This is Our Future
This week we bring very bad news and some good news to the attention of our faithful readers.
The good news first: There will be a Southern Cross in the future, with an exciting plan to vitalise this venerable publication as it approaches its 100th birthday.
The bad news is that this will be accomplished with no full-time staff.
As of July 31, all staff members of this newspaper will be retrenched, from the editor to the general assistant. That is 130 years of combined service going out of the door.
Like so many other businesses and institutions, the coronavirus crisis and the resultant crashing economy have wrought havoc with our capacity to continue operation as before.
The loss of income from sales in the churches — our main point-of-sale — has crippled The Southern Cross’ finances.
Our financial reserves are exhausted, and with churches still not reopening, or doing so under heavy restrictions, there is no immediate prospect of assured income which might allow us to retain our staff.
The Southern Cross’ staff is loyal, to the newspaper and the Church, and they made great sacrifices to keep the newspaper going for what will be four months of lockdown.
The staff has struggled with a formidable spirit through these difficult months, even when influential voices explicitly withdrew their support just when we needed it most.
Such ill-timed opposition — cruelly coming at a moment when our staff members were worried about the future, for themselves and for the newspaper they love — was offset by the signs of support offered by many others.
It was energising when the bishops’ conference issued a message of support, signed by its president, Bishop Sithembele Sipuka.
Encouragement was offered by so many readers and friends: moral support in the form of personal messages, calls and letters, and financial patronage from so many people who want their Southern Cross to survive.
There may be many who are indifferent to The Southern Cross, and a few who are hostile to it — but especially during the past few months, we felt the depth of love which so many people have for this newspaper.
We have seen an uptake in subscriptions, and our free digital edition has introduced this newspaper to many who had never known it before. Clearly, the local Church still needs The Southern Cross.
All this has sustained the staff over the past few months. As we clear our desks, we take with us the memory of much goodwill which will soothe many painful wounds.
And until the end, we shall pray for a funding miracle by which we may return to these desks.
The wonderful generosity of many readers has assured that The Southern Cross has survived so far, and that it will not be lost when the staff leaves.
Three retrenched staff members will continue to bring out a weekly Southern Cross, in digital format, while working on a freelance basis, at substantial financial sacrifice.
Subscribers will continue to receive their digital Southern Cross on Wednesdays, and the Catholic community on Sundays for free until the end of September.
At that point, The Southern Cross will relaunch as a monthly magazine (subscriptions will be converted accordingly). Our website (www.scross.co.za) will continue to serve as a hub for news.
Of course, this is a mammoth task. It will require funding, so we ask our generous readers to keep supporting The Southern Cross.
Obviously, we are also praying for large-scale funding to enable us to run this publication with full-time staff and financial security.
We are also hoping that volunteers may come forward to offer their services to lighten the enormous workload assumed by the freelancers.
The Southern Cross as we knew it — the weekly newspaper that served the Catholic community week after week for almost a hundred years — will be no more.
Indeed, discussions were already underway, before the coronavirus changed everything, to turn the newspaper into a magazine. That was a project for 2021. Circumstances — and, we believe, the Holy Spirit — have accelerated that plan.
The relaunched Southern Cross magazine will need the energetic cooperation of our Catholic community, our parishes, our priests and our bishops.
In the interim, pray for us, the staff of The Southern Cross, that the future will be brighter than it may seem right now.