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Viewfinder’s accountability journalism gets the Taco Kuiper nod

As South Africans hope for a further easing of the lockdown and a gradual opening of the economy, three of SAMIP’s participants were shortlisted for the 2019 Taco Kuiper Award for investigative journalism – Daneel Knoetze of Viewfinder, Pauli van Wyk of the Daily Maverick and Sipho Kings from the Mail & Guardian.

It marks a highlight in a week where SAMIP participants continued to keep audiences up to date with the latest news, updates and analysis of the day.

Viewfinder, a South African investigative journalism startup, was named as one of the top four finalists of the Taco Kuiper Award for their investigations of police abuses of power and failing oversight. Viewfinder’s work was also featured this week on the Media Diaries podcast, co-produced by SAMIP participant Volume:

QuoteThisWoman+ now features over 60 women experts to speak on the public health crisis


QuoteThisWoman+, a non-profit start-up that is committed to getting more women’s voices heard in South African media, now offers a database of 64 expert women’s voices to help journalists navigate stormy COVID-19 waters. Their latest newsletter features experts that can speak to public health, the future of work, Africa’s pandemic trajectory, and a host of other issues.

COVID-19 information challenges for rural farmers

In this week’s episode of Food For Mzansi’s weekly farmers’ podcast, Farmer’s Inside Track, the digital media startup speaks to 25-year-old Andile Ngcobo on how limited access to information about COVID-19 has impacted the rural village in which he farms.

Tracking the uptick in infections, death and recoveries

The Coronavirus in South Africa dashboard by Media Hack Collective continues to provide updates on COVID-19 national and provincial infection, death and recoveries rates. Media Hack Collective is a data journalism and digital storytelling organization that aims to make data understandable for a wider audience.

 

As the Covid-19 lockdown eases SAMIP participants break news

On Monday 27 April celebrated Freedom Day a commemoration of the country’s transition to democracy that was heralded by the first democratic elections on that day in 1994. This year was different though, while the country is free democratically, the country is under lockdown as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.

From the start of the short work week to the end of it the country saw increase in the number COVID-19 cases: South Africa as of today 01 May 2020 enters into level 4 of lockdown restrictions. Media Hack Collective COVID-19 dashboard continues to provide updated Coronavirus cases, recoveries, and deaths.

The pandemic and the South African government’s response to it have raised questions amongst citizens and in news media. Like many newsrooms that are operating under the restrictions of the lockdown (that was eased into level 4 this morning) the South Africa Media Innovation Program’s (SAMIP) participants continue to put out stellar work on the pandemic, the lockdown and the state of the world.

Youth news site The Daily Vox and investigative journalism start-up Viewfinder both reported on the ongoing abuses by the country’s police that have been perpetrated on the most vulnerable members of society.

Viewfinder broke an important story on the number of people who have been killed since the lockdown was enforced at the end of March. Two of the people reported as being killed had not been reported on by other media in South Africa: one of the victims was a man who was shot and killed in Groblershoop, Northern Cape, and a man was allegedly beaten to death in Lenasia in Gauteng Province.

South Africa enters level 4

As the country transitions into Level 4 (of a 5-level lockdown process) a lot of confusion was at display. Health-e News reported on how the different levels of the lockdown that the government had enacted. Of importance was the government’s decision on the opening of schools and items that South African’s could purchase in each of the levels.

Minister of agriculture, land reform, and rural development Thoko Didiza announced that most of the agriculture sector and its supporting industries will open during the level 4 of the lockdown. Despite the government’s U-turn to continue the ban on sales of cigarettes, Food for Mzansi reported that the minister’s statement is good news for the agricultural industry and that wine industry insiders are optimistic that level 4 might allow for the online selling of wine.

Progress and innovation continues

SAMIP’s participants also continue to innovate and progress with their projects. In this past week The Daily Vox, Media Hack Collective and Viefinder saw major increases in the number of subscriptions to their respective newsletters. You can subscribe to them on their respective sites.

New entrant Stokvel Talk and legacy publication Mail & Guardian both launched WhatsApp news products in the form digital publications that subscribers can receive in their inboxes.

In times like these the ability of news media to adapt and continue to report on society is a welcome sight. We will keep highlighting our participants’ work which is an important commodity during the pandemic we are all experiencing.

COVID-19 lockdown levels explained by SAMIP participants

This week, as South Africa hit week four of its national lockdown, President Cyril Ramaphosa unveiled a plan to start easing some of the restrictions imposed to combat the spread of the coronavirus, as well as details of a massive R500-billion stimulus package.

The plan itself is a staged easing of the restrictions that were imposed on the country from the last month.

Health e-News reported on different COVID-19 lockdown levels and explained level 4 which will be effective as of 01 May 2020 and reported on the rise in COVID-19. The goal of the lockdown levels is to kickstart South Africa’s economy which has been failing since the lockdown measures were implemented.

At the same time, the country is still battling the rising number of Covid-19 cases that Media Hack Collective has been monitoring through their interactive dashboard.

Life after lockdown

One of the most asked questions in South Africa has been “what will life look like after the lockdown?”. The latest episode of Volume’s podcast series ‘Media Diaries’ probed that question from the perspectives of youth news platform #SMWX,  and media academic Dinesh Balliah.

The answer to the question of life after lockdown has ramifications for everyone and all industries from media to education.

Universities in South Africa will carry on with teachings online however the solution might not work for all the campus students. The Daily Vox continues to report campus news and this week the youth media house reported that due to COVID-19 nation lockdown university medical students might not be able to complete clinical teaching and this raises a concern about graduating this year

Food for Mzansi continues to report on agricultural stories that help the sector to cope with COVID-19  by interviewing experts in the agricultural sector. This week FFM interviewed Dr Sifiso Ntombela, chief economist of the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) who shared guidelines on how the agriculture sector can navigate COVID-19.

 Holding the security forces accountable

Over the past couple of weeks, South Africa’s security services have been a wide range of powers in order to help the health sector manage the lockdown and pandemic relief efforts. Investigative journalism start-up Viewfinder and mobile news platform Scrolla have been reporting diligently on how our police and soldiers have acted wrongly and with impunity using these powers.

Viewfinder recently started an initiative asking members of the public to get in touch with them should they have stories about police and military wrong-doing during the lockdown. If you have a story to tell you can contact them via this link.

Love and marriage under lockdown

Another area of life in South Africa that has been exacerbated by the lockdown has been domestic and gender-based violence which has forced vulnerable members of society to shelter in place with their abusers.

Mail & Guardian’s latest edition features a harrowing story on this topic.

‘No skop, skiet and donder’ but police act with impunity during lockdown

Things are heating up in South Africa as the country enters its first week of a national lockdown during which the government announced the first five deaths as a result of the Coronavirus. The memes have slowed down to a trickle as people begin to grasp the full extent of the damage to the country’s economy, health sector and civil society as a result of the Coronavirus.

Throughout all of this the South Africa Media Innovation Program’s (SAMIP) participants have been hard at work reporting on all of the happenings in the country.

Police brutality comes into the spotlight

With the country going into lockdown the police and army were called up to help manage citizens and their movements. But incidents of abuse of power, by the police, are starting to proliferate on social media.

Investigative journalism start-up ViewFinder published a data story documenting incidents of police brutality that have been an issue even before the lockdown was announced and are now on the rise as members of the police act with impunity.

Mail & Guardian Africa editor Simon Allison and Amabhungane investigative reporter Micah Reddy reported on plain clothes police officers beating up members of the public with shamboks (whips) in order to compel them to observe the rule to stay indoors.

Coronavirus fake news spreads

One of the biggest challenges facing the country in terms of managing the outbreak has been the spread of fake news about the novel Coronavirus on social media platforms and chat apps like WhatsApp.

Online publication Daily Maverick reported on the growing number of fake news stories that are being shared online.

Volume, in collaboration with Africa Check, has been hard at work dispelling myths around Covid-19 such as rumors of Interferon alpha-2b, an antiviral drug used in the treatment of HIV/Aids, being a potential vaccine for the new coronavirus.

According to Volume’s latest ‘Whats Crap on WhatsApp’ podcast WhatsApp voice notes are easy to produce and share, and have become the go-to format that people are using to spread misinformation and disinformation around Covid-19.

Testing on the rise but it is difficult for some

The South African government has been praised for its efforts, especially on the testing front, in fighting the spread Covid-19. But on the ground testing hasn’t gone as smoothly for everyone.

The Children’s Radio Foundation produced a story that was broadcast by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) about a South African who came back from the United Kingdom and struggled with getting a test for Covid-19 even after showing symptoms of the virus.

Mobile news platform Scrolla reported on the first patient from Alexandra (a Johannesburg township) to be diagnosed with Covid-19. Scrolla has partnered with local radio stations and mobile operators in order to share their ground-level reporting on Covid-19 in South Africa.

Innovating around Covid-19

Agri-business publication Food for Mzansi used the opportunity presented by the national lockdown to increase their daily news reporting whilst also looking for new angles to present to their audiences. Some of the pieces they published included a list of 21 recipes that people could try out during the 21-day lockdown.

On an international scale, mobile video producers Hashtag our Stories used virtual reality to host a discussion between Italian teenagers who talked about life under quarantine in their country.

In the world of women’s sports, gsport for girls featured an interview with Bosnian American basketballer Indira Kaljo. Gsport discussed with Kaljo on how she is keeping a healthy mind and body during lockdown.


And continuing the podcast series that was launched last week, Volume has released the second episode of Media Diaries. In this week’s episode the story focuses on Media Hack Collective who developed a data dashboard on Covid-19.

Remember remember, SAMIP in November

The last couple of months tend to be one of the busiest and the same can be said for the South Africa Media Innovation Program (SAMIP) that is wrapping up 2019 with a series of workshops and training for our participants.

Revenue exploration Prague

In late October, SAMIP participant Daily Maverick attended the Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF) / Media Advisory Services‘ (MAS) Revenue Lab Conference in Prague, Czech Republic. The workshop was geared towards providing insight and guidance on the latest trends in revenue generation for media companies and to provide a place for collaboration and networking among the participants and follow up after the event.

“Attendance at the Revenue Workshop resulted in exposure to various useful themes that were taken back to the organization along with strategic adoption of key focus areas for Daily Maverick in 2020”, says Daily Maverick publisher Styli Charalambous.

Tools and marketing in Joburg

In November SAMIP hosted two workshops at our offices in Rosebank, Johannesburg with the first being a showcase of Google News Lab’s tools and process by  visiting fellow Eugene Okumu. SAMIP participants were shown various Google products such as their online courses for journalists in areas that include investigative journalism and verification.

SAMIP then followed this up with a day-long workshop led by The Digital Ivy founder Claire Du Preez who guided our participants in developing marketing strategies for their businesses at the SAMIP offices. Delegates from Health-e News, gsport 4 girls, #SMWX, Hashtag our Stories and Not Yet Uhuru were in attendance.

“I’m feeling much more confident about my own methods of marketing, now that I know exactly how and what I should be questioning in my approach to our campaigns,” says Not Yet Uhuru social media coordinator T.K.

Podcasting in Poland

Way further up north SAMIP participants Volume, Children’s Radio Foundation (CRF), and Daily Maverick attended the MDIF/MAS’ podcasting study tour to Agora (the publisher of Gazeta Wyborcza) in Warsaw, Poland.

Several media outlets from Asia, Africa, and Europe were brought together to learn more about how Agora has managed to establish a strong podcasting presence in a short period of time with some excellent results that could be very inspiring for others.

The study tour provided an opportunity for delegates to: gain insight into revenue and production strategies for podcasts; how to consider various podcast formats and the resources required to produce each format; approaches to post-production; and audience development strategies for podcasts.

Products thinking in Mumbai

And on the other side of the world we sent delegates from ViewFinder, SMWX, Health-e News and gsport for girls to a two-day workshop in Mumbai, India that again hosted by MDIF/MAS. This time the focus was on content and product design for publishers.

Attendees of the workshop were also taught steps they should take to consider and implement when introducing a new product offering to audiences, advertisers and the internal team.

Each participating organization presented a short presentation on their current work or challenges faced in presenting new offers in terms of growth and scale. Following the workshop was a collaborative exercise of sharing of experiences, advice, and examples of case studies, and best industry examples.

Participant highlights

During this past month CRF was took home silver prize in the Global Youth and News Media category at the News Decoder Awards. They were lauded for their innovative approach to an HIV/Aids comprehension campaign.

As we barrel through the final month of 2019 SAMIP will be hosting a meeting of the Advisory Committee meeting in December 2019 in Johannesburg to select the next round of entrants to the program. To apply for Entry into SAMIP, fill in the enquiry form on the SAMIP website. Follow us on Twitter at @SAMIP_MDIF for updates and more information.

SAMIP adds three more projects to its cohort

At the start of this year the South Africa Media Innovation Program (SAMIP) held another meeting of its Advisory Committee to decide on the shortlisted applicants for 2019. After a lengthy session the following projects and organizations were selected to enter our program:

GSport4Girls

GSport4Girls is an online platform that provides coverage of female sports in South Africa. Another component of the organization runs the annual GSport Awards and Hall of Fame which recognizes outstanding performances and contributions in the field of women’s sports.

GSport4Girls was founded and is being operated by Kass Naidoo, a veteran sports journalist and broadcaster, and her husband Ryk Meiring, a technology and new media attorney.

ViewFinder

ViewFinder is an investigative journalism and documentary video production startup. The organization is modeling itself on ProPublica, that both accepts grants and also generates revenue from selling data-driven solutions. The startup was founded by journalist and Hubert Humphrey Fellow and entrepreneur Daneel Knoetze.

#YouthTruth

#YouthTruth is a WhatsApp news channel developed as collaborative production between Oxford academic and social commentator Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh and Thanga, an artificial intelligence (AI) studio based in Johannesburg. The team interviews major names in politics and popular culture and debate the issues of the day.

In its first phase the channel will be launched with their first show, the Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh Xperience (#SMWX). This show revolved around the 2019 elections, including weekly video interviews with political and social stakeholders, as well daily updates on the happenings in South Africa.

SAMIP is proud to add these new projects and organizations to our growing cohort and we look forward to working with them in disrupting the news media space in South Africa.

We visited Warsaw!

In mid-April the program travelled to Warsaw, Poland for the Media Development Investment Fund’s bi-annual Media Forum. This conference and celebration takes place every two years with the last one taking place in 2016 after the election of US President Donald Trump – a sign of challenges to the media to come.

The Media Forum provides an opportunity for clients, friends and colleagues of MDIF, from all over the world, to come together to share their learnings and insights in media. Attendees came from more than 30 countries representing everywhere from the South Americas to South East Asia.

Topics examined at the Forum included issues, such as media dealing with intimidation and harassment, to the business of membership and subscription models, mobile journalism storytelling and strategies for operating in challenging economic conditions.

Our participants also got to present to the MDIF board and SAMIP Advisory Committee on their projects and progress since entering our program in a session that stretched for more than two hours but was so immersive and exciting that we managed to keep a packed room.

All-in-all the experience was a once in a lifetime and we got to make new friends and forge stronger relationships with our friends and colleagues at MDIF.