By Brendan Boyle
The 32-year-old Harris press in the basement of the Daily Dispatch building in Caxton Street ran for the last time on 29 March. Since then, the newspaper has been printed on Avusa’s recently refurbished and expanded Port Elizabeth press and trucked through to East London in the early hours of every morning.
The transition has not been without hitches, but the combined efforts of the various departments involved have produced a new rhythm, with earlier deadlines ensuring the paper goes to press in time and innovative distribution plans ensuring, after a few teething troubles, that it gets to readers on time. The change has been momentous for Dispatch staff and was adopted only after numerous alternatives had been thoroughly explored.
The old East London press had reached the end of its life and would have had to be replaced at a price the newspaper could not afford. Printing in Port Elizabeth means a considerable saving on the printing cost, combined with better quality and, for the first time in the history of the Dispatch, full colour throughout.
The switch is part of a 20-year strategy crafted by our holding company, Avusa, to ensure that this 140-year-old newspaper, which has never missed a scheduled publication day, lives on as an independent title serving the specific needs of East London and the eastern region of the Eastern Cape. I hope this means that the Daily Dispatch will be coming to your door when East London marks its bicentennial on 11 January 2048.
Going to print earlier, as the Dispatch now does, has meant a complete rethink of the content that has kept its readers and advertisers loyal since 1872. But in a world of increasingly commoditised news, readers in East London as much as elsewhere are looking for the background, context and meaning of the events they learn about on TV and radio as well as online on their computers, tablets and smartphones. That’s what the small and very hard-working Daily Dispatch editorial team will be focusing on in the years ahead.
A new emphasis on local business news, a concentration on governance alongside our already celebrated coverage of Eastern Cape politics, a revamped DispatchOnline web offering, more local news and features, better use of pictures and graphics, and innovations intended to increase the conversation between the paper and its readers are some of the initiatives being developed.
Splitting production into two editions has meant we can focus content more closely to the interests of the different inland and coastal circulation areas. We plan to get better at bringing you the news you need alongside a more attractive package of leisure reading from books to food, health and travel. For advertisers, the paper is noticeably crisper, the reproduction is cleaner and photographs reproduce better than ever before.
Explaining his apparently counter-intuitive decision to buy up 62 smaller daily and weekly newspapers in the United States recently, Warren Buffett , whose uncannily successful investments have earned him the title of the Oracle of Omaha, said: “In towns and cities where there is a strong sense of community, there is no more important institution than the local paper. The many locales served by the newspapers we are acquiring fall firmly in this mould.” So does the Daily Dispatch, so watch this space. We’re not going anywhere but up.
Brendan Boyle is the editor of the Daily Dispatch.