Editorial policies and the isiXhosa language newspapers at Caxton Media and Independent Media


This chapter interrogates the editorial policies of Caxton Media and Independent Media, the publishers of BONA and Isolezwe lesiXhosa, respectively, in relation to the indigenous isiXhosa language. The intention is to unravel the predominantly English language media houses’ policies towards their isiXhosa publications. The chapter explores whether these editorial policies address the presence of isiXhosa language publications under their stable. Because editorial policy guides the conduct of a media organisation and its employees and determines its operations and products (i.e. content), this analysis exposes the extent to which such policies are geared towards the development of the isiXhosa language.

Whereas indigenous language media in South Africa and elsewhere have been studied, none of the research has, to the best of our knowledge, interrogated their editorial policies to establish how they contribute to indigenous language development. Indeed, the relationship between indigenous language newspapers and their audiences has been examined (Wasserman and Ndlovu 2015), along with the content of these newspapers and their implications for development (Salawu and Mpofu 2018), and their political economy and survival strategies (see Salawu 2015; Chibuwe Chapter 6, this volume). Although mainstream English language journalists’ perceptions towards indigenous language newspapers (Chibuwe and Salawu 2020) and the need for the incorporation of indigenous languages in journalism education (Salawu 2006a; 2008) have been identified, what is glaringly missing in these studies is an interrogation of their editorial policies to unravel how these guidelines affect the indigenous language newspapers’ operations.

This chapter fills that void by interrogating the editorial policies of indigenous language newspapers under the Caxton Media and Independent Media banners. Whereas indigenous Zulu language and isiXhosa language newspapers, such as Isolezwe and I’solezwe lesiXhosa, have been the subject of research (see Wasserman and Ndlovu 2015; Gwala 2019) their editorial policies have not been analysed to gauge their impact on the newspapers’ operations. Wasserman and Ndlvou (2015) studied the relationship between Isolezwe and its readers; they investigated the popularity of Isolezwe in a context where readership of newspapers was

isiXhosa language newspapers 225 generally in decline. It is also a context in which most of the indigenous language newspapers had collapsed. As Salawu (2006b) observes.

In 1930 in South Africa, there were 19 registered, African-language newspapers. Today, most of these newspapers are non-existent. The multilingual (isiXhosa, isiZulu, seSotho and English) newspaper, Inkundlaya Bantu, edited by President Thabo Mbeki’s father, Govan Mbeki, only existed for six years (1939 to 1944).


The same is true of countries such as Ghana and Nigeria - the majority of the indigenous language newspapers have since collapsed. For example, ‘there used to be newspapers in 15 Ghanaian languages as recently as [the] 1990s. Today, none of them is in existence’, whilst during the colonial era, the Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) had about 150 periodicals in indigenous languages, but today they have all either collapsed or are ‘comatose’ (Salawu 2006b, 55; see also Salawu 2015). Similarly, Gwala (2019) studied Isolezwe lesiXhosa’s interactions with its online audiences. In this context of high attrition, it is crucial to interrogate the editorial policies of the parent companies, such as Caxton Media and Independent Media, to establish their impact on indigenous language newspapers under their stable, and their contributions to the development of indigenous languages.

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