South Africa: The Challenge of Reclaiming Lost Skills, and Building Capacity and Talent Pipelines


In this third article of the series "How to slay the media sustainability monster", we explore the challenge of the leaky talent tap that has plagued the industry for the last decade. More specifically, we can define the problem as "How might we reclaim lost editorial skills, build capacity and talent pipelines, and aid the continuous development of our media professionals?"

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

SA, like the US, has seen about half of its newsroom staff leave the industry since 2008. In the US, some of these losses were made up by positions in new digital-native operations. We must now be left to reconstruct the talent losses that left for safer and better-paying pastures, and figure out how to fulfil the demands of the new skills required in the modern-day media organisation.

As the great disruption came for the news industry, big (often bloated) organisations were squeezed by necessity and/or private equity raiders, who recognised that high-margin media businesses could still eke out profits if costs could be slashed faster than revenues were declining. Either way, the net effect was an exodus of editorial (and other) talent that more often than not went unfilled...

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