Merging the Black press with mainstream newspapers in post-apartheid South Africa: a phenomenological study of journalists at Sowetan newspaper between 2009 and 2012
This is a phenomenological study which aims to gain an in-depth understanding into the phenomenon of downsizing and convergence on a major Black daily newspaper: Sowetan. critical race theory is the conceptual framework for this thesis. Critical race theory provides a justification for approaching this study abductively, and for searching for the point of view of Black journalists. The newsroom of Sowetan was converged with the newsrooms of other non-Black Times Media Group titles between 2009 and 2012. This study seeks to uncover how a Black newspaper, having had its newsroom converged with historically white, or non-Black newspapers, would maintain its intellectual heritage, underpinned by radical Black Consciousness, and consequently its ability to serve its predominantly Black readers. The Black Press globally has a tradition of covering stories not covered by the mainstream media and performing the advocacy function of reporting on and campaigning against racism. This study sought to discover if journalists working at Sowetan during the period under review believed that Sowetan would be able to continue its functions as a Black newspaper even after being converged with white titles, or if they believed that South Africa had entered a post-racial era where Black journalism was no longer necessary, and that convergence had appropriately positioned Sowetan as a ‘crossover’ newspaper. This study found that journalists on a formerly Black newspaper continued to value the idea of a Black press even after they were removed from it through redundancy or being transferred into the newly converged newsrooms. This study also found that Sowetan journalists were committed to working in service to Black readers, not only through their use of the “Black angle” (Clawson et al. 2003, p.786) when writing stories, or in spending most of their time in Black communities seeking out and covering news, but through their participation in Sowetan initiatives aimed at uplifting the Black community. This study also found that the Sowetan journalists and former journalists interviewed did not embrace the idea of either the tabloid media or the mainstream media as being preferable as a work environment to the Black Press, even after losing their jobs at Sowetan.