Dr Musawenkosi Ndlovu, a Senior Lecturer at uct and Mandela Mellon Fellow at Harvard University



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Dr Musawenkosi Ndlovu, a Senior Lecturer at UCT and Mandela Mellon Fellow at Harvard University

  • Dr Musawenkosi Ndlovu, a Senior Lecturer at UCT and Mandela Mellon Fellow at Harvard University


South African media (and citizens) have not yet fully embraced the notion of online journalism.

  • South African media (and citizens) have not yet fully embraced the notion of online journalism.

  • As a result, online journalism in SA is still a few years behind many other countries, especially “first” world countries. I

  • t is almost fifteen years old; it is very much a post-2000 phenomenon.



“News24 is probably the first to venture into online journalism dating back to 1998 and is South Africa’s biggest news site. Its only post 2000 that most news companies started looking into the practice…” (ENCA online journalist, 2014:14).

  • “News24 is probably the first to venture into online journalism dating back to 1998 and is South Africa’s biggest news site. Its only post 2000 that most news companies started looking into the practice…” (ENCA online journalist, 2014:14).



 Perception: online journalism is not quite journalism (Prestige?)

  •  Perception: online journalism is not quite journalism (Prestige?)

  • “The country’s media is still very conservative and most editors I can only describe as “old school” and have not fully embraced the notion of online journalism. As it stands most news media already have a newspaper or tv news or radio news and online is just an addition onto what they already have.

  • “Besides Daily Maverick, I would say not. Online is still viewed as the poorer cousin of journalism, but Daily Maverick has gone a long way to dispel that notion” ((Daily Maverick, 2014)



Commercial Reasons:

  • Commercial Reasons:

  • “One aspect is digital newsrooms will struggle to generate the same amount of revenue traditional newsrooms can” (interviewee, 2014)



Ethical Reasons

  • Ethical Reasons

  • “There is also a perception amongst journalists, citizens and editors about online journalism that we are just a longer version of twitter and other social media which means that facts might be wrong and information misleading and this is far from the truth.  We still have a long way to go in terms of online journalism” (ENCA, 2014)

  • “Credibility for the online journalist has been an uphill battle…” (Daily Maverick, 2014)



I distinguish between Digital- only and Subsidised –Copy provider

  • I distinguish between Digital- only and Subsidised –Copy provider



The majority of news websites are linked to a traditional publications that provide free or subsidised copy to their online presence. 

  • The majority of news websites are linked to a traditional publications that provide free or subsidised copy to their online presence. 

  • Subsidised Copy

  •  www.news24.com   – owned by Media24,

  • www.enca.com  owned by eNCA,

  • www.ewn.co.za owned Primedia,

  • www.iol.co.za owned by the Independent Newspapers, www.sabcnews.com owned by SABC –

  • www.mg.co.za owned by Mail and Guardian LTD



  • Daily Maverick

  • Moneyweb,

  • Politicsweb,

  • Ground Up,

  • Health-eNews



Bloggers fall into a grey area as to whether they meet the definition of online journalism.

  • Bloggers fall into a grey area as to whether they meet the definition of online journalism.

  • Bloggers and/or aggregator sites .

  • If the majority of the content provide is syndicated newswire, rewriting other people's content or copying and pasting tweets into an article, I would struggle to define that as journalism. 



“No. Like I have mentioned there is currently no major news site in the country that does not have a newspaper or tv or radio feeding into it. So almost all newsrooms depend on these mediums as a source of content. Only a handful of newsroom have dedicated online journalists” (Daily Maverick, 2014).  

  • “No. Like I have mentioned there is currently no major news site in the country that does not have a newspaper or tv or radio feeding into it. So almost all newsrooms depend on these mediums as a source of content. Only a handful of newsroom have dedicated online journalists” (Daily Maverick, 2014).  



  • Definitely, we have about 12 million people consuming online media in SA, through various formats including mobile and growing at a rapid pace. 



Original copy is produced as opposed to syndicated wires/press releases,

  • Original copy is produced as opposed to syndicated wires/press releases,

  • The principles of journalism are used to create the copy (research, fact checking, right of reply, etc).



Bloggers and/or aggregator sites can NOT tick those boxes.

  • Bloggers and/or aggregator sites can NOT tick those boxes.

  • If the majority of the content provide is syndicated newswire, rewriting other people's content or copying and pasting tweets into an article, I would struggle to define that as journalism. 



“This impacts negatively on how online journalism is meant to work – breaking news as it happens when it happens but as an online journalist you need to wait for the newspaper, radio news or tv news to break it before you can online”.

  • “This impacts negatively on how online journalism is meant to work – breaking news as it happens when it happens but as an online journalist you need to wait for the newspaper, radio news or tv news to break it before you can online”.



  • The principles remain the same, but digital is pushing journalists to produce more than just written words.

  • Audio/video will soon become part and parcel of what is expected as news organisations are required to keep pace with reader demands.



  • “Whereas with tv you have 2 minutes for a story or radio which is about 30 seconds or print which has space limitations online has no space limitation and thus competition is fierce because all the content you want to put out, you reader must be interested enough to go through all of it. Online you have multimedia packages, info graphics, interactive maps, you can play around with the top quotes, a picture gallery. It gives enough space to work”.



  • Multimedia journalists complain that:

  • “The biggest problem for online journalists is twitter because most people pick up the news from twitter and that is why all media houses have twitter accounts to re-direct followers to the full story on their websites.

  • In this day and age people prefer their news on the go, and the greatest challenge is cutting what would have been a 2000 words story to 200 words because online audiences don’t have time for long stories and most likely would read the first five lines and move on”



“Yes. There are different kinds of online journalists just like offline journalists – you have tv reporters, radio and print. Online you have online journalist and multimedia reporter.

  • “Yes. There are different kinds of online journalists just like offline journalists – you have tv reporters, radio and print. Online you have online journalist and multimedia reporter.

  • I write as a multimedia reporter and the conditions are different. I have to do what used to be five people jobs by myself – shoot own video footage, write and edit a television story, take pictures and edit them for online, write text story for online and then still tweet at stories”.



“Not too different. One aspect is digital newsrooms will struggle to generate the same amount of revenue traditional newsrooms can. Whilst that may not necessarily mean they're paid less, they will definitely have fewer resources and be required to produce more than traditional counterparts, and can place even more pressure and workload on them. Organisational structures will be much flatter, but again these are differences given the smaller budgets. They won't have print deadlines to meet, so that generally means they are on call 24hrs and submitting copy at all hours of the day. They are also less inclined to be office based as they can work from the field, home, etc easier than traditional journalists.” 

  • “Not too different. One aspect is digital newsrooms will struggle to generate the same amount of revenue traditional newsrooms can. Whilst that may not necessarily mean they're paid less, they will definitely have fewer resources and be required to produce more than traditional counterparts, and can place even more pressure and workload on them. Organisational structures will be much flatter, but again these are differences given the smaller budgets. They won't have print deadlines to meet, so that generally means they are on call 24hrs and submitting copy at all hours of the day. They are also less inclined to be office based as they can work from the field, home, etc easier than traditional journalists.” 



“We all have different views. But an online space gives more opportunity to present your story with all information. And it is more challenging.”

  • “We all have different views. But an online space gives more opportunity to present your story with all information. And it is more challenging.”



“The brand we've created is alluring to journalists not because of the medium but the working environment and editorial philosophy. If we were a print publication, I would expect it to be the same. Credibility for the online journalist has been an uphill battle, but it something we have worked hard dispelling over the last four and half years. But I would say that we're in a minority, especially compared to major markets like the USA and UK, where online publications are better received” (Daily Maverick, 2014).  

  • “The brand we've created is alluring to journalists not because of the medium but the working environment and editorial philosophy. If we were a print publication, I would expect it to be the same. Credibility for the online journalist has been an uphill battle, but it something we have worked hard dispelling over the last four and half years. But I would say that we're in a minority, especially compared to major markets like the USA and UK, where online publications are better received” (Daily Maverick, 2014).  




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