Without being reckless and irresponsible, we will remain your eyes, ears and voice on the streets of South Africa over the next three weeks, writes Adriaan Basson.
This is how our day starts at News24.
Early in the morning, our analytics guru and site editor, Kate Henry, pulls together the statistics from the previous day’s stories.
In digital publishing you can literally measure everything.
Kate then compiles a report with the most read stories of the previous day; the amount of page views (or clicks) we received on all our stories from the previous day and graphs of trends comparing the number of visitors and views to News24 against the previous day and week.
At our morning diary conference, Kate presents her report to me and the rest of the editors.
We use this data to reflect on our news choices of the previous day and to inform our decisions for the day ahead.
This is my favourite part of the day.
We debate, argue and laugh (a lot).
Fuelled by copious amounts of good coffee, editors pitch their stories with passion and verve.
We decide which stories matter most to you, our readers.
On 5 March, when we sat down to decide what the news agenda for that day would be, the terms “coronavirus” and “Covid-19” had not yet entered our top stories conversation.
This was 22 days ago.
Later that day the dreaded press statement arrived: “South Africa has recorded its first coronavirus patient.”
On Friday, 927 infections later, South Africa enters a 21-day lockdown period as a last resort to contain the spread of Covid-19.
From today, we will answer President Cyril Ramaphosa’s call to unite by being alone.
Because social distancing and isolation have proven to be the only successful measures to combat the silent killer that has altered the way we think about the future, work and socialise.
This is no less than a tsunami or a war that has the potential to completely engulf and destroy us.
People will lose their lives, jobs and security.
Our previous challenges suddenly feel small against the enormity this virus holds for our future, not only as South Africans, but humans of the world.
Our entire existence depends on what happens in the next few weeks.
Our future depends on the decisions we make in the days ahead.
For now, we are doing our best to answer Ramaphosa’s call.
His leadership has been immense in this time of strain and we owe it to him, the country and our fellow citizens to keep to the lockdown rules.
His choices weren’t easy: by effectively shutting down the economy for at least three weeks, Ramaphosa has destroyed thousands of jobs and businesses.
But the alternative was to risk South Africa becoming a second Italy, where over 8 000 people have died, and the curve has not flattened.
Life at News24 has also changed dramatically since we sat down for that 5 March diary conference.
Our audience has more than doubled and with that, our responsibility to get it right.
We are now all working from home and using technology to communicate, meet and make decisions.
We still laugh a lot, mostly at someone’s child or dog making a cameo appearance during our video conferences (VCs)!
Our brave team of news reporters will continue to roam the streets of South Africa, armed with bottles of hand sanitiser, wipes and protective gloves, to bring you the true stories from the frontline.
With so much fake news being distributed on social media and WhatsApp, our role to separate fact from fiction has become increasingly important. We have dedicated fact-checking shifts on our team to determine the veracity of the messages, notes and voice messages you send us.
There is an old adage in journalism that we run into places where others run from.
Without being reckless and irresponsible, we will remain your eyes, ears and voice on the streets of South Africa over the next three weeks.
Journalism has rightfully been declared an essential service by the government and we will continue to bring you the breaking news, analysis and opinion you need to make informed decisions about the future.
We also want to delight you during this strange time and have designed a special section on our dedicated coronavirus hub where you and your children can escape for hours from the harsh realities of this crisis.
Please keep on talking to us via our social media channels or send an email to email@example.com if you have suggestions, tips or feedback on how we can improve our coverage of this historic moment in time.
Thank you for trusting us, and thank you for doing your bit to secure a future for us and our children.
– Basson is editor-in-chief of News24