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Mia Malan is the Founding Director of Bhekisisa.

 

WHAT LED YOU TO START WORKING IN DIGITAL/MEDIA PUBLISHING?

I head up a donor-funded media organisation in South Africa, the Bhekisisa Health Journalism Centre, that was founded in 2013. Bhekisisa is isiZulu for “to scrutinise” – we produce analysis and features; general news stories aren’t a priority for us. The centre is a content provider for one of the country’s legacy newspapers, the Mail & Guardian. In 2015, we started our own website, www.bhekisisa.org. That changed how we operated considerably, as we needed to populate the website and produce more regular articles – compared to filing for the print, weekly newspaper only.   

 

WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?

I get to work at about 7:30 am and leave round about 6 pm. I often also work in the evenings a bit from home. I start off with checking social media – generally Twitter and Facebook – and our online readership figures of the previous day. Then I check emails and read newspapers online. Through the course of the mornings, I normally have a few meetings and work with reporters on editing their stories. I have a wonderful team, that includes a deputy editor and Africa editor, who help with editing. We also have an engagement officer who spends a considerable part of her day on our social media and a multimedia reporter who produces video and podcasts.  Because I’m also responsible for fundraising and managing our donors, I spend significant chunks of time on those duties.

 

WHAT DOES YOUR WORK SETUP LOOK LIKE? (YOUR APPS, PRODUCTIVITY TOOLS, ETC.)

Bhekisisa uses Tweetdeck to schedule our tweets. We schedule about one tweet per hour and during peak times, one tweet every 30 minutes. We use the scheduling tool of Facebook to schedule about four to five Facebook posts per day. To monitor our engagement, we use Google Analytics and Chartbeat Premium. We use Slack for communicating with each other and to filing our stories to the Mail & Guardian. We use Google docs for writing our stories.

 

WHAT DO YOU DO TO GET INSPIRED?

Like most editors, I get excited when a story does well and we have a high number of pageviews. But I attach for more value to the duration that readers spend on a story, and if that article becomes an “evergreen” story that receives pageviews over a long period of time. Our narrative features have much longer shelf lives than more time-bound stories.

My first passion is writing, although I get to do very little of that nowadays. So, I get inspired when I read a good book with writing techniques I can learn from and use in my own work.

 

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PIECE OF WRITING OR QUOTE?

‘Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end,’ is a quote I try to think of when things look like they’re just not working out. I’m reading The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff at the moment and the writing is so beautiful, it’s becoming one of my favourite pieces of writing.  

 

WHAT IS THE MOST INTERESTING/INNOVATIVE THING YOU HAVE SEEN ON ANOTHER OUTLET OTHER THAN YOUR OWN?

I can’t think of something specific, but I have a lot of respect for outlets that monitor reader responses to their content and then regularly adjust their content and how it is distributed accordingly.

 

WHAT IS THE PROBLEM THAT YOU’RE PASSIONATELY TACKLING AT THE MOMENT?

Over the past two years, Bhekisisa has expanded significantly in terms of staff and online strategies to put out our content. That means we spend considerable time on putting structures in place to manage those processes – from HR policies to training and mentoring staff to produce innovative content to expanding our social media strategies and monitoring and evaluation.  

 

DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR AMBITIOUS DIGITAL PUBLISHING AND MEDIA PROFESSIONALS WHO ARE JUST STARTING OUT?

Quality is more important than quantity: a well-written piece, or multimedia story that has been produced well, will bring you more credibility than producing five mediocre pieces in the same amount of time. Also, value your readers – spend time on monitoring their responses to your content and adjust how you produce and distribute your content accordingly.