Even though Huffington Post South Africa had been live for a week, the team behind it decided to make it official by hosting an invitation-only event over the weekend at Katy’s Palace Bar in Sandton. Michael Bratt attended.
The US media giant is partnering with South Africa’s Media24 to bring its offering to its seventeenth global market.
The event kicked off with emcee Anele Mdoda introducing Media24 CEO, Esmaré Weideman. Media24, she said, was a powerhouse, the biggest media company in South Africa and one of the largest on the continent. Which was why, she said, the company had thrown its considerable weight behind the launch of HuffPostSA. “We have put together the strongest team of editors and journalists in the country, she said, wishing both the best of luck in what she hoped would be a “wonderful partnership and a wonderful brand”.
South Africa a special place
Huffington Post CEO, Jared Grusd, told the audience South Africa held a special place in his heart as he was born in Johannesburg. Speaking to The Media Online after the event, Grusd explained why Huffington Post decided to enter the South African market.
“It’s a big, diverse population with many different perspectives and many different languages and, I think, a need to have a platform to express themselves. We at Huff Post have focused on two elements: World class journalism and creating a platform for people to articulate their voice and their vision so that we can all make more informed choices, build stronger communities and have more perspective on our lives.”
Now is a fantastic time to come to South Africa as mobile penetration is happening at such a rapid rate, he said, which tied in with Huff Post’s strategy very well.
[Here is the full interview with Jared Grusd.]
A panel discussion, hosted by Huffington Post South Africa editor in chief, Verashni Pillay, was next on the agenda. The panellists included political puppet Chester Missing, EFF MP and party spokesperson, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, and DA’s shadow minister of communications, Phumzile van Damme. Missing took his usual jabs at political and media personalities. His targets included Gareth Cliff, Des van Rooyen, the Prophet of Doom, Julius Malema, Ndlozi himself, and AKA.
When asked what the media could do better Ndlozi replied, “Giving a voice to the most excluded, exploited people in South Africa is still a problem. Also getting the message across in people’s own language”.
During the discussion he also touched on the EFF’s policy of land expropriation without compensation, saying he saw no other way forward for South Afrca apart from taking land for redistribution. Van Damme said she believed the media is often disconnected from the real world. “The result of the US election and even our recent election shows how out of touch media can be. I’d like to see Huffington Post be more in touch with what’s happening on the ground,” she explained. She suggested that in the run up to the next election Huff Post should create proper polling.
Views on media
Ndlozi said the only time the media gave the EFF proper coverage was when the party was talking bad about the ANC. “The only time EFF gets love from the media is when we are saying ‘pay back the money’ and ‘Zuma must fall’,” he said. Van Damme called for South Africans to become more involved in calling for change. “Many South Africans underestimate the power of their voice and actions. There is only so much South African political parties can do. I want to see South Africans more actively involved,” she said.
Her sentiments were echoed by the keynote speaker of the event, former finance minister Trevor Manuel. “I think the media in South Africa, in the main, doesn’t know what the media is about,” said Manuel. He said that instead of constructing a single nation, we have created 11 separate entities and that we need to reach across those divides and talk to one another in order to assist South Africa in changing, a process which he describes as ever ongoing.
“The media is sometimes ensnared in what will trend at 9:00 and what will make newspapers sell out at 10:00 … It’s about the continuity of our responsibility to each other … It’s about understanding the necessity of us talking to each other and reaching across the divide.”
City Press editor Mondli Makhanya challenged him saying that ANC leadership was always absent when the media reported on controversial issues, like Nkandla, the Guptas and state capture.
Once this heated debate finished, the official proceedings of the launch concluded. What a way to welcome the Huffington Post to South Africa! Here are some photos from the gathering.
Go to Michael Bratt’s Twitter timeline, @MichaelBratt8 to see all the live tweets from the event. Follow him while you are there.