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09
AUG
5pm

Tennis great Serena Williams to retire after US Open

Serena Williams announced that she plans to retire next month, giving herself one last shot at winning a 24th Grand Slam singles title.
US tennis great Serena Williams said on Tuesday she was “evolving away from tennis” and planned to retire from the sport she dominated with 23 Grand Slam titles following the US Open tournament, which begins later this month.
On Monday, Williams played only her second singles match since she returned to action at Wimbledon in June after a year-long absence from competition, beating Spain’s Nuria Parrizas Diaz to reach the second round of the Toronto Open.
But the 40-year-old said after the match that she could see the light at the end of the tennis tunnel in her career.
“I have never liked the word retirement,” Williams wrote in the fashion magazine Vogue.
“Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is evolution. I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me.
“A few years ago, I quietly started Serena Ventures, a venture capital firm. Soon after that, I started a family. I want to grow that family.”
Williams won her last Grand Slam in 2017 and has been chasing an elusive 24th crown that would draw her level with Australian Margaret Court, who holds the record.
The American came tantalisingly close to achieving that feat, featuring in four major finals since giving birth to daughter Olympia in 2017.
“There are people who say I’m not the GOAT [greatest of all time] because I didn’t pass Court’s record, which she achieved before the ‘Open era’ that began in 1968,” said former world number one Williams, who sought the advice of her friend Tiger Woods before picking up a racket again this spring.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that record. Obviously I do. But day-to-day, I’m really not thinking about her.”
Williams later said in an Instagram post that it was time to move in a “different direction”.
“The countdown has begun. I have to focus on being a mom, my spiritual goals and finally discovering a different, but just as exciting Serena.”
She also has a vast business portfolio to maintain.
For nearly a decade she has backed early-stage companies, including MasterClass, one of 16 unicorns — companies whose market value exceeds $1-billion — to receive funding from Serena Ventures.
Grandest stage
On the court, Williams announced herself on the grandest stage by winning the 1999 US ...
09
AUG
5pm

Geopolitical realities may shape the US’s ambitious ‘new strategy’ for engagement with Africa

The new strategic partnership for Africa as set out by the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, in his Africa trip actually fits into a larger history, and there are many challenges to making it come true.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been in South Africa as part of a multination tour of Africa, a trip that in effect has two key objectives. The first has been to announce the roll-out of what it called a new US strategy for engagement with Africa. The second — even if it was not stated explicitly — has been to counterbalance efforts by Russia and China (among others) to enhance their efforts to build deeper influence and connections with Africa’s nations.
The South African visit included a stop at the Hector Pieterson Memorial in Soweto as well as events celebrating Women’s Day and the political, economic, scientific, and other achievements of South African women. Core elements of the visit were his bilateral exchange with South Africa’s foreign minister, Naledi Pandor, as part of the two nations’ “strategic dialogue”, and then his speech at the University of Pretoria where Blinken set out the ideals and values the two nations share, as well as the US’s new, proposed strategic partnership with Sub-Saharan Africa. In public moments, the two leaders demonstrated “bonhomie”, but there was no agreement on the two nations’ respective approaches to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or the Israel/Palestine knot.
In understanding this new strategic framework, it is helpful to look at the evolution of US-Africa policy since the end of World War 2. Over the past three-quarters of a century, there have been several key themes in the US’s engagement with Africa. In the early post-war period, this relationship was largely seen through the US’s relationships with colonial rulers such as Britain, France and Portugal. Inside the US State Department, there was no separate geographical bureau (its basic structural building block) specifically for African affairs until the wave of independent states began.
From 1961 onward, however, as Africa comprised a growing number of independent nations, the continent became a location for a competition between the US and the Soviet Union, both eager to exercise influence with those new African nations.
In a study carried out in the early years of the Obama era for the Centre for Policy Studies on the evolution of US policy towards Africa, this author wrote: “After World War [2], American relationships ...
09
AUG
5pm

Russian oil halted on central European pipeline; explosions rock Crimean air base

Russian crude flows through Ukraine to Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic were halted because sanctions prevented payment of a transit fee, dealing a fresh blow to Europe’s energy security.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his gratitude to US President Joe Biden for what he called “another unprecedented security aid package” to help the country defend itself against Russia’s invasion.
“Every dollar of such aid is a step towards defeating the aggressor,” Zelensky said in a tweet. A Pentagon official said as many as 80,000 Russians may have been killed or wounded in Ukraine.
Key developments
Russia is scouring the globe for weapons to use in Ukraine
Russian oil flow halted through pipeline to central Europe
Roman Abramovich’s London empire unravels as sanctions bite
Russia ‘temporarily’ halts US inspections under new Start treaty
US to give Ukraine $1bn more in weapons from inventory
The US-led drive to isolate Russia and China is falling short
On the ground
Amid continuing safety concerns around the nuclear power plant at Zaporizhzhia — the world’s largest — the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said that Russian forces had dug trenches in and around the facility. Kremlin officials have accused Ukraine of repeatedly attacking the plant, while Ukrainian officials have said that Russian forces are attacking their positions from within it and essentially using it as a shield, according to the ISW’s latest report. Russian forces also continued ground assaults to the northwest and southwest of the eastern city of Donetsk, the Washington-based institute said. The city of Kharkiv in the northeast was shelled overnight, according to local authorities.
Russia scours globe for weapons as supply lines strain
A merchant ship under US sanctions passed Turkey’s Bosphorus Strait on its way from Syria to Russia late last month, carrying what European intelligence officials say were military vehicles as the Kremlin seeks to bolster its invasion of Ukraine.
Sparta II’s journey to the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk underlines Russian efforts to tap available resources at home and abroad as supply lines strain under the pressure of Europe’s largest military campaign since World War 2. While Ukraine has received billions of dollars of weapons from the US and Europe to help defend itself, Russia must rely on its own reserves to support frontline forces.
Russia says ammunition explodes at Crimean air base
Russia’s Defence Ministry said munitions exploded at a military air base in Crimea, without causing any casualties or damage to aviation equipment.
The ministry said it was investigating the ...
09
AUG
7am

Sugar and Spice and all things vice – how a South African pen pal allegedly got drugs to US prisoners

A 46-year-old South African woman has admitted to sending ‘legal paperwork’ and greeting cards saturated with K2, a synthetic cannabinoid, to inmates in an Ohio prison. Now she faces 20 years in jail.
In a TikTok video, Tanya Baird explains from an airport lounge that “today is the day” she flies out of South Africa.
@tbear2025 #prison #prisontiktok #writeaprisoner #inmate #jpay #longdistancerelationship #prisonwife #tiktoksouthafrica #prisonwifelife #loveafterlockup #fyp ♬ original sound – Jellybean
A subsequent video shows her boarding a plane and later holding up a drink in a cup. The accompanying text says: “Finally on US soil! #loveafterlockup #prisonwifelife #tiktoksouthafrica#prisonwife #long­distance relationship #jpay #inmate #writeaprisoner #prisontiktok.”
@tbear2025 Finally on US soil! #loveafterlockup #prisonwifelife #tiktoksouthafrica #prisonwife #longdistancerelationship #jpay #inmate #writeaprisoner #prisontiktok ♬ Good Life – G-Eazy & Kehlani
But then Baird’s journey took an unexpected turn and some of the hashtags she used became applicable to her.
Drug consignments via mail
The US Justice Department issued a statement on 24 March about what happened to Baird when she landed in the States.
“Federal agents arrested a South African woman. at John Glenn Columbus International Airport [in Ohio] on federal charges alleging she mailed large amounts of K2 and Suboxone via mail into the United States. Inmates in Ohio jails were the end recipients of the packages.”
Baird (46), a mother of two involved in the finance industry and who had a home-based cake business, was detained in the US.
K2, also known as Spice, Black Mamba, Bliss, Red Ex or Genie, is a synthetic cannabinoid that can be smoked or used as a tea. The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) describes it as: “A synthetic version of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, K2/Spice is a mixture of plant material sprayed with synthetic psychoactive chemicals.”
Suboxone is a brand-name prescription drug used to treat opioid withdrawal.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “South Africa’s lucrative drugs highway to the land Down Under”
Baird entered a plea agreement with the US on 10 June, which DM168 has seen. She admitted to “conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a substance containing a detectable amount of the synthetic cannabinoid”.
The plea also said Baird “admits that she is, in fact, guilty of this offence and will so advise the Court”.
Although it was not immediately clear if Baird would be detained while court processes unfold, she could face up to 20 years in jail.
Pen pal to #prisonwife
In the years running up to finding herself on the wrong side ...
08
AUG
3pm

IAEA raises alarm on Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant; ships set sail in grain exports corridor

Russia told diplomats it’s ready to welcome international monitors at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which the International Atomic Energy Agency said was at risk of a ‘nuclear disaster’ after it was shelled last week.
Ukraine’s sea port of Pivdennyi said the first cargo ship left its waters since Russia’s 24 February invasion, as commodity shipments from the war-torn country kick into higher gear.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his late Sunday address that negotiations with Moscow would not be an option if Russia proceeds with plans to hold referendums in occupied territories.
Key Developments
Russia Invites Nuclear Monitors to Visit Shelled Ukrainian Plant
Grain Corridors Still Need Ships to Ease Food Crisis
Sanctions May Freeze Veon’s Network Rollout in Russia, CEO Says
Turkish Banks Are Adopting Russian Payments System, Erdogan Says
Russian Weapon Systems Rely Heavily on Foreign Tech, Report Says
On the ground
The Russian military pushed further into settlements to the northwest and southwest of Donetsk and continued efforts to break Ukrainian defensive lines along the Avdiivka-Donetsk city line of contact, the Institute for the Study of War said.
Kremlin forces unsuccessfully attempted to advance east of the city of Mykolaiv. Ukraine said it hit two bridges in the southern Kherson region – now occupied by Russia – that serve as important crossings for Russian supplies, military spokesperson Natalia Humenyuk said. Ukrainian troops also destroyed several Russian munition depots, she said, without elaborating.
Russian weapons rely on foreign tech, report says
Russian military systems depend highly on microelectronics components designed and produced in the US, Europe and east Asia, according to a report based on an examination of the remains of equipment used by the Kremlin’s forces in Ukraine.
The report by the Royal United Services Institute in London inspected 27 weapon systems, including state-of-the art cruise missiles and drones that were used since Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine in February. It found at least 450 foreign-made components that were critical to their operation.
Mediterranean buyers return for Russian crude
Oil buyers in southern Europe are quietly returning to the market for Russian crude, with a European Union ban on such shipments still four months away.
Shipments of Russian crude to ports in Italy and Turkey rose to multi-week highs in the seven days to 5 August, offsetting another drop in shipments to customers in northern Europe, according to vessel-tracking data monitored by Bloomberg.
Shipments from Russia to the Mediterranean region as a whole were the highest since mid-June. Deliveries of crude from ...
07
AUG
5pm

How the climate crisis disproportionately affects women

Every year Women’s Month rolls around in South Africa and the public is once again confronted by depressing statistics of gender-based violence, sexism in the workplace and everyday discrimination on the street. Many people turn a blind eye, their capacity for compassion having expired, or roll their eyes, thinking it’s another woke or performative article pushing for discrimination that no longer exists in the 21st century.
Social contexts mean people are affected by things such as the climate crisis in disproportionate ways. And in Africa, there are many concrete examples of how women especially are affected by climate change.
As part of Women’s Month, the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) hosted a webinar on Friday, 6 August, on the impact of climate change on women.
Panellist Thandile Chinyavanhu, a social and climate activist and campaigner for Greenpeace Africa, explained that not everyone responded to or was affected by climate change in the same way.
“A stimulus may be the same, but due to our social contexts, we may respond to it very differently,” she said.
Here are some ways women in Africa are disproportionately affected by the climate crisis:
Agriculture and land
Christopher Trisos, a senior researcher of the African Climate and Development Initiative at the University of Cape Town, was the coordinating lead author of the Africa chapter of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC’s) sixth assessment report. He gave Our Burning Planet insight into how climate change disproportionately affects women.
As the majority of the African workforce works in agriculture and most of African agriculture is rain-fed, this majority was vulnerable to climate hazards such as droughts and extreme heat, Trisos explained.
Not all countries in Africa have a majority female agriculture workforce, but many women in Africa rely on subsistence farming or work in the agriculture sector. Trisos emphasised that very few of these women own the land or farms that they work on.
In the GCIS webinar, Chinyavanhu agreed that land tenure was an important vulnerability for women. In many rural communities in South Africa, there was still a system of communal land ownership, which affected women’s interaction with land and land tenure.
Both Trisos and Chinyavanhu said this structural issue affected women’s livelihoods as well as access to climate resilience and adaptation assistance after climate shocks.
“The connection to land and climate is very pivotal because access to land provides a sense of resilience; it is a form of currency,” Chinyavanhu said. “When you don’t ...
07
AUG
4pm

Nancy Pelosi’s Magical Mystery Taiwan Tour – and its global aftermath

US Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi’s quick stopover in Taipei has raised Chinese hackles, buoyed Taiwanese spirits, and put a spotlight on more questions than there are – yet – answers.
A quick but high-visibility visit by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi – a Democratic Party congresswoman from San Francisco, California – to Taipei, has become the latest disruptive factor in American-Chinese relations.
It has also given the Taiwanese some difficult but important things to think hard about, especially once the Chinese carried out a vast, island-straddling live-fire exercise that included missiles, naval vessels and fighter jets.
So far, at least, much of the breathless commentary and reporting on the visit and its aftermath has painted this sequence of events as likely to be the proximate cause for a new zone of hostilities – or, even, with some of the most breathless, the spark poised to ignite a new war in the Pacific Basin. Not so fast. Things are obviously dangerous, but much of this has been something of a mutual chest-beating of choice.
First, let’s deal with some basics. Taiwan is a smallish island – about half the size of Scotland and a little bigger than the US state of Maryland – off the southeastern coast of China that has, over the centuries, been home to indigenous Taiwanese, bands of Chinese pirates, Portuguese and Dutch colonists.
More recently, after the assertion of a territorial claim by the Manchu dynasty in China, the island became Japanese territory after that country’s defeat in the Sino-Chinese War of 1895.
With the defeat of Japan in World War 2, the island was awarded back to China, then rather shakily ruled by Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang (KMT) Party.
However, as the KMT was driven from power by the Chinese Communist Party and its army, Chiang’s government fled the mainland and set up shop on Taiwan – crucially maintaining the notional concept they were still the legitimate Chinese government, including the hanging on to China’s seat on the UN Security Council as a permanent member.
Diplomatic recognition
With the loss of its seat on the Security Council in 1971, and then the establishment of full diplomatic recognition by the US of the Beijing government in 1979, Taiwan’s claim to represent all of China lost its main basis. Its diplomatic presence is now limited to a few scattered, small nations, largely in the South Pacific.
Many nations, including the US, the UK ...
07
AUG
3pm

Grain shipments kick into higher gear; nuclear plant shelled again

A second caravan of vessels sailed early on Sunday from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports carrying grains and foodstuffs, Ukraine’s infrastructure minister said. The first incoming cargo ship since the signing of a safe-transit agreement last month reached port and is ready to load. A corn cargo expected to arrive in Lebanon has been delayed.
Ukraine said Russia shelled areas around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant again on Saturday. The head of the UN’s atomic agency has warned of “potentially catastrophic consequences” of military action around the plant. Russia has denied involvement.
Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met on Friday, as Ankara pushes for a mediating role to try to help end the war in Ukraine following its breakthrough deal on grain exports. Erdoğan said five Turkish banks have adopted Russia’s Mir payments system.
Key developments
Nuclear plant disaster in Ukraine is ‘very real risk,’ IAEA says
Ukraine blasts watchdog claim that its army endangers civilians
Grain corridors still need ships to ease food crisis
Turkish banks are adopting Russian payments system, Erdoğan says
On the ground
Ukraine’s general staff reported Russian artillery shelling in the direction of Kharkiv “along the entire line of contact.” Kyiv’s forces repelled Russian assaults in several eastern areas and fighting continues in some of them. Russia also fired from tanks and artillery along the contact line in the South Buh direction and conducted air strikes near Andriyivka, Bilohirka and Velyke Artakovo. Ukrainian aviation and missile and artillery units continue attacking concentrations of Russian manpower, equipment and ammunition warehouses, it said. Russian air defences shot down Ukrainian drones in the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions in the past day, the Defence Ministry in Moscow said, adding that its forces also struck Ukrainian ammunition storage in the Donetsk and Mykolaiv regions.
US senators seek Russian terror state designation
Two US senators renewed a bipartisan call for President Joe Biden’s administration to declare Russia a state sponsor of terrorism.
“The administration should, in effect, say to Russia, we’re making you a pariah, like Iran and Cuba,” Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal said on CNN’s State of the Union. The designation would mean in part that “you can go to American courts and sue Russia for the damage done in Ukraine,” South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham said.
Blumenthal and Graham championed a Senate resolution passed in July that calls on the administration to designate Russia. It cites a series of military actions under President Vladimir Putin, including the war in Ukraine.
Ukraine reports second ...
07
AUG
6am

Never-ending rugby season is the biggest threat to player welfare

Where is South African rugby right now in terms of its season and scheduling? It’s a question that very few stop to consider, even though the number of competitive games – as well as the incessant calls for improved player management and welfare – increase with each passing calendar year.
South African rugby continues to straddle two hemispheres, and thus two rugby seasons. The demands on the players will only increase in the coming months, and in the lead-up to the 2023 World Cup. Something’s gotta give.
Other nations have voiced their concerns about the number of games at club and international level, and have called for a more streamlined approach to the scheduling.
This past week, the concussion campaign group Progressive Rugby – which comprises a number of medical experts and former Test players – sent World Rugby a list of recommendations that could improve player welfare and reduce the risk of serious injuries.
The group has called for the establishment of a global calendar, a change to the tackle laws, and a reduction in the number of games (25) to be played over the course of a season.
South African rugby, however, is in a unique situation.
From famine to feast after Covid
South Africa’s best players have enjoyed few opportunities to rest over the past two years. When the Covid-19 restrictions were lifted in September 2020, the players bounced from one tournament to another in an attempt to regain form and fitness.
Super Rugby Unlocked was succeeded by the Currie Cup and yet another domestic competition dubbed “the Preparation Series”. The inter-hemisphere Rainbow Cup was followed by the British & Irish Lions tour, which was followed a week later by the Rugby Championship.
The end of that Sanzaar tournament overlapped with the start of the inaugural United Rugby Championship. The Springboks had a brief break before going into a preparation camp ahead of a three-Test tour of the United Kingdom.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “Southern Hemisphere rugby plays a dangerous game with 20-minute red card trial”
Thereafter, South Africa’s elite players were given an opportunity to rest, before being drafted back into their URC sides. Some of the players based at clubs in England and France, however, did not enjoy a lengthy reprieve.
The URC culminated with the Stormers beating the Bulls in the final on 18 June. Thereafter, the Stormers and Bulls players joined their Bok teammates in camp to prepare for a three-Test series against Wales.
The ...
05
AUG
4am

Retire? ‘Don’t even ask me that’ – Ndodomzi Ntutu rolls back the years to win 100m para gold

Star para-athlete Ndodomzi Ntutu ran close to his best time in securing a superb gold medal at Birmingham 2022.
At the age of 36, Ndodomzi “Jonathan” Ntutu turned back the clock. Right back to 10.83 seconds. Enough to win another Commonwealth Games T11/12 100m gold medal. Quicker than he ran when winning the title in 11.02 on the Gold Coast four years ago. The fastest para-athlete South Africa has produced to date did it again.
Ntutu, who suffers from toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection, was understandably emotional even after he’d spent at least 10 minutes soaking up the love from the crowd at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham.
“This year has been especially tough. I’ve got two kids and a wife and things haven’t been good financially. At the same time I’d have to listen and hear what the coach has to say and what needs to be done and when.
“The training regimen has been tough, but I believe in the coach and I believe in God and I prayed that things would get better sooner rather than later. Here I am standing, having run 10.8 two days in a row.
“They’re the two fastest times I’ve run in my career. Retirement? Don’t even ask me that. I’ll take it year by year and listen to my body.”
Echoes of a golden year
In the semifinal 36 hours earlier, Ntutu had hit the line in 10.89, which is not far behind his all-time best of 10.80. It qualified him fastest into the final, where his main danger for gold appeared to be Zachary Shaw, who had produced a 11.01 in qualifying. And that’s how it panned out, as the English favourite chased Ntutu home in 10.90 in the four-man final.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “‘If it were not for judo, I would probably have dropped out of school,’ says SA’s latest gold medal winner”
Four years ago, at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast, Ntutu had lowered his best time down to 10.80. It was a golden year for the South African in many respects – he was named South Africa’s Sportsman of the Year with a Disability and recorded the fastest time run by a South African para-athlete.
Despite competing in four Paralympics, his best moment came at those 2018 Commonwealth Games where he won gold in the T12 100m.
“That was a proud top-of-the-podium occasion. Jumping on to that podium was my very happiest moment. My ...
04
AUG
4pm

‘Hardline decisions’ by new Oxfam SA director spark protest by partners and stakeholders

A protest outside Oxfam South Africa in Johannesburg this week has cast a shadow over the internal stability of the social justice organisation. At issue are claims of impropriety that include the abrupt termination of projects. The organisation’s new leadership has hit back at its critics, pointing to change and restructuring that it says are aimed at tightening ‘weak controls’.
A number of partners and stakeholders of Oxfam South Africa (OZA) protested on Monday at the Oxfam offices in Killarney, Johannesburg.
The protest was directed at Oxfam South Africa’s board of directors, with protesters alleging a litany of problems at the organisation since Lebogang Ramafoko’s appointment as executive director in April.
Ramafoko was the CEO of the Soul City Institute for Social Justice, based in Johannesburg, from 2011 until 2020. After stepping down as CEO of Soul City in 2020, she helmed the advocacy organisation Tekano in Cape Town before joining Oxfam SA.
“Oxfam SA faces an internal revolt over the dictatorship of the newly appointed Oxfam SA director, Lebogang Ramafoko over her hardline decisions including cancelling support to community programmes that were planned and budgeted [for a] long time ago, before she came,” is among the claims made in a protest media release.
However, OZA has claimed otherwise, saying it is in the process of “restructuring and improving a number of its programme and operational procedures,” following Ramafoko’s appointment.
About 20 partners and stakeholders gathered on Monday to protest over the challenges faced by the organisation and its partners. During the protest, a memorandum detailing the partners’ concerns was handed over to Oxfam management, said Lucky Shabalala, the coordinator of Sisonke Environmental Justice Network, one of Oxfam’s partners in KwaZulu-Natal.
“The director was not at the office, but the head of programmes was present, and she took and signed to have received [the memorandum] on behalf of Oxfam,” he said.
Oxfam South Africa is a social justice organisation that works in partnership with grassroots organisations on issues pertaining to women’s rights and gender justice, economic justice, environmental and climate justice, and democracy and governance.
This is done through “long-term development programming”, and OZA works for the “socially excluded and most marginalised communities by mobilising them to campaign for greater economic and social reforms”.
Oxfam International was formed in 1995 by a group of independent non-government organisations. There are 21 member organisations of the Oxfam International confederation, in countries including India, Germany, Hong Kong and South Africa.
Oxfam raises funds based ...
04
AUG
4pm

Independent media in Africa plays a critical public interest role and must be supported

It is in lower-income countries where a stronger independent media is most vital. Public newspapers and broadcasters are not the answer. While many countries have national news services, they are usually poorly resourced and seen as propaganda platforms.
Social media was once seen as the disruption traditional media needed. It certainly did disrupt. Trust in democracies and institutions has diminished, misinformation has proliferated, and public debates have descended into shouting matches.
Economically, social media eroded the business models that funded public interest journalism – the style of reporting that holds governments to account and informs the public on the issues that shape lives and enable debate (the vital reporting which, for reference, brought us Watergate, the News of the World hacking scandal, and the Pandora Papers leak).
Without action, we will lose this vital pillar of our democracies, and in some countries, we may already be too late.
The demise began slowly, almost imperceptibly. Consumers bought fewer newspapers, opting for the convenience of online. As consumers moved online, so did the classifieds, the original “rivers of gold” that kept the printing presses running and journalists on their respective beats. As revenue declined, savings were found – journalists and editors were usually the first to go, after which print runs were reduced, or removed entirely.
The Covid-19 pandemic saw revenues decline further – the global loss in revenue for newspapers in 2020 was estimated at $30-million. As revenues decreased, audiences flocked to trusted news brands. The BBC gained an extra 20 million people each week, delivering a weekly global audience of almost half a billion adults.
Outlets also saw unprecedented growth in digital subscriptions. Digital subscribers to The Guardian increased by 43%, while The Atlantic attracted more than 300,000 new subscribers – three times the number it was expecting after raising a paywall.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “Does journalism have a place in contemporary society? This is what young reporters have to say”
After a bumpy start, where audiences looked for opportunities to dodge paywalls, digital subscriptions are helping to plug the revenue gap for many media houses. The New York Times, for example, now boasts 10 million subscribers, with the majority paying for digital products. Critically, the growth in subscribers is delivering profitability.
Subscriptions accounted for $1.4-billion of The New York Times’s $2.1-billion in revenue last year. The Financial Times, which offers a more targeted product, is seeing similar success, with digital journalism revenues equal to all other ...

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