Podcast production company Volume and MDIF’s South Africa Media Innovation Program (SAMIP) are embarking on a joint project to tell the stories of South Africa’s media workers during the Coronavirus outbreak.
The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown the country into a spin as the nation comes to grips with a situation the likes of which no one has seen in recent history.
It was in light of this unprecedented situation that SAMIP teamed up with program participant Volume to produce a podcast series that would tell the stories of journalists who are on the frontlines reporting on the pandemic at a local level.
“The idea was to do something innovative around Covid-19 and the media,” explains Volume co-founder and director Paul McNally. “How do you do your job as a journalist which needs social contact when you’re supposed to be employing social distancing as a private citizen.”
With President Cyril Ramaphosa announcing a national shutdown that goes into effect at midnight Thursday 26 March, Volume got to work conducting interviews with reporters and media workers in several of South Africa’s top newsrooms.
For the first episode of the series (which will be available wherever you listen to podcasts) Volume spoke to reporters and editors from Health-e News, a non-profit that produces news and information on the health sector in South Africa with a focus on communicable diseases.
“We started with Health-e-News who have a citizen journalism network, and what was interesting in this episode was talking to news editors who felt guilty about sending out their reporters in harm’s way to report on the pandemic,” says Paul. “Some of the journalists expressed concern about using public transport to get around but were still adamant on doing their job.”
Volume, who co-produce the WhatsApp “fake news” podcast What’s Crap on WhatsApp with Africa Check, utilized WhatsApp voice notes as a way of gathering soundbites from media workers. This allowed the production to feel more intimate and authentic.
In this time when digital media is a constant stream of information from a number of sources (both credible and not credible), Paul hopes that the series will reach those who are glued to their Twitter feeds and want to form a story about those sources of information.
“Information without context creates anxiety and I hope that this series will offer some form of catharsis for news consumers wanting to know the people behind the stories,” added Paul.
The series is also aimed at journalists and media workers in order to show them how their peers are reporting on Covid-19 across different platforms and beats and to inspire them to report responsibly on the outbreak.
Once the pandemic clears, Volume hopes that the series will act as a time capsule that future generations can open up to understand how media responded to one of the most impactful events of the century.