Jean-Jacques Cornish

South Africa’s national wire service closing down

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Financial problems have caused South Africa’s national wire service, SAPA, to declare it’s closing its doors at the end of March.

Withdrawal of major media outlets from the non-profit organisation has made it unviable.

The South African Press Association was formed in 1938 as a co-operative between the then four major newspaper groups and the state broadcaster.

It shared breaking news nationally and acted as the conduit for distributing international wire services, like Agence France Press, to South African clients.

For decades, founder members complained that they were paying the lion’s share to provide news to media outlets springing up in competition with them.

The closure leaves 40 journalists across the country out of work.

They have been active on social media saying the decision has left them high and dry.

As a non-profit organisation, SAPA cannot be sold off. An independent firm of auditors and financial advisors has been appointed to assist in selling off its assets and winding up the operation.

The National Press Club in Pretoria says this development is a sad day for the South African media.

The club’s chairman Jos Charle says SAPA provides an unparalleled service reaching the vast corners of South Africa where the rest of the media falls short.

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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.