Transformation of the media in South Africa is much more than just a change in ownership. It is about making real and meaningful change at all levels of the organisation in order to bring about lasting impact and a truly democratic press where everyone is included in the narrative.
When Sekunjalo acquired the Irish-owned Independent Media in 2013, the company embarked on an intensive transformation campaign with the sole purpose of leading a new media revolution in our country. This transformation was never based on race, as in who had jobs and who didn’t and excluding any one or particular storyline but, on the inclusion of all aspects of our diverse society in order to offer different perspectives to readers.
Whereas the media group largely reflected a Western and neo-liberal narrative under its previous ownership, it has since strived to develop one, more in line with the thinking not only of our own peoples but, also that of a global South. It is a strategy, which places Africans and Africa at the centre of its paradigm.
Independent Media thus experienced an overhaul like no other in the history of media in South Africa.
The company’s organigram was restructured, the executive, management teams and news rooms were overhauled, staff were upskilled to embrace the digital future and we welcomed on board, new, progressive columnists and journalists from a variety of backgrounds. We also knew that transformation of the media meant breaking the patriarchal male dominance and the perpetuation of gender stereotypes. And, as part of our inclusive strategy, we needed to empower more voices from our communities to tell their own stories, from whichever political perspective they come.
The new Independent Media is almost six years old this year. We believe that we are playing a leading role in helping to build and strengthen a democratic South Africa through our media for social change initiatives.
Our national media platforms have sought to play a constructive role in highlighting South Africa’s most pressing and burning issues and allowing for healthy debate across all sectors of society. Our internationally acclaimed campaigns like the #RacismStopsWithMe and #DignityProject are examples of how we were able to mobilise our readership community and client base, to rally together in support of these campaigns. We are very respectful and somewhat proud, of this critical role we play in society.
We have made a phenomenal shift within the media sphere towards a democratic and transparent mode of journalism.
The road has not been an easy one – change is not always welcome, even if it is necessary – but our efforts to change the organisation from top to bottom to accelerate the pace and direction of change in the media at large, are reaping rewards – for everyone. It is just the beginning though.
We congratulate Labashe on the bold step that it has taken to enter the dynamic media industry. It has in its hands the ability to play a seminal role in continuing to bring about social change not only in South Africa but the rest of the continent.