BDFM, which owns the Weekender, has decided to close the paper due to the ongoing economic crisis and difficult trading conditions, writes Jocelyn Newmarch in The Weekender.

Media companies have been hard hit by the recession and BDFM, which is 50% owned by media and entertainment group Avusa, is no exception.

In a trading statement released this week, Avusa said advertising revenue was down 20% between April and September.

Mzi Malunga, MD of BDFM, says the decision was not an easy one to take.

“The worst thing that ever happens, for anyone who works in media, is the closure of a newspaper. Because it feels as though part of you is dead,” he says.

Malunga says he hopes to minimise job losses at The Weekender, which is run by a small team from Business Day’s newsroom.

In a statement, the board thanked The Weekender’s readers, advertisers and staff for the faith shown in the newspaper.

“Unfortunately the recession lengthened the financial break-even point to a dangerous extent and the board felt that its first duty was to protect BDFM’s established core products, Business Day, the Financial Mail and Summit Television,” the statement read.

Peter Bruce, editor-in-chief of Business Day and The Weekender, is saddened by the decision. “It was a great paper. We will all learn lessons from this, about journalism and about trust,” he says.

“I had big dreams for the paper, but we were never really able to get the basics right,” Bruce admits in his blog : http://blogs.businessday. weekender/

“Distribution was a nightmare and advertising scarce. It’s hard to ask shareholders to put their hands in their pockets over and over again.”

Founded in 2006, the paper was intended to fill a gap for an upmarket, quality read on Saturdays. However the paper struggled with high distribution costs, as it was printed only in Gauteng.

“The recession was not something you could plan for and it caught us in a development place,” says Bruce. He says there is still room for new newspapers in SA, “but publishers have to realise it takes between five and seven years to break even, not three”.

The newspaper’s executive editor, Rehana Rossouw, says she has never in her 20-odd years of working at newspapers experienced readers and contributors who were as committed and loyal as The Weekender’s.

“It was a privilege to edit a newspaper for readers who were intelligent, committed and dedicated to the brand,” she says.

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