Here’s what you should take from the Cape Argus’ student-edited #FeesMustFall edition

On Thursday Cape Argus editor Gasant Abarder announced that the newspaper had taken up a challenge issued by students involved in the #FeesMustFall protests to allow them to co-edit its Friday edition.

The paper stayed good to its word, with student contributions taking up the entire front page, as well as the vast majority of the next five pages.

As the co-editors explain in a message published on page four of the paper:

“What you read from page 1 to 5, the leader article and the op-ed piece, was written, commissioned and edited by the students in the #FeesMustFall Protest.

The student co-editors had carte blanche on news selection for these pages, deciding on the news hierarchy. The student co-editors had the final say on pictures, headlines, captions, subheads and had final eye before pages were signed off.”

In a response to the Cape Argus, who made the offer to lend its resources to the voices of student protesters, the student co-editors gathered in the newsroom and made an effort to provide context by pooling articles and perspectives from various contexts to help start what is clearly going to be a long national conversation.”

The student co-editors collectively call into scrutiny the handling of the student protests by the media thus far and we urge the relevant parties to reach out to young people on the ground instead of recreating harmful ill-disguised colonial stereotypes of young Black people who are painted as violent and unthinking, but in reality are making a resolute stand for justice”

Here’s what you can expect if you decide to buy the Friday edition of the Cape Argus:

The first-had accounts are powerful

Front-page newspaper stories are typically written in traditional “dispassionate observer” fashion. It’s a style used to denote objectivity and create a sense of trust in the publication. Given the remit of this edition however, the decision to abandon that style for a powerful first-person narrative makes sense.

Busiswe Nxumalo’s observation that in “the mist of the pink smoke” of Wednesday’s protests “you could barely make out a sign that read ‘1976’” is a brilliant piece of journalism in its own right.


The ‘pink smoke’ which Nxumalo writes about

It’s not just about the students

While most of the articles are about the student protests, it’s clear that the student co-editors have a much wider grasp of what’s going on in the country. As much is evidenced by coverage of a protest which took place at a Khayelitsha Shoprite around bread prices.

As student protester Leila Khan writes in the piece: “Exorbitant fees and the unjust outsourcing of workers cannot be seen separately from escalating bread prices and the rising cost of being black and poor”.

It’s educational

If you’ve ever felt unsure about what people mean when they use terms like “Decolonisation”, “Black pain”, and “Patriarchy”, the co-editors have put together a useful glossary of terms on the front page.


The co-editors aren’t afraid to use traditional media to critique traditional media

The exact validity of Dela Gwala’s assertion that “News pieces have depicted student protesters as ‘violent’ and ‘unthinking’ will probably the inspiration for scholarly articles for some time to come.

But it’s almost certain that mainstream media outlets will be taking a hard look inwards in the face off allegations that “Erasure has been a running theme with the choice of voices of protesters being narrow and selective” and that “Mainstream media have done a meticulous job in emptying the student mobilisation of its political ideologies”.

As Memeburn reported on Thursday, students have often felt more comfortable with the way social media has been used to spread information on the protests as well as its role in subverting traditional media narratives.



Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest in digital insights. sign up

Welcome to Memeburn

Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest in digital insights.