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24.com steps into the SAPA void, launches news agency

24.com, the digital arm of Media 24, has announced the launch of its own news agency. The new service, which is set to launch in April, will be called News24Wire. And if the press release marking the announcement is to be believed, its aim is to fill the void left by the South African Press Agency (SAPA), which closed down in early February.

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The agency will comprise a 16-strong, national reporting team being built by veteran editor and News24 editor-in-chief Andrew Trench. Leading the team however will be Sapa’s news editor Fienie Grobler.

While News24Wire’s goals are certainly lofty, the way it intends achieving them is probably more interesting. Unlike traditional news agencies, it will be digital first.

According to the press release announcing its launch, content from News24Wire will be free to use for all digital publications. Print, broadcast, radio and corporate partners will meanwhile have to pay to syndicate content.

“We are building a fully digital newsroom with bureaus around the country,” said Trench

Initially the stories produced by the wire agency will focus on text, later expanding to include images, data journalism and multimedia packages.

In the press release, 24.com points out that bureaus are already set up in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban and Bloemfontein. It also says that News24Wire will “tap into an extensive stringer network”. The service will zone in on South African content, with a particular focus on breaking news and politics. It will also cover business, sport and news originating from the established News24 Nigeria and News24 Kenya newsrooms.

“As a long-serving member of Sapa, Media24 fully appreciates and supports the value of a well-run newswire service, and we have endeavoured to accommodate as many of Sapa’s staff and services as possible,” said Media24 head of digital publishing Lisa McCloud.

“We are particularly pleased, on the back of the recent debacle around stifling reporting in Parliament, to be able to offer our news free to digital partners, thus ensuring freedom of the press and unfettered access to information for both publishers and consumers of news in South Africa,” said Trench.

“This is a really exciting project and we are thrilled at the calibre and sheer volume of applications we have had from the best reporters and news editors countrywide,” he added.

Syndication and access will be handled by Gallo Images.

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