In 2018, the Pretoria News in South Africa’s capital city celebrated its 120th birthday. Pretoria was founded as a town in 1855 by a Voortrekker leader named Marthinus Pretorius, and the Pretoria News was its first local newspaper.

The first editor was Leo Weinthal, who bought a disused church close to the central square of the town and set up the Pretoria News printing business. The first edition of the newspaper appeared on June 13, 1898, and sold for one penny. Although the old church and printing press have gone, the newspaper still has its offices at the same premises.

To mark 120 years as part of Pretoria’s history, the Pretoria News produced a series of articles about the city, its history, and its key institutions. These appeared in the six weeks running up to the birthday, which was marked with a commemorative front page and a keepsake supplement. In total, more than 30 stories, pictures, and videos were prepared.

Staff participation was an important aspect of #PretoriaNews120. Here reporters Matlhatsi Dibakwane (left) and Goitsemang Tlhabye look at a back copy from 1994, the year Matlhatsi was born.
Staff participation was an important aspect of #PretoriaNews120. Here reporters Matlhatsi Dibakwane (left) and Goitsemang Tlhabye look at a back copy from 1994, the year Matlhatsi was born.

The key campaign messages were:

  • Celebrating #120PTA of the capital city and the role the Pretoria News has played and continues to play.
  • Looking back and looking forward at historic Pretoria and new Pretoria of a democratic South Africa.
  • Recollections from the past and hopes for the future.

Pretoria as a city has undergone huge change from the time of Weinthal when horse-drawn trams transported people to market. Today when we have the high-speed Gautrain and a vast, modern city that is the seat of a democratic government and diplomatic hub of South Africa.

Back in 1998, Pretoria News had produced a commemorative supplement for its 100th birthday and the objective in 2018 was to complement this with a focus on the recent past. During the project, we reminded readers of key moments in the city’s history, as reflected in the Pretoria News, such as the first democratic election of 1994 and the joyful inauguration in Pretoria of President Nelson Mandela at the Union Buildings.

We looked at some of the city’s proud institutions, including top schools, universities, and research bodies, and the changing city landscape with modern infrastructure, green buildings and facilities. We spoke to leaders, readers, and staff members past and present to create a repository of information for the future.

 

The #PretoriaNews120 project had an unintended consequence: a partnership with the main public library in Pretoria, which put up this display from their own documents.
The #PretoriaNews120 project had an unintended consequence: a partnership with the main public library in Pretoria, which put up this display from their own documents.

A classic 120 logo and #PretoriaNews120 and #120PTA hashtags were used to identify content and unify the project. The logo appeared in the masthead, online, on T-shirts, banners and corporate gifts.

The editor prepared a talk about the history of the newspaper and addressed several local citizens’ groups, such as Rotary and Toastmasters, as well as giving two radio interviews on the day of the birthday.

Our business objectives with this campaign were to offer an advertising opportunity, especially to Pretoria-based companies; to source and create new, interesting, relevant content for readers; and to build on the historic repository of the newspaper and the city.

The Pretoria News #120 high school art project posters displayed for judging.
The Pretoria News #120 high school art project posters displayed for judging.

Campaign results:

  • #PretoriaNews120 became the theme for a high school art competition and joined the National High School Quiz for the first time in 2018. The Quiz is an initiative of Independent Media and won an INMA first prize for an event used to build a brand. Forty schools have entered for 2019.
  • The supplement was a platform for advertising revenue and increased single-copy sales.
  • Staff, many of whom are in their 20s, enjoyed browsing through back copies and learning more about the newspaper where they work, and we celebrated the birthday with a party.
  • The Es’kia Mphahlele Public Library put on its own display of the history of the Pretoria News, leading to a new relationship which now includes a photo project, in which Pretoria News photos are available for use by scholars doing research at the library.

This campaign succeeded in its goals to engage the older print audience, who have an interest in historic content, and to build a social media campaign and online resource at #120PTA, which can continue to be of value in the future. It also targeted younger readers, encouraging them to learn more about Pretoria and educating them on the role of the media in documenting change.