The impact of newspapers back in the days

Had the Zumas existed then, they would by now have served at least 15 years behind bars.


My fascination with newspapers was triggered when as a kid I watched American Westerns featuring not only cowboys, crooks and “injuns”, but a lone editor churning out Dry Gulch Gazette or Tombstone Times. All done by hand using loose letters to set the text and then printing from an ancient manually operated press. The front page inevitably carried a photograph of a wanted man under the huge banner headline screaming “Reward”. Pity modern-day newspapers don’t offer the same space for sought felons. For example: “Reward. R20m offered for information leading to the arrest of the Gupta Brothers, last seen slumming…

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My fascination with newspapers was triggered when as a kid I watched American Westerns featuring not only cowboys, crooks and “injuns”, but a lone editor churning out Dry Gulch Gazette or Tombstone Times.

All done by hand using loose letters to set the text and then printing from an ancient manually operated press.

The front page inevitably carried a photograph of a wanted man under the huge banner headline screaming “Reward”. Pity modern-day newspapers don’t offer the same space for sought felons.

For example: “Reward. R20m offered for information leading to the arrest of the Gupta Brothers, last seen slumming it in Dubai.”

It may well have the same success enjoyed in Dry Gulch and Tombstone (towns similar to the ones found in the Karoo).

The Gazette and Times carrying the arrests and hangings scooped the nationals hands down. It could be the same today with our community press, without the hangings necessarily, of course. The law enforcement then was simple but effective.

The town’s sheriff formed a posse of able bodied men on horseback armed to the teeth and with determination set off to get their man. Mission always accomplished. It just took the magistrate and short trial to put the crooks away. No lawyers or advocates coming up with trumped up evidence.

And no bail hearings; and appeals were not part of jurisprudence. Had the Zumas existed then, they would by now have served at least 15 years behind bars. Instead of concentrating on what the teachers were trying to instil in young minds, my mind was back at Dry Gulch and Tombstone with me as the newspaper editor.

After many years in modern-day newspaper publishing, I still have bouts imagining I’m ye olde editor. But instead of seeing bearded Stetson-wearing crooks, I see Gigabas in smart Savile Row suits and Berluti shoes being strapped to horses and arriving in front of the newspaper office for the editor to take an exclusive front-page photograph.

Instead of a supercilious, smiling Gigaba pan, now one showing abject fear, indicating humiliation, submission. A front page today’s editors would die for. Sadly, I put up the “closed” sign and walk towards the sunset. Can’t afford a horse.

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Columns Jacob Zuma Malusi Gigaba

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