We’re here to stay

2013-02-13 00:00

Dear Reader

I RECEIVED an e-mail at the weekend from one of our veteran subscribers.

It was succinct: “We have been loyal subscribers to The Witness since 1967. But if The Witness has no loyalty to its Pietermaritzburg subscribers, and citizens, and moves to Durban, I will cancel my subscription with immediate effect.”

Other readers have called me, having also heard through the rumour mill that we plan to “abandon” Pietermaritzburg.

As I have explained to each person who has taken the time to contact me, this is simply false. Indeed, the contrary is true. We want to grow.

In my office at 45 Willowton Road, there are at least three reminders of the rich legacy I have inherited as the 23rd editor of The Witness.

One is a copy of the front page of the first edition of The Natal Witness, dated February 27, 1846. The other is the wooden chair used by founding editor David Dale Buchanan, while the third is a bust of Sidney Potter, who served as editor from 1931-1935.

His editorship has particular resonance, for he, too, was at the helm of this newspaper during tough economic times.

I am acutely aware that we have a huge responsibility to ensure that The Witness flourishes at a time when the media industry is in flux.

We are the oldest continuously published newspaper in the country and we owe it to our readers, advertisers and staff — not to mention the health of our democracy — to try to expand our footprint beyond the City of Choice and the Midlands. We therefore want to grow The Witness, both at home and elsewhere in the province.

As Pietermaritzburg marks its 175th anniversary this year, The Witness celebrates its 167th year.

Our history and destiny are closely linked.

The Witness now has the opportunity to revitalise, in the same way that we want to be part of our city’s much-needed rejuvenation and renewal.

How best to expand our newspaper’s footprint in the rest of KwaZulu-Natal continues to be the subject of internal discussions, at a time when we are also integrating with the wider Media24 family.

For that we need your continued support. There are enormous challenges, but the reason we are still here today and will continue for another 167 years and beyond, is that we are resilient and do not fear change.

As former editor John Conyngham wrote in 1996 when The Witness turned 150 years: “Unlike some of its contemporaries, it has always had men and women at the helm who could not be bought, and as such it has striven for a century-and-a-half to bear honest witness without fear or favour.”

Today we renew our pledge to remain Pietermaritzburg and KZN’s fiercely independent voice and to assure you that The Witness is here to stay.

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