Most of us at the Mail & Guardian have been working from home for the last two weeks. Fewer than five of us will continue coming into the office over the lockdown. It’s been an interesting time.
The one constant has been the cost of producing the M&G every week.
As the country went first into a state of disaster and then a 21-day lockdown, we have had advertisers — which contribute about 70% to our revenue — cancel their campaigns. Our live events — which make up roughly 20% of our income — have come to an abrupt halt.
This week has been one of the worst we have ever experienced in contemporary times.
Right now our income will not adequately cover the cost of producing the M&G.
We will likely not be able to pay salaries next month. We know we are not the only ones.
It is true that the M&G has been here before. When we were founded in 1985, we faced smear campaigns, bans and closure. A dedicated readership supported us. Since then, it has been thanks to our core readership who continued buying the M&G that we have been able to continue holding power to account in South Africa, and beyond.
So what do we do for you?
Over the course of former President Jacob Zuma’s nine years in the presidency he appeared on our front page 130 times. That’s because we recognised that the single biggest threat to our nascent democracy and our people at the time revolved around this one person.
Nearly two months ago, when most were caught up with other seemingly pressing news, the M&G was placing the threat and implications of the Covid-19 virus for South Africa on its front page.
We give you the kind of critical analysis that makes us a must read from the Union Buildings to Luthuli House, from Makhanda to Khayelitsha. Before the Zondo Commission, before the Gupta Leaks, many of the intricacies of state capture were already being painstakingly laid bare in the pages of the M&G.
In the process we birthed two of the best independent journalism units in the country today — the Amabhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism, and the Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism.
And while our reporters work from home, our team scattered, under the same immense stresses that our readers face, we continue to deliver critical information in what is an unprecedented situation.
It is true that we have been here before, but not like this.
What can you do for us?
Media exist for the good of a healthy democracy. If you think this is important, we ask that, if you can, you buy a newspaper when you get out to do essential shopping — the government has classified us as an essential service — or get a subscription to our online news.
We know our future lies in digital news, and have been making big changes to how you access our work. This includes revamping our website, making it easier, for instance, to bring you specialised, visually engaging coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic.
We’ve also made it infinitely easier to subscribe, a move which has already seen many of you sign up to take advantage of a closer relationship with your favourite (we hope!) newspaper and its journalists.
Our reporters are doing what they’ve always done — what they were trained to do. They are telling the story of our people, for our people. They are applying their insights, relying on hard-won sources, reading hundreds of pages of government documents, checking and cross-checking facts against regulations, against the Constitution, against anecdotal stories, against common sense — all to ensure you are as informed as you can be.
But we will not be able to do that without you.
We’re here for you.
We are in your hands.
So please, support us. Subscribe. Support independent media.