Image via Canva

Durban journalism students express mixed reactions to media cuts

Announcement of possible closure of five Media24 newspapers and magazines leads to concerns about a journalism career.


Image via Canva

Students at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) have reacted in various ways to the news of Media24’s possible closure of publications.

First-year journalism student Ntokozo Cele said that the failure of publications and closing down of newspapers and magazines was the worst thing to happen to up-and-coming journalists.

“I may not be in the industry yet, but I am halfway there. It worries me a lot that jobs are becoming more and more scarce,” Cele said. “Even iconic publications, as well the public broadcaster, are retrenching as well.”

Third-year broadcasting student Siphelele Nzuza thought change was good although jobs would be lost.

Move from print to digital

“The move from print to digital will bring new opportunities,” Nzuza said. “It will draw in more and mostly new customers who will subscribe to the content.

“This is an opportunity for upcoming journalists to learn new skills.

“Publications should find new ways of drawing in young people since they’re the ones dominating the internet and social media space.”

The students were reacting to the announcement by Media24 CEO Ishmet Davidson on Tuesday 7 July. Davidson said the media house was considering closing down five magazines and two newspapers.

Layoffs and closures

News agency Reuters reported yesterday that the layoffs and closures come in the wake of planned job cuts at public broadcaster the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). In June, the SABC announced it may have to retrench 600 employees.

Reuters reported there were similar moves at other members of the country’s “big four” print publishers: Arena Holdings (formerly Tiso Blackstar), Caxton and Independent News.

Failure of the media, not journalism

DUT New Media lecturer Sphelele Ngubane highlighted differences between journalism and the media business.  

“What we’re witnessing now is the failure of the media business, which then affects journalism,” he said. This was because journalism should be beyond profits and operations.

“It is established as an institution to safeguard democracy.”

In New Media, students learn how to write news and create multimedia content for online consumption rather than conventional print media.

“The closure of media houses and publications is a crisis. The failure of some of the publications is a disaster and we can’t shy away from it,” said Ngubane.

Is anything new coming up?

“The big question now is, with the old dying, is there anything new coming up?

“How do we take advantage of the digital space that comes with the Fourth Industrial Revolution and 5G as well?

“We need business people to look at how they can make media institutions make enough money to fund journalism. There are options in the digital age,” he said.

The Chevening scholar believes that if universities work closely with the industry, they would know how to better prepare students.

“In terms of the curriculum, there’s always room for improvement. We can do that by working closely with the industry, understanding what their needs are and what type of people they need to produce quality journalism.”