CityPress - - Voices - Adies and gen­tle­men, guests, mem­bers of the Naspers and Me­dia24 boards, col­leagues, friends.

Tonight, ex­actly 100 years ago to the day, in fact to the minute, the news­room of Die Burger must have been a frenzy of ac­tiv­ity as a small band of broth­ers – I as­sume they were all broth­ers, no sis­ters – put their very first is­sue to bed. Any­one who has ever launched a new pub­li­ca­tion, or has put a new edi­tion to bed ev­ery day, week or month, knows that feel­ing.

The adren­a­line, the dead­line tick­ing closer be­cause the print­ing press and the dis­tri­bu­tion trucks are wait­ing, the si­lence you need in your head to make swift and ac­cu­rate de­ci­sions in the midst of the chaos.

And here we are, 100 years later. Naspers, an in­ter­net gi­ant do­ing big busi­ness in more than 130 coun­tries, and Me­dia24, the corner­stone of this com­pany and a lead­ing media com­pany in Africa.

Tonight’s func­tion is ac­tu­ally the 54th. On De­cem­ber 18 last year we cel­e­brated Naspers’ found­ing meet­ing at Heem­st­ede in Stel­len­bosch a cen­tury ago. Yesterday, at Me­dia24’s 52 of­fices across South Africa, we had a party to thank our peo­ple for their role in the suc­cess of Me­dia24 and Naspers.

Tonight is the last staff party for the peo­ple in this build­ing and, of course, the 100th an­niver­sary of Die Burger. To­mor­row, we are hold­ing the first of many func­tions across the coun­try for our re­tired col­leagues. It’s just a small to­ken of ap­pre­ci­a­tion to ev­ery per­son who is part of this com­pany’s rich history – and ex­cit­ing fu­ture.

When Pres­i­dent John F Kennedy vis­ited the Nasa Space Cen­ter in the six­ties, he stopped when he saw a jan­i­tor who was busy sweep­ing with a broom and asked him what he was do­ing.

“Well, Mr Pres­i­dent,” replied the jan­i­tor, “I’m help­ing to put a man on the moon.”

And this is how we think of the peo­ple who have been part of this com­pany in the past 100 years.

Tonight we pay trib­ute to the peo­ple, the heart and soul of this com­pany, whether you work in ad­min, IT, ac­counts, whether you’re a devel­oper or an engi­neer or in the trenches re­port­ing the news, mak­ing sure our publi­ca­tions get on to shelves and into the post­boxes of our read­ers coun­try­wide, or whether it is your job to make sure our sites don’t fall over when a big story breaks or you’re faced with 55 mil­lion page views in three days for your elec­tion site in Nige­ria.

Since Die Burger’s hum­ble begin­nings in Keerom Street we have grown into a mod­ern mul­ti­plat­form media com­pany that has touched the lives of mil­lions ev­ery day. We’re at the fore­front of the revo­lu­tion in dig­i­tal media and South African e-com­merce.

Yes, the com­pany is grow­ing and chang­ing, and we are in­vest­ing a lot in new sources of in­come, new tech­nolo­gies and new busi­nesses. And this is right, in the en­tre­pre­neur­ial spirit of our pre­de­ces­sors.

But at the core of an ever-ex­pand­ing busi­ness is our com­mit­ment to telling the sto­ries that shape the world South Africans live in, whether in print or on dig­i­tal plat­forms. We are unceas­ingly com­mit­ted to ex­cel­lent jour­nal­ism. It is em­bed­ded in the DNA of this com­pany, and will be for the next 100 years.

The nu­mer­ous awards that our jour­nal­ists, colum­nists, writ­ers, ed­i­tors, pho­tog­ra­phers, lay­out artists, book pub­lish­ers and print­ers win year af­ter year – and more re­cently from our mul­ti­me­dia and e-com­merce teams, and our engi­neers for their online prod­ucts and apps – bear wit­ness to the ex­cel­lence of our peo­ple.

Me­dia24 is not a com­pany that man­u­fac­tures baked beans. For 100 years, we have not only recorded the coun­try’s history, but in­flu­enced it.

Through the eyes of our jour­nal­ists, pho­tog­ra­phers and ed­i­tors, that rare species which is the core of what we do, we have al­ways been there.

We re­ported on the car­nage and the courage of World War 2. We wit­nessed the fall of the Ber­lin Wall, 9/11, the world’s first heart trans­plant. We were there.

We were on the side­lines when the Spring­boks won two World Cups, when Bafana Bafana held the Africa Cup of Na­tions tro­phy high above their heads.

We were there when the new South Africa was born. We ex­pe­ri­enced the eu­pho­ria when Madiba was re­leased in 1990 and we metic­u­lously cov­ered our first demo­cratic elec­tion in 1994.

We were there when 34 min­ers were gunned down in Marikana and broke the news that Os­car Pis­to­rius had shot his girl­friend, Reeva Steenkamp.

So how does one re­flect on 100 years where you recorded history day to day, but also in­flu­enced it?

As we counted down the months and weeks to this cel­e­bra­tion, many of us had a chance to think about it again.

As we paged through history, many things were funny. Like the Huisgenoot cover with a draw­ing of a rugby player with a Spring­bok cig­a­rette ad­ver­tise­ment and the fol­low­ing words, com­plete with an ex­cla­ma­tion mark: “The sports­man’s choice!”

Or the bank ad­ver­tise­ment of­fer­ing large salaries to young grad­u­ates: R93 for young men, R86 for young women. The Joko tea ad that said: “I like a woman who can keep the pot boiling.” Girls, have you ever?

On a more se­ri­ous note, we re­cently pub­lished a book, Con­stant Revo­lu­tion: Naspers, Me­dia24 and Tran­si­tions, a won­der­ful col­lec­tion of es­says by com­men­ta­tors and great minds in the South African media world fear­lessly look­ing at our history. There is much to be proud of, but also that which makes you hang your head in shame.

Tonight, we celebrate our suc­cesses with pride, and ac­knowl­edge our fail­ures with hu­mil­ity.

We ac­knowl­edge com­plic­ity in a morally in­de­fen­si­ble po­lit­i­cal regime and the hurt­ful way in which this played out in our news­rooms and board­rooms.

Con­rad Sidego tells how he, as the first brown re­porter at Die Burger, had to walk to the Pa­rade to go for a pee be­cause he could not use the bath­rooms. That story records decades of suf­fer­ing and hu­mil­i­a­tion. And for that, we of­fi­cially of­fer our apolo­gies tonight.

In The Lion King, the wise old ba­boon Rafiki, ad­viser to the king, re­flects: “Oh yes, the past can hurt, but the way I see it, you can ei­ther run from it or learn from it.”

And learn we have. For this is also a com­pany that played a crit­i­cal role in the so­ciopo­lit­i­cal changes in our coun­try, not only fear­lessly push­ing for change on our ed­i­to­rial pages and ed­i­tors’ col­umns and in dis­creet be­hind-the-scenes meet­ings with the pow­ers that be and were to be, but by em­bark­ing on a whole new chap­ter of pub­lish­ing history by ac­quir­ing City Press, Drum and True Love in the eight­ies and found­ing what is to­day the big­gest daily news­pa­per on the con­ti­nent, Daily Sun.

To­day we can proudly say that we pub­lish for all South Africans, that we tell their sto­ries, that they have all found a home at Me­dia24.

The Me­dia24 story is one of trans­for­ma­tion of race and gen­der, the drop­ping of po­lit­i­cal and so­cial bar­ri­ers, so to­day we can proudly say equal­ity and free­dom of speech truly form the cor­ner­stones of our com­pany.

Although we are now of­fi­cially 100 years old, I think you will agree that we will not live up to the old adage of age­ing grace­fully.

We are like a thor­ough­bred filly – chomp­ing at the bit, full of energy, cu­ri­ous, play­ful and gutsy, ready to go out and win that race.

My 18-year-old son, in typ­i­cal teenage par­lance, has de­clared this new build­ing to be ‘rau­cous’. For those who don’t know, that’s good. We have re­ceived noth­ing but com­pli­ments for this makeover, and the new Me­dia24 logo. Gus Sil­ber tweeted that it has ‘real pres­ence – you can al­most hear it’.

And we are here to be heard for the next 100 years. Let us con­tinue on this jour­ney united in our goal to grow, evolve and thrive. Let us con­tinue to rein­vent our­selves be­cause only those who con­stantly re­new will sur­vive.

Let us con­tinue to be part of this won­der­ful coun­try’s history for the next 100 years.

You’ve come a long way, baby. (Iron­i­cally this is the pay­off line of the first Vir­ginia Slims cig­a­rette ad for women). To this we add: Heita, look at us now. Here’s to the next cen­tury.

This is a speech by Wei­de­man, CEO of Me­dia24, a sub­sidiary of Naspers, de­liv­ered in Cape Town last night

A NEW LOOK In keep­ing with the chang­ing na­ture of the com­pany, the con­crete ed­i­fice of the Naspers Cen­tre in Cape Town has had a face-lift and now boasts a mod­ern and vi­brant façade

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