The Springs African Reporter, a weekly community newspaper, is uniquely distributed by local vendors, creating employment for members of its community and ensuring that its weekly 22 000 print order reaches as far as the Johannesburg train station.
Established in 1963, the African Reporter is one of the biggest selling weekly community newspapers in South Africa. Aimed at township readership, it boasts almost 54 years of community service and has gained loyal support among its black readers.
Giving back to the community to ensure job creation and social upliftment, the Caxton owned newspaper, is distributed in various suburbs in Ekurhuleni, on Johannesburg’s East Rand. Selected suburbs include the Springs CBD, Bakerton, Brakpan, Dunnottar and Nigel as well as Tsakane, KwaThema, Duduza, Vlakfontein and Daveyton.
The Newspaper Advertising Bureau (NAB), a division of Caxton and CTP Publishers and Printers Ltd, acts as a brokerage for advertising sales for the African Reporter. The company also represents more than 150 free and sold community newspapers countrywide. “NAB is very proud of the way in which this paper is distributed,” says Gill Randall, Joint Managing Director. “This is the only form of work that many of our vendors have and they know and trust that they can earn an income, even if it’s only for one day a week,” she says.
Despite being unique, many budding entrepreneurs have taken this opportunity to generate their sole household income one step further. “They pre-order bulk copies of the African Reporter and in turn create employment themselves by finding runners to sell the newspaper on their behalf,” Randall explains.
According to Linda Pretorius, the African Reporter’s Sales Manager, “Our vendors take our newspaper seriously. If it’s not out by 8am on a Friday, we have quite a few irate community members on our hands.” She explains, “The African Reporter is their bread and butter. Late distribution means less sales and in turn less income.”
Other factors influence the working conditions faced by the runners on the street. “We have to take the weather into consideration as this can harm the number of sales dramatically,” Pretorius explains. Strikes, transport problems, long weekends and various other factors also play a part. In a bid to ensure job creation and generate an income for its local community, the management of the African Reporter carries a number of extra newspapers and makes allowances where possible for ‘cash customers’ on a Friday. “One of the biggest challenges our vendors face is generating the income to catch a taxi into the CBD on a Thursday so that they can order their required number of newspapers for collection on a Friday,” Pretorius adds.
Besides the local entrepreneurs, school children see the distribution of their local newspaper as an exciting way to earn ‘kos geld’ during the school holidays, resulting in an even greater distribution of the African Reporter.
Randall explains that while its vendors claim the Springs CBD as their own, the newspaper also has a number of regular sales outlets, in the townships, on its books. “These take weekly newspapers on consignment and have seen enormous success, particularly in the taverns, cafes and eating houses.”
According to Cathy Grosvenor, Editor of the African Reporter, its readership profile targets anyone from scholars to the elderly and is very close to its community in terms of news coverage. “Local charities, schools, youth and community organisations are given fair coverage and many weekend happenings are carried out every week. Our readers eagerly await their weekly read,” she says and explains, “Our target audience is given a chance to directly contribute to the newspaper through letters to the editor, where they voice their concerns; classifieds, where funeral announcements are made and some small advertisements are placed; and a section called This & That, where community happenings are noted.
Uniquely distributed through its vibrant network of vendors, all entrepreneurs purchase the African Reporter upfront at a discounted price and then resell to the community at the cover price of R1.50. “This ensures that there are no returns,” Randall concludes.
The entrepreneurs behind the paper
Pinky Nkosi, a 42-year-old African Reporter vendor, has been making a living from selling the newspaper for the past ten years. “I buy 200 copies a week. Selling the paper is my life, I have no other source of income,” he says.
Pinky expresses the importance of this income in keeping him free from crime. “Although it is not a vast income, it keeps me on the right side of the law,” he says. Over the years Pinky has built up a regular client base, enabling him to sell all of the copies he buys each week. “I need to support my son, and this my only means to do so,” he says.
According to Pinky, his clients don’t want to miss one issue of the newspaper. “The African Reporter is synonymous with its community, who knows and identifies with it,” he explains.
While the African Reporter does all it can to uplift its local community, the newspaper also generates employment for the physically disabled. “One of our vendors only has one arm and as such can’t find work,” Pretorius explains. “At least this way, he is able to generate enough to keep him going.”
Women are steadily climbing the corporate ladder, with systems in place within most companies to ensure that their Black Economic Empowerment objectives are met. “The African Reporter is no different,” says Randall. “Many of the vendors are women, generating an income as the head of the household.”
With such mechanisms in place to ensure job creation, it’s no wonder that the African Reporter has become the success it is today. “We are all very proud of our achievements, especially our vendors,” Pretorius concludes.
Issued on behalf of:
Newspaper Advertising Bureau
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