Sipho Kings (33), is a news editor at the Mail & Guardian (M&G), and  has worked at M&G for nearly a decade. 

Kings began his journalism career  as an intern, then spent a large part of his time as an investigative environment reporter. After spending a year doing a Nieman Fellowship, he became a news editor  for M&G. 

Following the announcement that Associated Media Publishing would cease operations from  May 1, the repercussions of the coronavirus outbreak and lockdown are beginning to be evident and real for independent media in the country. 

Kings speaks about how the outbreak has affected independent media,  M&G’s efforts to counterbalance the adversity that they face and reminds us of the importance of good quality media. 

As told to Thobekile Moyo

For small, independent media, covid-19 has meant a dramatic drop in advertising revenue. Small media, like us, the M&G, don’t have a parent company that can provide a buffer during times like this. So when advertising drops then there isn’t enough money to pay for journalism. 

Big media houses have, however, not escaped and everyone, everywhere in the world, is having the same problem. 

Luckily, this has come at the same time as people’s realisation of just how important good journalism is, so we have seen a dramatic uptake in subscriptions and in people wanting to help us.

Reporting at its core has not changed. We ask questions of the status quo and hold power to account. Where there have been changes is in people not going out to look for stories, and rather having to rely on contacts and finding people who they can call for stories. This makes our jobs more difficult and tasks tend to take up more time.

We are in an exciting time for media, in as much as people are starting to pay for journalism – not so much for big media houses but rather they are willing to contribute money for quality content; for good reporting. 

Part of this is media talking about what we do with that money, and being open and accountable, while the other part is helping to educate readers about the importance of their money in supporting journalism. 

So people need to start seeing the cost of journalism and deciding if they are willing to pay to be informed. 

The Continent is a new M&G publication, which is a product of WhatsApp, and other chat platforms. The idea came from observing how so many people consume media on these chat platforms, where there were so few publications. 

For most media, this is because it is really hard to make money from people downloading and sharing a PDF. However, we cannot ignore this space. When we do, people start sharing deliberately false information and that is bad for how our democracy works. 

So we created a new way of getting people news — from plan to publication, we took only two weeks. The response has been incredible, with thousands of people signing up to get a free copy. 

All of this allows us to learn more about how people share news, news in PDFs and how we can better write our journalism for that medium. That will allow us to keep getting journalism to people so that they can be better informed.

FEATURED IMAGE: The cover page of The continental by Mail & Guardian.  Photo: Provided.