Media 24 announced last week that it will be closing down many of its famous printed newspapers including Beeld, Rapport and City Press and also the Daily Sun and Soccer Laduma.

The reason is that circulations are falling and papers are running at a loss. It will concentrate on its digital versions. This is sad. These papers are household names, part of the South African furniture, and some have been running for over fifty years.

But it is part of a worldwide trend, where paper circulations are shrinking and famous publications, such as Newsweek, have stopped printing. The astonishing electronic revolution, quite unprecedented in the history of technology, has with blinding speed changed the whole way in which we send and receive news, information and comment. It is far cheaper and quicker than printed paper.

There are two consequences: first, digital communication has taken over from paper everywhere except in certain niche markets (books and certain magazines); second, the big mainstream media (MSM) are being overtaken by small, specialist electronic publications and websites. The market for information and comment is fragmenting and reaching a far more diverse audience.

I like paper; I like holding a newspaper in my hand and reading a magazine in the bath; but I welcome the change. I think it is much for the good; it escapes from the self-censorship and deadening uniformity of the MSM media today.

Going the same way

To a lesser extent, television is going the same way. In the past, the only way you could get cinema news, comment and drama in your house was through a TV screen, which received broadcasts from an expensive TV studio using expensive transmitters. Today you can get these on your laptop sent by somebody else from a laptop or from a small, cheap camera and microphone in his study. I gave up TV a long time ago and can get everything I need, and more, on my cheap laptop, giving me an enormously greater range of topics, stories, news, old movies, drama, specialist interests, history and science than I could ever get on my TV. I wonder why anybody bothers with TV anymore.

What is the purpose of newspapers and why do some people want to own them? To make money? To provide objective information (which is nearly impossible) or objective comment (which is impossible)? Status? To entertain? Propaganda? To improve people’s minds and morals? To improve the world? To present a creed or belief or ideology or a point of view? To give people what they want or to give people what you think they should want? To make people think or to make people stop thinking?

Various papers do all of these things in different ways, and have done so since the invention of the modern printing press in about 1450 – and probably before. The recent trend in the MSM is towards uniformity of thought and selection of news to enforce this uniformity.

Journalists and editors today all belong to the same rather elitist class of people with a similar middle-class background (university degrees in arts and politics and seldom in science and engineering) and with the identical socialist ideology and disdain for business. They all follow blindly the latest woke fashions (climate hysteria, unquestioning belief in anything the big drug corporations say about their wretched mRNA vaccines, advocacy of the belief that eight-year-old children should be able to decide to take hormones to change their sex, and hatred of Israel).


In the USA most of the MSM are simply praise-singers for the Democratic Party and witchfinders against the Republicans. Whether they are in print or TV, the woke MSM all say the same thing. The BBC, CNN, New York Times, Washington Post, Guardian, Rolling Stone, and our own Mail and Guardian and Daily Maverick all say the same thing. The British papers do have more diversity but growing wokeness is tending to make them converge. Private Eye, for example, which used to mock the establishment, now fawns before it, and is trying to become a funny version of The Guardian but succeeding only in being an unfunny version of The Guardian.

I have lived ten years of my adult life in England and the rest in South Africa, and do not think that British newspapers are particularly better than South African ones, except that in the past they had more diversity, especially in class. The superior conservative classes read The Telegraph and the working-class conservatives read the Express; the superior socialists read The Guardian and the working-class socialists read The Mirror.

All of the superior editors and journalists of whatever persuasion thought they would give the working classes what was good for them. Then the great Ozzie rogue, Rupert Murdoch, came along and decided to give the workers what they wanted, namely bums, tits, murders and royalty, and started up The Sun, which was an immediate publishing sensation.

In South Africa, newspapers were less divided on class, all being run by a similar middle-class to that in Britain. Then in 2002 came our own version of Murdoch, namely Deon du Plessis of Naspers. He did the obvious thing, which it seems no South African editor before him had thought to do. He asked his black staff what interested the black working classes and what they would like to read. They told him, and so he launched the Daily Sun, which gave them just that: sex scandals, witchcraft, local corruption, the Tokoloshe, murders and rapes, and detailed local gossip. (I don’t know if Du Plessis copied the title from Murdoch’s paper.)

Reporting the truth

The Daily Sun immediately became the best-selling newspaper in South Africa by far, horrifying both white and black middle-class journalists alike. Personally, I think the Daily Sun is the best newspaper in South Africa: it never shrinks from reporting the truth, which our liberal newspapers continually did and still do.

During the final violent years of apartheid, our liberal papers ceaselessly and rightly attacked the atrocities of the apartheid state but ignored the atrocities of the ANC, when innocent working-class people were roasted to death by ANC cadres. In 2016, the Daily Sun, and it alone, reported on the terrible case of a young black man whose “balls were cut off and his eyes gouged out” by other black men. The rest of our MSM ignored the story of this young man blinded and castrated for life, but went on and on about Penny Sparrow’s saying the blacks on a littered beach behaved like monkeys. Here’s to the Daily Sun!

But now it too is going digital. This is another achievement of the electronic revolution, that even poor working-class people can afford digital communications.

The obsession of my political life is the lack of reporting by the MSM on Africa, our own continent, on black people in their own right. Throughout the English-speaking MSM, there is massive interest in white people and their sinful ways, and no interest in black people. If 69 black people are killed by white people in Sharpeville in 1960, the MSM gives it headlines for years; if 300,000 Hutu are systematically slaughtered by Tutsis in1972, the MSM is silent. Now that the MSM is retreating before the digital advance, I hope there will be a chance for black people in Burundi, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Angola, the Congo and elsewhere to tell us, to tell the world, their own stories; to tell the world what is really happening to them.

“More trustworthy”

I read this telling paragraph from the Walsworth Publishing Company: “Consumers perceive traditional media channels as more trustworthy than online media. Simply put, people trust print more than most other sources. With the worry of fake news and how quickly things are posted and shared online, people find it harder to trust what they read digitally. In a survey done by Two Sides, they discovered print magazines are rated as the single most trusted news source. A separate survey found 86% of respondents favored print. Understandably, 63% of people believed reading news in print gave them a deeper understanding of a story.

If this is true, and most people trust the printed word of the MSM more than the digital words of specialist websites, then everything I have said about the benefits of the changes in communications today is doubly true. I am not on Twitter (X now) or any other of the social media (except WhatsApp) so I cannot comment on fake news from them, but I can say that far more fake news and disinformation comes from the MSM than from specialist websites. The BBC is probably the worst of all for fake news.

Climate alarm is the central obsession for the MSM. This includes The Economist, which used to be rational and should know better. My only qualifications are in physics and engineering, so I know nothing about bank rates or monetary policy or the hierarchy of the Zulu royal family. But I do know enough about climate science to know that the belief that rising CO2 is changing the climate in a dangerous way is nonsense, with no backing in science. Our climate is fine; rising CO2 will do nothing but good.

From the BBC, which seems to have few if any journalists with a background in physics, comes an endless stream of fake news and hysterical warnings about coming climate catastrophe. “Yet another heatwave fraud from the BBC” writes Paul Homewood of Notalotofpeopleknowthat, as he quotes the BBC as saying the current heatwaves in India are unprecedented. Homewood then produces graphs to show they are not. But if the MSM are not qualified in the science of climate change, a number of specialist websites are.

Deep understanding

These are websites run by scientists with a deep understanding of climate science and a mass of data and evidence they can produce to show that climate alarm is nonsense. Some examples: Watts Up With That run by a meteorologist, Anthony Watt; CO2 Science, run by father and son scientists, Idso; climateaudit, run by the statistical expert Steve McIntyre, exposing fake stats used by the alarmists; Climate Etc run by Dr Judith Curry; and many more. Any one of these will give you a far “deeper understanding” of climate change than anything you will ever get from the MSM.

I regret to say that climate hysteria has corrupted the scientific establishment and mainstream scientific journals such as Nature and Scientific American. It was Nature that in 1998 published the paper (MBH98) that established the fraudulent Hockey Stick graph showing temperatures steady for centuries before 1900 and then suddenly shooting up to unprecedented highs. Complete rubbish.

Nature published the paper without investigating it in any way, without questioning the data (which were awful) or the statistical methods (which were secret and wrong). “Peer Review” for Nature meant publishing anything that confirmed climate alarm and rejecting anything that did not. It was a scientific disgrace. Unfortunately, it became the norm in mainstream science.

The only publications that keep to scientific methods and the scientific philosophy as laid down by Karl Popper, which said that no theory should be accepted unless there is a way of showing it to be false, are the specialised websites, which almost alone are keeping the flame of reason and science alight. “Here is my theory: prove it wrong.” That is science. “Here is my theory: believe it”. That is religion.

Women’s magazines

Whenever I go to the local shopping mall, I always go to the news stands, looking for Business Day, Financial Mail, the headlines on The Cape Times, The Argus and The Daily Voice, and just maybe The Economist. But all of these comprise less than 5% of the magazines on view. 95% are women’s magazines. These emphasise beauty, youth, hair styles, dress, cosmetics, skin treatment, perfumes, health, diet, ways of attracting men (if only most women knew how pathetically easy it is for them to attract men without any artifice at all) and that sort of thing.

Most of the women on the covers are young, slim and white. In airports around the world, I see the same thing. I suppose women’s magazines are suffering the digital age as much as any other publications (Jane Raphaely shut down her Associated Media Publishing in 2020) but many seem to be surviving remarkably well. This is probably profound, but I haven’t yet worked out why.

I want to read a novel in a book, not on Kindle. I like putting The Economist, however woke it has become, in my rucksack as I cycle to the local pub. I like spreading out the Sunday Times on the table on my stoep next to a bottle of wine, and my girlfriend likes doing its crossword. Afterwards you can use it for cat litter or wrapping plates and cups, which you cannot do with a digital publication.

But I welcome the demise of the printed MSM. I think we are entering a better, more diverse, more accessible, more truthful, more learned world of information and comment, thanks to the electronic revolution. And I like the Daily Friend.

[Image: Mr Cup / Fabien Barral on Unsplash]

The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the Daily Friend or the IRR.

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Andrew Kenny is a writer, an engineer and a classical liberal.