The New Age print edition out now

The New Age hopes to gain massive
readership quickly.
(Image: Bongani Nkosi)

Editor Henry Jeffreys said  they are not
biased towards the ANC.
(Image: The New Age)

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Bongani Nkosi

The New Age, the latest national newspaper to launch in South Africa, has finally hit the streets after delays of several months.

The newspaper becomes the most recent to seek penetration into the challenging mainstream print media market. The first print version came out on 6 December 2010, with copies being sold across the country.

The paper planned to launch in September, but this didn’t happen. In October it tried again, but efforts were scuppered by the resignation of appointed chief editor Vuyo Mvoko and four other key staff members.

Following the setback, a new editor-in-chief, Henry Jeffreys, was appointed and he took up the post on 1 December. Jeffreys has a strong background in Afrikaans newspapers and was formerly editor of the daily Die Burger.

The New Age is owned by business moguls with strong ties to the ruling African National Congress (ANC). Many media pundits have predicted that it will serve as a propaganda tool for the party and the government.

It’s owned by TNA Media, whose executive chairperson Atul Gupta shares close ties with the ANC and the country’s President Jacob Zuma. TNA’s director Essop Pahad is an ANC veteran and was a minister in the presidency under Thabo Mbeki’s tenure.

The paper’s owners have made it clear that The New Age will report on the government in a positive manner, but it will remain objective and it will not act as the government’s agent.

It will not be biased towards the ANC, The New Age claims. “We hold no political brief for any political party or formation. We are proudly South African and fiercely independent – and owe allegiance only to our readers and South Africa,” said Jeffreys in a front-page note in the paper.

Vow of deeper coverage

The broadsheet newspaper, which sells for R3.50 (US$0.50), is promising to cover all nine provinces in far more detail than any of its competitors. Wider coverage is an identified market gap, according to The New Age.

“We aim to give a voice to under-reported rural and semi-rural communities,” said Jeffreys. “We hope we do not fail, especially in our efforts to cover the lesser known provinces.”

The paper’s Sunday edition is still on hold, and the launch date will be announced in early 2011.

The New Age is forecast to score big from state advertising, which, some have said, will be at the expense of other papers. The launch copy carries adverts from both the government and private sector.

Experienced staff roped in

Several experienced journalists from the print industry have joined The New Age, some from stables such as Independent Newspapers and Media 24.

There’s an enormous expectation of The New Age to cover stories differently from its competitors, noted Xolani Mbanjwa, a senior political reporter formerly of Independent Newspapers.

“We have to live up to the expectation that we will offer a different product to what is in the more established media publications,” Mbanjwa said in a statement on the eve of the launch.

“For everyone involved it’s been a rollercoaster ride and we’re happy that we have the platform to produce a product that is credible and offers different voices.”

Zinhle Maphumulo, the erstwhile Sowetan senior health reporter, said: “Finally we get the chance to prove to sceptics that we are not a government newspaper. We’ve waited a long time to come out.”