South Africa

EDITORIAL

Fighting the Pandemic(s)

A nurse wears an overall and a mask at the medical check point at the entrance of 'Spedali Civili' hospital, Brescia, Italy, 02 March 2020. (Photo: EPA-EFE/Filippo Venezia)

Social media is free to access. But also free of any editorial code or journalistic ethics that the few remaining legitimate publishers in South Africa subscribe to. Anyone can say literally ANYTHING, and with a few retweets or likes by an army of bots, the flywheels of fake news accelerate. 

Daily Maverick took a decision 18 months ago to keep our content free for all – despite the pressures to put up a paywall. 

Many newsrooms responded to the suffocating loss of advertising revenue to Google and Facebook by erecting paywalls. Instead, we created a voluntary membership programme: Maverick Insider. We did this because we didn’t want to force people to access what we believe should be a public service. 

We also knew that the majority of South Africans would not be able to afford to pay and they would be left without essential information, analysis and investigations. In a time of bots and misinformation, choosing who to trust has become a lottery. And worse, what would fill that vacuum left by the media hiding behind a paywall? 

A year and a half later, some of our fears are becoming a reality. With Facebook and Twitter as many people’s primary access to information, our current predicament is fertile ground for the kind of misinformation that can cost lives. 

Social media is free to access. But also free of any editorial code or journalistic ethics that the few remaining legitimate publishers in South Africa subscribe to. Anyone can say literally ANYTHING, and with a few retweets or likes by an army of bots, the flywheels of fake news accelerate. 

Because of this, propagandists, political parties and Pierre from Parys can punt garlic, or gargling with bleach, as effective cures for highly contagious diseases and mislead some unsuspecting people looking for safety in an unsafe world. 

The dangers of this are not just a threat to democracy; they’re a threat to society. As Covid-19 spreads throughout the world, so too do scare-mongering, false reports and misinformation. As essential as increased hygiene efforts are in the fight against Covid-19, so is ensuring that our society has free access to correct and substantiated information.

Think of Maverick Insider as the disinfectant in our hand sanitiser, powering our efforts to stop the spread of fake news.

By becoming an Insider, you help ensure that there is a trusted source of news and information that all can access. We’ve launched a series of Coronavirus (Covid-19) special reports because we see this as our responsibility to make sure that you have accurate and up-to-date information. 

It’s a public service and we are privileged to provide it. 

But the only way we will be able to continue to do so is for more of our readers to sign up to Maverick Insider

Last year we published 61 Scorpio investigations and more than a hundred climate emergency articles to serve our readers. Now we need to cover a global pandemic through the lens of a country that has been previously battered by life-threatening diseases. 

To maintain these high levels of quality journalism we need to get to 20,000 members by the end of the year; we currently have just over 9,000. If you value what we provide, sign up for as little or as much as you want. We have a ton of great benefits that come with being part of this cause-driven community, but more than that, we need your help to keep going and to fight against the fake outbreak. DM

  • If you are 27, or younger, we have a special Maverick Insider offer for you. Check it out here.
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