I have been involved in the media in some shape or form since 1998. While I cut my writing teeth online, my passion has for the past few years turned to print media. Despite this, online still forms a significant part of my writing life and I love the pure energy and the immediacy of creating content online.
Why this rant you may ask? I am getting increasingly annoyed with some local companies (and individuals) who perceive online publishing as being the poorer cousin to the printed word. Cynics argue that an online publication is easier to do than a magazine or a newspaper. “Anyone can post something online,” the tired argument goes. Another one alludes to the fact that it’s difficult to verify the accuracy of online articles and facts are made up on the spot to suit the writer of the piece. I could go on, but you get the point.
Despite a strong local resistance by certain entities, online publishing (and I count blogs under this category) is thriving. Yes, to get an online publication up and running is definitely cheaper to do than getting a magazine or newspaper off the ground. Yes, anyone can create a blog or comment on articles written by seasoned journalists. Yes, sites like Wikipedia are not perfect in the information they offer (although it has been shown that the aforementioned site is more accurate than the Encyclopaedia Britannica – but that’s an argument for a different entry). So why is online not taken as seriously here as it is in other parts of the world?
I believe that one of the main reasons is the South African print media itself. Many newspapers columns and magazine articles have been dedicated to undermining the online medium as a valid (and powerful) tool to publish information. Recently, much of this criticism has been aimed at blogs and the relevance of them. I agree that the sole purpose of many of them is to just give people the platform to share seemingly useless information in an act of “getting it off their chests”. However, there are many blogs that provide valuable information to, dare I say it, print publications.
Some publishing houses in South Africa have realised that online is a vital part of any publication irrespective of it being online or in print. In fact, print publications should have a strong online component as a matter of course to supplement “old” print information with “breaking news” content. One publication I’m particularly looking forward to see hit the streets soon is The Times. It consists of an exciting editorial team backed up by a strong and well established publishing house. What makes me excited about the new daily print publication is that it’s going to embrace online publishing and integrate the two seemingly disparate worlds in a way that many South Africans haven’t experienced yet.
While the argument is far from over, people should watch and learn from publications like The Times and see how progressive they are in following international publishing trends and trying to change perceptions in this country.