dat die hengelaars nie afgeskeep word nie.

But what was our surprise great when we saw on the stands a community newspaper that traditionally has nothing to do with our region! Its area of coverage is Hermanus and surrounds. Every now and again there’s a verdwaalde storietjie oor iets wat gebeur het in die suider-Overberg and soms a few kiekies when our school kids excel. Otherwise the news is irrelevant for us.

Ja, Hermanus Times word versprei hier in die suidelike Overberg. Distributed is a misnomer. What we’ve witnessed are plastic packs of some 50 papers apiece, dropped off everywhere you can put something down: the police station, the library and every single shop that would have them.

For comparison: We drop off two copies of Suidernuus at the library on Fridays and Adjudant-offisier Jakobus Marthinus, Bredasdorp police’s communications officer, picks up his copy at our offices.

The thing is, Hermanus Times is given away for free. Gratis en verniet. This sounds like a great deal, no? However, everyone we have spoken to – and we’ve spoken to many! – tells us they don’t read the paper. Not our news, they shrug.

One shopowner in Bredasdorp has told us people come pick up stacks of the paper when they move and want to wrap glase en porseleinbeeldjies. Or they use it to lay out the cages of their marmotjies, papegaaie en kokketiele. Or, worse, they use it to pick up hondepoef. We’d be ashamed if Suidernuus were used to pick up hondepoef before it’s even been read. But maybe it’s just us.

All of this sounds amusing. And, yes, it’s anecdotal. But there’s a reality behind the geskerts that is pretty awful for us. You see, when community newspapers want advertisements from big retailers, soos byvoorbeeld Checkers, OK en Pick n Pay, we have to work through a central agent who represents us based on a profile of our circulation and the area where we distribute. Ons mag nie vir onsself praat nie.

These retailers obviously look at circulation when they make their pick where to place an ad. Because they don’t know us and what we look like inside, gaan hulle mos nou, obviousy, hul advertensies sit in die koerant wat die meeste verkoop. Of die meeste verniet weggee.

Now, currently we print just short of 1 000 copies that we sell for R7 apiece. Most are sold. Ons hoop ons is reg as ons glo mense wat ’n koerant koop, lees hom. Hermanus Times, we have been informed by someone in the know, distributes 5 000 koerante in die suidelike Overberg!

Regardless of whether these newspapers are read or used to line kokketiel cages, doesn’t matter. When the retailers in Jo’burg and Cape Town hear the number 5 000 and compare it with Suidernuus’s >1 000, they pick the kokketiel-cage liner.

So, no surprises, then, that we have not had a single ad from a large retailer since we have resumed printing. (Ag, we can’t even get on the shelves of one of them, also because of “centralised headquarter decision issues”! But that’s another story we covered in our editors’ letter of 11 February 2022.)

Die storie klink dalk silly. Maar hou in gedagte: koerante het advertensies nodig om geld te maak. Of, as hulle baie klein is, eenvoudig om te oorleef.

Laat mens dink, nê? Dis ’n tough life om ’n klein koerantjie te wees.

Nogtans. Ons bly op die rak.

Best wishes,

The editors