Verashni Pillay appointed editor-in-chief
Joining her as acting deputy editor is the M&G‘s Phillip de Wet.
Verashni cut her teeth on digital journalism with Media24 for several years before joining the M&G in 2009.
She went on to work at many levels within the publication, beginning with the revamping of the online editorial division, which saw a period of strong growth and innovation under her leadership.
The digital storytelling techniques that the team developed led to a 200% increase in traffic, passing two million monthly users for the first time in its history, and won the M&G a number of awards.
Verashni also worked closely with the events and sales teams, conceptualising and launching new products such as the Voices of Africa blogging site and Women Leader, and co-leading the M&G‘s award-winning Nelson Mandela tribute site.
In 2013, Verashni was appointed associate editor and took on the responsibilities of a senior reporter, gaining a firm understanding of the print side of M&G journalism and covering key political and current affairs stories for the newspaper.
In December last year she left the M&G to work as a media consultant and trainer in various newsrooms, including within the Independent Group and at City Press, specialising in digital journalism, social media and convergence.
Her energy, digital knowledge and passion for media management and good journalism makes her the ideal candidate for the role of editor at the M&G, as does her institutional knowledge of its newsroom, its people and the challenges – and opportunities – facing the publication.
Verashni’s appointment signifies a shift in direction for the M&G – while also going back to its roots.
“Since its incarnation as the Weekly Mail this publication has been known for its hard-hitting investigative journalism and compelling and sometimes audacious storytelling,” said Verashni.
“I believe we need to rekindle that boldness and character, while advancing the complex debates at the centre of our national conversation – which often begin on social media and beg for deeper engagement in the pages of our national titles.”
It has been a tough few months for the publication following retrenchments.
In addition there are many challenges facing the M&G in an increasingly uncertain media environment.
The newspaper has experienced a dip in its circulation while shrinking advertising revenues and the rapid movement of audiences to digital platforms without the concomitant advertising and subscription income is an ongoing concern. But as print revenues decline the opportunities within the digital space are constantly multiplying.
The M&G has always set the standard in digital innovation among print titles in the country, and is looking forward to returning to its full prowess within the digital space under Verashni, while positioning itself better for the future and improving circulation.
The M&G‘s chief executive Hoosain Karjieker said he was delighted with Verashni’s appointment. “Verashni has a talent for energizing a team and creating a strong editorial vision,” he said, adding that he was looking forward to the paper asserting a new identity with her input and was excited about her energy being translated onto the pages of the publication.
De Wet’s strong digital background
Phillip also has a strong digital background and has been a journalist for going on two decades. Before joining the M&G in 2012 he was deputy editor of the Daily Maverick news and analysis website, the same title he held at its predecessor magazine Maverick, both of which he also helped create.
He was previously a business writer at the short-lived This Day South Africa newspaper and at the specialist technology website ITWeb. Over the years he has contributed to a wide range of publications during stints as a freelance journalist, and authored a digital book about Nkandla.
Verashni is a recipient of the CNN African Journalism Award, a Standard Bank Sikuvile Award and an Open Society Foundation journalism fellowship. She was selected as one of The Media magazine’s top 40 under 40s in media in 2013 and co-founded a successful social media training company after leaving the M&G.
She has worked closely with and been mentored by several previous editors at the M&G including Ferial Haffajee, Nic Dawes, Chris Roper, Angela Quintal and Moshoeshoe Monare, and looks forward to continuing the rich legacy these editors have bequeathed.
Verashni and Phillip will officially begin in their new roles on October 19 2015. The M&G‘s Shaun de Waal will act as caretaker editor until then.