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‘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.

Podcasting in the age of Covid-19

The events of this past week have been monumental: On Monday 23 March, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the South African government was going to lockdown the country for twenty-one days starting midnight Thursday 26 March.

Despite the new state of the nation the South Africa Media Innovation Program’s (SAMIP) participants have continued their good journalism in covering the developments of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The diary of a media worker

On Wednesday 25 March, Volume released the first episode of a podcast series called Media Diaries: this is a podcast about media workers covering the Covid-19 outbreak in South Africa. The podcast is a collaboration between SAMIP and Volume.

“The idea was to do something innovative around Covid-19 and the media,” explains Volume co-founder and director Paul McNally. “How do you do your job as a journalist which needs social contact when you’re supposed to be employing social distancing as a private citizen.”

Listen to the messenger don’t shoot them

Online publication Daily Maverick launched a podcast as well this week: Don’t Shoot the Messenger with Rebecca Davis. The podcast is a look at current affairs through the lens of seasoned journalist Rebecca Davis.

In the first episode, Rebecca interviewed Yale Professor Frank Snowden, who has studied the effects of pandemics throughout history.

Youth, anxiety and the Coronavirus

The Children’s Radio Foundation decided to investigate the effects of the viral outbreak on the youth of the country. The non-profit’s network of youth reporters, consisting of young men and women from around South Africa, shared their feelings about the virus and the lockdown that the country is undergoing.

In a series of vox pops that were collected using WhatsApp voice notes the youth reporters shared their anxiety, sadness and fear about the virus.

Other highlights

The rest of the cohort continued their superb coverage of the pandemic. Data journalism start-up Media Hack Collective saw subscriptions to their weekly newsletter soar on the back of their innovative data dashboard that is tracking the Coronavirus pandemic in South Africa.

Health-e News reported on the plans that the South African government has in place in order to fight the pandemic in townships and peri-urban areas where South Africa’s most vulnerable citizens live.

Youth news site The Daily Vox shared some important resources for South Africans to have on hand during the lockdown. The resources included numbers to report gender based violence that many fear will spike as individuals are being forced into quarantine with their abusers.

And on a lighter note mobile video start-up Hashtag our Stories shared a compilation of videos from around the world where people engaged in the #StayAtHomeChallenge meme.

These are just some of the many projects and stories from our cohort of participants who are innovating and transforming the media space in South Africa.

SAMIP participant Volume releases podcast series on SA media & Covid-19

Podcast production company Volume and the South Africa Media Innovation Program (SAMIP) are embarking on a joint project to tell the stories of media workers during the Coronavirus (also known as Covid-19) outbreak in South Africa.

The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown the country into a spin as the nation comes to grips with a situation the likes of which no one has seen in recent history.

It was in light of this unprecedented situation that SAMIP teamed up with our program participant Volume to produce a podcast series that would tell the stories of journalists who are on the frontlines reporting on the pandemic at a local level.

“The idea was to do something innovative around Covid-19 and the media,” explains Volume co-founder and director Paul McNally. “How do you do your job as a journalist which needs social contact when you’re supposed to be employing social distancing as a private citizen.”

With President Cyril Ramaphosa announcing a national shutdown that goes into effect at midnight Thursday 26 March, Volume got to work conducting interviews with reporters and media workers in several of South Africa’s top newsrooms.

For the first episode of the series (which will be available wherever you listen to podcasts) Volume spoke to reporters and editors from Health-e News, a non-profit that produces news and information on the health sector in South Africa with a focus on communicable diseases.

(for those of you who listen to podcasts via Apple Podcasts the series can be found here.)

“We started with Health-e-News who have a citizen journalism network, and what was interesting in this episode was talking to news editors who felt guilty about sending out their reporters in harm’s way to report on the pandemic,” says Paul. “Some of the journalists expressed concern about using public transport to get around but were still adamant on doing their job.”

Volume, who co-produce the WhatsApp “fake news” podcast What’s Crap on WhatsApp with Africa Check, utilized WhatsApp voice notes as a way of gathering soundbites from media workers. This allowed the production to feel more intimate and authentic.

In this time when digital media is a constant stream of information from a number of sources (both credible and not credible), Paul hopes that the series will reach those who are glued to their Twitter feeds and want to form a story about those sources of information.

“Information without context creates anxiety and I hope that this series will offer some form of catharsis for news consumers wanting to know the people behind the stories,” added Paul.

The series is also aimed at journalists and media workers in order to show them how their peers are reporting on Covid-19 across different platforms and beats and to inspire them to report responsibly on the outbreak.

Once the pandemic clears Volume hopes that the series will act as a time capsule that future generations can open up to understand how media responded to one of the most impactful events of the century.

New Year, New beginnings

January is the month of new beginnings and this year it’s the start of a new decade too. It’s hard to believe that our program has been running for the past three years and we look forward to new year of good work and progress.

At the South Africa Media Innovation Program (SAMIP) we kicked off the new decade with a new set of additions to our cohort of participants and a reinvigorated mission to transform and innovate in the South African media space.

Kicking off the year to a good start

With the new entrants selected we held our annual kick-off event in Johannesburg where our participants got the chance to present to each other. The presentations took the form of pitches allowing the organizations to showcase their products and services, challenges and successes thus far.

It was inspiring to see how many presentations we had to go through, a testament to the growth of our program which started with nine participants and is now sitting with more than 15 in our portfolio.

During the presentations we got to hear about: how Daily Maverick’s membership plan, Maverick Insider, has grown from strength to strength; Health-e News who celebrated their 20th anniversary in 2019; gsport for girls who launched a new monthly award for news makers in women’s sports; Volume who released the latest season of their true crime podcast ‘Alibi’; and Igunundu Press who are experimenting with multimedia in isiZulu.

2020 onward

2020 promises to be both a challenging and yet rewarding year for us. Our focus over the next 11 months will be on sustainability, revenue generation, podcasting, newsletters and much more. We look forward to seeing it through and seeing you all at events and conferences as we work towards supporting media in South Africa and beyond.

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 warms up the coldest month of the year

July tends to be dominated with news of the Durban July – the eponymous horse race which brings out the fashionistas of the country. But for the South Africa Media Innovation Program it was a month of learnings and innovation.

New voices in podcasting

The coldest month of the year saw the program attending Radio Days Africa (RDA) with several of our participants and partners. The conference is billed as the largest audio and radio themed gathering on the continent, featuring talks by experts both local and abroad.

SAMIP, in collaboration with our participant the Children’s Radio Foundation (CRF), brought over three excellent podcast producers and trainers who lead two sessions at RDA on the business of podcasting and a two-part storytelling masterclass for podcasts:



 

  • Selly Thiam who is the director of None on Record, a digital media organization that works with African LGBTI communities across the African continent and the diaspora. Based in Nairobi, their Afro Queer podcast was recently selected to take part in Google’s Podcast Creator program. Selly is also a journalist and oral historian whose work has appeared on National Public Radio, PBS, and in the New York Times. She was a producer for Storycorps, PBS’ Learning Matters, and a Carnegie Fellow at ABC News Investigative Unit.
  • Veralyn Williams is a producer on WNYC’s new show The Stakes with Kai Wright, and has worked on a wide range of podcasting production and radio training projects (WNYC, Slate). Veralyn is also a former youth reporter, and has done numerous training programs across Africa.
  • Eric Eddings co-hosts The Nod at Gimlet Media. He also co-hosted “For Colored Nerds”, an independent podcast about race, news and pop culture. Prior to working at Gimlet, he helped nonprofits and foundations develop digital strategies at Fenton.

After the conference SAMIP held a special round-table discussion with the podcast trainers and several of our participants to figure out how to add new voices in podcasting in terms of revenue, content and distribution.

It was an insightful discussion which featured debates on the role of WhatsApp as a distribution platform, how vernacular languages are under served in the local podcasting space and possible business models to make podcasting sustainable in South Africa.

SAMIP participant Volume got to present their “What’s Crap on WhatsApp” project at Radio Days Africa. The project is a voice note show created by Africa Check in partnership with Volume to fight mis/disinformation that’s spread on WhatsApp and was the winner of the 2019 Fact Forward Innovation Fund for which Africa Check and Volume were awarded a $50,000 grant.

Fundraising for media

During July our participants were also given special coaching by independent consultant Carolin Gomulia. Carolin took the participants through the complexities of fundraising in South Africa, prospecting for funds and how to manage relations between funders and grantees.

This is in line with SAMIP’s goal of helping our participants become financially sustainable by diversifying their revenue streams.

Other important stories by SAMIP’s cohort:

    • Digest used Instagram to explain Expropriation without Compensation https://bit.ly/2SUSnvT
    • The Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh Xperience (#SMWX) covered President Zuma’s testimony on State Capture

With July behind us SAMIP is looking forward to a busy third quarter of the year with more additions to the cohort and exploring topics in memberships and audience engagement.

Our Valentines to SA media

February is known as the month of love and for the South Africa Media Innovation Program (SAMIP) we got to express our love for the local media industry and for our participants. The short month may only have twenty-eight days but we packed in more than two months worth of work in it: We went on speed-dates, hung out in a cool workspace learning about native advertising and prepared to expand our cohort of grantees.

Speed dating among journalists

Our highlight event for the month was a speed dating and networking event that SAMIP held with members of the South Africa National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) and business and technology developers in Cape Town. The event took place on the evening of February 8 at Workshop17’s Waterfront venue.  

The event kicked off with an address by newly appointed SANEF chairperson Mahlatse Mahlase on the state of news media in South Africa. 

SAMIP program officer Siyabonga Africa then introduced the program to the attendees and teased out our “Quit Your Job” challenge – which you will hear more about in time.

Our program manager, Bilal Randeree coordinated the speed-dating rounds and towards the end of the programme SAMIP called up interested parties to pitch their ideas to the audience at large. Some great media ideas were heard and the event will hopefully be repeated in Johannesburg in the future.

Going native

The following week we hosted our grantees at Workshop17 for a workshop on native advertising. Forbes estimates that the ever-evolving field of native campaigns will account for 74% of advertising revenue by 2021.

Our participants (which included Daily Maverick, The Daily Vox, Digest, Hashtag our Stories, Igunundu Press, The New EraSoul City, Volume and invited guests from the Mail & Guardian and ViewFinder) were taken through the history of native advertising and why it’s an important revenue stream by Media Development Investment Fund entrepreneur-in-residence Matthew Buckland. 

The attendees also heard from native advertising experts in the fields of publishing an advertising, who gave their take on native campaigns and the learnings they made in them.

Matthew impressed on the attendees that if they tried “dressing up advertising as editorial” they were sure to lose the game. Kathryn and Bernard Kotze from Daily Maverick’s in-house brand studio, Beatnik, also emphasised the ethics of aligning native campaigns with editorial policies. Moneyweb national sales manager Tracy Parsons advised that publishers should stand their ground in negotiations with media buyers and potential clients for native campaigns.

The workshop was a success and a good start to SAMIP’s capacity building initiatives which will see more workshops and trainings taking place throughout 2019.

Cohort highlights

Throughout February our participants also had some successes of their own including:

  • Digest founder Dhanyal Davidson, wrote an article on ways to improve managing money which was published by Fin24. The article highlights how readers use Digest to stay informed about finance and economics in South Africa.
  • Digest and The Daily Vox provided great coverage and analysis on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address which took place on the 7 February.
  • Digest, the Mail & Guardian and the Daily Maverick also provided great coverage and analysis on the Finance Minister’s Budget Speech for 2019 which took place on the 20 February.

As always we are still taking in enquiries on our website, so if you believe you have an innovative news and information organization, product or idea, please submit an enquiry and we promise to respond.

March promises to be another busy month and we look forward to what it brings.

Doing it for Madiba

The month of July has been dedicated to former president Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela who’s sacrifice and work during the Apartheid era and into South Africa’s democratic freedom inspired millions. At the South Africa Media Innovation Program (SAMIP) we have been inspired to find more ways to assist in the democratisation of our media space by supporting independent media.

Throughout the month of July the program has been hard at work with its grantees and beyond on ways to be conducive in the growth of a free press.

One of our grantees, Hashtag Our SA, participated in the biggest cleanup to take place on African continent. More than 6,000 people across nine different countries participated in this effort.

Our other grantees have also been busy throughout the month of July participating in media events and conferences to showcase their work and expertise.

Radio Days Africa

The largest radio conference on the African continent, Radio Days Africa, took place during the first week of July. The conference brought together stakeholders and interested parties in the radio and broadcasting space for a series of presentations and discussions about the industry and its future.

Three of our grantees, Children’s Radio Foundation, Volume and Soul City, had a presence at the conference where they got to present their projects and lead panel discussions.

Soul City presented their feminist platform, Not Yet Uhuru which will be seeing a big launch in the near future. The platform will feature discussions on topics such as  sex, friendship, alcohol abuse, financial independence and life in general.

Volume co-founder Paul McNally sat on an innovation panel on the last day of the conference where the future of the radio industry was discussed.

SAMIP at Hacks/Hackers

Our program officer, Siyabonga Africa, spoke at Hacks/Hackers Johannesburg’s media entrepreneurism event: How to be a media entrepreneur. The night was dedicated to discussing entrepreneurism in the news media space and how one can get involved in it.

Former Huffington Post SA editor-in-chief Verashni Pillay was also present to share on her experience with the news site that has now been shuttered by Media24. Pillay also touched on opportunities for startups in the media space and what is missing in the South African context.

General Entry

The program has officially closed applications for general entry. We started the process at the end of March this year and since then we have received more than 50 applications from some amazing projects, startups and organizations.

Our advisory committee deliberated on the finalists and we will update the public with regards to their decision once it has been approved by our board in New York City.

Moving forward

Now that general entry has closed the program will be taking inquiries for the foreseeable future. The inquiries are means for us to stay informed with regards to what interesting projects or organizations are out there in the independent media space.

As the year enters its final two quarters SAMIP will be working on providing capacity building initiatives for its grantees and our partners. We also will be attending some major media events in the upcoming months including: Media Indaba 2018 and the African Investigative Journalism Conference. We look forward to seeing and interacting with you all there.