The alternative press in Black and White: Analysing the representation of Black voices in the weekly mails political reporting

Master Thesis


Permanent link to this Item
Journal Title
Link to Journal
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
The alternative press refers to a group of anti-apartheid newspapers which proliferated in South Africa during the early 1980s until the early 1990s. What was ‘alternative' about these publications was how they actively pursued an anti-apartheid agenda in their news reporting. The Weekly Mail newspaper is regarded as one of the pioneers of this section of the press and is the focus of this study which examines the representation of black political voices in its political reporting. Recognising a gap in the literature on the alternative press pertaining to questions of race, gender, voice and sourcing patterns, this study utilises qualitative discourse analysis and content analysis to analyse the political reporting in the Weekly Mail to evaluate the representation of black voices in the newspaper. It asks the questions: how can we analyse the content emerging from the alternative press with regards to the representation of black voices? Who writes, who speaks and what does this say about race, power and black representation in the Weekly Mail? Would this esteemed newspaper reproduce some of the racial and gender stereotypes prevalent in mainstream newspapers, or would it shift its content to more progressive terrains? This study revealed that the Weekly Mail was centred around male voices, specifically, those of black male leaders of popular black organisations. The study further revealed an interesting division in the representations of black males, where older black males were constructed as respectable, rational and approachable, while younger black males who were sometimes referred to as “young lions” in the ANC Youth League, were constructed as unthinking, violent, politically naïve and were infantilised. The findings of this study further showed that the Weekly Mail framed black females in politics according to their roles as wives, mothers and maternal caregivers. There were inconsistencies in how white and black women were portrayed. While black women were put strictly in their motherhood boxes, white women were allowed space to think and speak more broadly about their political ideas and aspirations. These observations showed the ways which the Weekly Mail deployed subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) undertones of racial and gender biases in their representations of black political voices.