Staff at Afrikaans Sunday newspaper Die Wêreld have not been paid their salaries for May and unless a white knight is found, the paper will not be published this Sunday. Die Wêreld published its first issue in mid-April and has been moving towards being a fairly traditional tabloid.
Staff at Afrikaans Sunday newspaper Die Wêreld have not been paid their salaries for May and unless a white knight is found the paper will not be published this Sunday.
Die Wêreld published its first issue in mid-April and has been moving towards being a fairly traditional tabloid.
Staff say they were called to a meeting yesterday and told the company had run out of money. Salaries would be paid at some unspecified later date.
The paper is continuing to prepare to go to print on Sunday in the hopes that a new funder will be found. But, as the demise of ThisDay showed, printers are understandably anxious when it comes to late payment.
Editor Maryna Blomerus has confirmed that the title is in dire straits, but she remains doggedly upbeat.
“It could still go either way,” she told eMedia. “From an editorial point of view we are doing our best and if the money comes we will be going ahead.”
Blomerus confirmed that all hopes are currently pinned on Dagbreek Pers, which has its roots in the old Perskor. Dagbreek is expected to make a decision on an investment today, which will determine whether the paper continues to publish.
eMedia also understands that talks were held with the Caxton group, but these have seemingly been abandoned.
However, Blomerus could not explain what had happened to the two years of cash reserves the paper claimed before launch. Many staff members left other positions on the strength of that claim.
“You need to ask the guys who did the calculations that question,” she said. “It looks like they were a little optimistic.”
The paper was launched with funds from a trust headed by academic Kobus Wolvaardt, who is well known in Afrikaans cultural and political circles. Staff say Wolvaardt admitted that the trust had run out of money and would not be able to continue its funding. Wolvaardt could not immediately be reached for comment.
Before launch Die Wêreld promised to steal readers away from Rapport. Now many of its staff members may end up looking to that established paper for work.
“At this stage we don’t know what will happen, and I don’t think anybody knows what will happen,” said advertising and sales manager Henk Lotz. “We will have to see what happens by Friday.”
Daily newspaper ThisDay closed its doors in November under very similar circumstances, although its demise was spread over six months. Continued late payment of staff and other creditors culminated in printers refusing to print the paper - despite original claims by publisher Nduka Obaigbena that he could fund the paper for five years without any other cash inflow. In both cases normally cynical journalists accepted the claims at face value.
“I guess we just have so much printers ink in our veins that we need to believe,” said one Die Wêreld staffer.
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