Defend Truth

Daily Maverick has shut down

Daily Maverick has shut down. For today, 15 April 2024. 

The decision to do this was not taken lightly, but it was made in an attempt to highlight the global state of emergency in journalism. 

This crisis in journalism affects South Africa’s democratic functioning and impacts the state of our economy. Journalism is experiencing a market failure and is at risk of collapse, with effects that will be catastrophic.

Newsrooms globally are closing down and retrenching journalists. In the last 15 years, it is estimated that South Africa has lost almost 70% of the news media workforce. 

Journalists have been at the forefront of exposing State Capture by working with whistleblowers. Journalism has helped protect democratic institutions and informed the nation to make important decisions and take critical actions. Without the efforts of accountability journalism, our economy would be in much worse shape than it currently is.

Public interest journalism has contributed to removing numerous corrupt ministers and a corrupt President. Investigations have been the catalyst for retrieving billions of taxpayers’ rands by the State from perpetrators of corruption. 

We consider it the ultimate privilege to deliver this public service. 

However, there is a market failure in journalism. Incredible amounts of value are created for society, but the economics no longer work to support its production.  

Advertising, which once sustained a large part of the industry, is now directed mostly to foreign-based technology platforms. And not enough readers are supporting our newsrooms to fund the size of newsrooms required to fulfil our public service mandate. 

Unfortunately, most of the public and business community still don’t appreciate the full extent of the news media crisis. We have failed to communicate the severity of the crisis and the impact it will have on key institutions and our economic prospects. 

Today’s shutdown aims to highlight what will happen if journalism does not receive the support it needs from the business community, the public and policymakers. 

Journalism urgently needs financial support and policy reform to improve the environment in which it is asked to protect democracy and serve the public’s information needs. 

Daily Maverick will return at 11:59 pm, 15 April 2024. 

 

ENDS 

 

About Daily Maverick 

Founded in 2009, Daily Maverick is an independent national news and investigative journalism publisher. 

Daily Maverick covers pressing issues across politics, business, and the environment, providing in-depth reporting and insightful commentary on the topics affecting the lives of South Africans. 

With 10 million monthly unique browsers, Daily Maverick is one of South Africa’s largest publishers and is available online and in a weekly print edition, DM168. 

Founders: Branko Brkic, Editor-in-chief and Styli Charalambous, CEO.

 

For media enquiries, please contact: 

Saskia Falken 

[email protected]  

+27 82 326 9855 

 

FAQs

  • Why is Daily Maverick doing this?

We’ve so far failed to appropriately convey the urgency and severity of the crisis and its impact on society. Many data points support how bad the crisis is, but it’s not clear to enough people how it impacts democracy and our ability to revive our struggling economy. 

Democracy decays quickly when journalism dies, which allows poor governance and corruption to drain the economy beyond repair. Big problems need bold solutions, and we need to communicate the message at scale.

 

  • Why, specifically the shutdown, couldn’t a different approach have worked?

We have tried to inform readers and business leaders about the state of the crumbling journalism sector and suggest policy changes to the government. It hasn’t worked. 

We needed to do something we have never done since we launched in 2009—something drastic enough to highlight the crisis to the public. Shutting down Daily Maverick is not something we ever wanted to do, but our effort today is in the hope that we will never have to do it again. 

 

  • How bad is it?

Before the pandemic, job losses were estimated at 50%. Since then, there have been more closures and retrenchments, which could mean up to 70% of our colleagues have left journalism since 2009. 

We only need to see how quickly our democratic institutions have declined in lockstep with journalism and how our economy has lagged behind other African countries. 

Local metro news has been especially hard hit, now barely existent, and one only needs to review the state of our cities to see how service delivery failure is enabled by zero accountability journalism. 

 

  • Is Daily Maverick in crisis?

Not yet. Will the industry has suffered through massive disruption, Daily Maverick has never had to retrench any staff. However, we cannot expand our newsroom to counter the effects of other newsrooms’ losses. 

There are entire regions in South Africa with little to no editorial coverage. That means there are municipalities throughout the country with absolutely no independent accountability measures. The job that local newspapers should have been doing to report on local institutions has been destroyed. 

This shutdown is not about Daily Maverick; it’s about every legitimate newsroom in the country that needs public and corporate support. 

 

  • What response are you hoping for?

We hope that today’s shutdown will highlight the role journalism plays and the value it delivers in South Africa. As a public service, journalism has been instrumental in exposing State Capture, removing corrupt officials, and retrieving billions of rands for the State. 

Democracy cannot survive without journalism; good journalism is good for business. Our website lists ways individuals and businesses can support us and the journalism community. We hope today’s effort sparks more conversations and, importantly, action. 

 

  • What else needs to happen to avoid the meltdown you’re describing?

Aside from direct financial support from the public and the business sector, we need to improve the environment in which journalism operates by enacting legislative support and incentives. Journalism is a public good that benefits all of society and should be supported and funded, in part, through subsidies, incentives and rebates. 

Legal and tax incentives to bolster journalism, such as VAT exemptions on reader revenue contributions — be it a paywall or a membership model like ours. Public contributions to news media should be tax deductible.

Advertising rebates to make it more appealing for businesses to advertise on news media sites. Donations to news media could be tax-deductible, regardless of PBO status. 

Considering the billions of rands of misappropriated funds the state has recovered through investigative journalism, another approach would be to allocate a percentage of the recovered funds to the whistleblowers and legitimate newsrooms that have worked to ensure this outcome. 

Other legislative measures we could take are outlined here

 

  • Is it only South Africa/Africa experiencing this crisis?

This is a global crisis, with many countries experiencing similar contractions to ours. However, it is much worse in the “Global South,” where the pandemic hit our economies and our news media harder than in more developed countries. The political environment also contributes negatively to the situation in many of these regions.  

In South Africa, it is made worse by the effects of State Capture and how rogue owners have compromised some newsrooms. 

 

  • So what if journalism collapses? What happens if there isn’t an adequate response?

If journalism collapses, South African democracy collapses. 

Without journalism, corruption and crime will continue (and grow) completely unchecked. Municipalities will fail — even more. We’ve already seen roads explode, buildings burn, and water shortages and contamination following the electricity crisis. 

Drivable roads and street lights will become fond memories, and businesses will struggle to survive the rising costs of a failed state. Taxes will increase to offset a shrinking revenue base, and a 1% GDP growth rate will be considered stellar. 

There will be no accountability, mis- and disinformation will fill the void to catastrophic effects. The list is long and scary.

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