Celebrating the longevity of the printed word

Chantel Erfort, editor of Cape Community Newspapers, which publishes Southern Suburbs Tatler and its 14 sister titles.

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of a time capsule, a container filled with items from the present, to be unlocked in the future. I love the idea of selecting an item which captures the spirit of a time and place, with the belief that it will communicate something valuable and touching, to someone in the future.

My research into time capsules turned up a number of hits about unearthed vessels which had been filled with either newspaper clippings or entire newspapers along with other relics of the time.

One, sealed in Scotland in 1894, contained a newspaper and a bottle of whisky. In Western Australia they also thought to preserve a newspaper when a time capsule was installed by the Northam Railway Institute in 1897. In it, they put several copies of the Northam Advertiser as well as several coins.

In 2015, after a time capsule sealed in 1795 had been unearthed and opened in Boston, the LA Times reported: “It’s telling that Paul Revere and Samuel Adams’ 1795 time capsule, contained five newspapers. If we buried a time capsule in Los Angeles today, sure, we would probably put a copy of the Los Angeles Times in it. But if and when this newspaper is no longer available in print, what would we put in the capsule? A thumb drive? The password to an iCloud account? Some other totem of our tech lives? An iPad – and hope it charges up in 100-plus years so the people who discovered the time capsule could see what we put on it?”

I, however, believe that newspapers themselves are time capsules. What, after all, is more enduring and long-lasting than the written word, than print media?

One only has to think of books, written hundreds of years ago which continue to provide enjoyment to present-day readers, maps of how we used to see the world, paintings and old photographs which reflect times long gone.

And as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Southern Suburbs Tatler this week, we celebrate not only the role of our paper in documenting history and a changing socio-political landscape, but also the changing face of this paper’s readership – and the legacy and longevity of the printed

This week, in celebration of our birthday, we serve you a slice of that time gone by.

Milestones along the way

March 1979: The first edition of the Southern Suburbs Tatler, then owned by Thomson Publications, is published

29 August 1980: Roger Hulley concludes a sale agreement with Thomson Publications, becoming the new owner of the Tatler, which he purchased for R2 000. At the time he already owned the Constantiaberg Bulletin and his new acquisition became part of the Unicorn Publishers stable.

1990: Independent Newspapers acquires Unicorn Publishers, which by then had grown to include the Tatler, Constantiaberg Bulletin, Atlantic Sun, Milnerton Mail (now Tabletalk) and False Bay Echo – all of which are still part of the Cape Community Newspapers (CCN) stable.

September 2004: The Tatler celebrates its 25th anniversary with the publication of a souvenir edition

December 2007: Current editor Chantel Erfort is appointed to head up CCN.

October 2009: The Tatler celebrates its 30th anniversary with the publication of a souvenir edition, donating its birthday cake to Mountain Road Primary in Woodstock, which had recently been included in the paper’s footprint.

October 2019: Tatler celebrates its 40th anniversary.