At a function held in Johannesburg last night the Sunday Times unveiled plans for their 100th anniversary in 2006, detailing the rollout of a nationwide ‘heritage project” and four 64-page centenary supplements. The project team, headed by journalist Charlotte Bauer, will create a series of outdoor ‘monuments” that bear testimony to the ‘people and events that have moulded and informed South African society” over the last 100 years.
According to a release put out by the newspaper this morning, ‘the plan is to roll out the first 10 story sites in Johannesburg, where the newspaper started… moving to other South African cities and towns as the year proceeds.”
The four centenary supplements, which will run in the Sunday Times the first week of the month from February to May, will each cover a 25-year period in the history of the country. Edited by Nadine Dreyer, they will be the result of an intense search through the newspaper’s archives, beginning with the first issue in 1906.
Explaining her findings and reflecting on the newspaper’s earliest years at last night’s event, Dreyer said: ‘Over drinks at a Johannesburg club in early 1906, George Kingswell, Rand Daily Mail owner Abe Bailey, and two others each pledged 50 pounds to start the venture.”
Amongst some of Dreyer’s more entertaining revelations were the following: ‘Like Kingswell, the first female journalist at the Sunday Times had an excellent background for a woman wanting to be a journalist. She was a former chorus girl and had run a shooting gallery in Britain before coming to South Africa.”
Commenting that the newspaper has taken up many causes during its time, she continued, ‘one of the most bizarre must surely be the war against flies, an annual campaign which started in 1913. This was a reader competition to see who could kill the most flies and the prize was a hefty 10 pounds.
‘The paper printed coupons for free fly-swatters and bottles of formaldehyde that readers could collect from local department stores— the first 12-week fly campaign was declared a huge success, responsible for the death of more than 61-million flies.”
According to Sunday Times editor Mondli Makhanya, the supplements will cover local history ‘warts and all”. In this vein, Dreyer referred to a number of ‘perils” covered by the paper in its first twenty years, most of which would no doubt invite heavy litigation by today’s standards.
The ‘yellow peril” was covered in 1917, and an item in the paper read: ‘Years ago we warned the public that if they did not do more to make SA a White Man’s Country, they and their children would live to regret their apathy. They are changing their tune today. From the dorps and the country districts there now arises a bitter cry about the Indian invasion. We must get in whites — and more whites — and still more whites.”
Then in 1922 a piece on the ‘female peril” emerged: ‘We confess we view with disfavour the entry into the labour market not only of married women, but of single women whose parents are well able to support them. Every woman who goes out to work when there is no necessity for it, keeps somebody out of a job.”
Johncom Media’s general manager of advertising and trade marketing Gisele Wertheim-Aymes advises that the project is editorially driven and that the 64-page supplements will only carry 20 percent advertising content.
‘We won’t accept the normal type of advertising,” says Wertheim-Aymes. ‘We will encourage advertisers to think creatively on this. On FNB, for example, we wouldn’t want a standard run-of-paper ad. We would want an ad that looks at the heritage of the bank.”
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