- Mail & Guardian
The Mail & Guardian Type Weekly newspaper Format Broadsheet Owner M&G Media Publisher M&G Media Editor Nicholas Dawes Founded 1985 Official website www.mg.co.za
The Mail & Guardian is a South African weekly newspaper, published by M&G Media in Johannesburg, South Africa, with a strong focus on politics, government, the environment, civil society and business.
The Mail & Guardian newspaper
The newspaper was initially started as an alternative newspaper by a group of journalists in 1985 after the closures of two leading liberal newspapers, The Rand Daily Mail and Sunday Express.
The paper, originally known as the Weekly Mail, was launched on a shoe-string budget of R50 000 (about $7 000), and relied for its survival on the often unpaid labour of a small staff and part-time volunteers. The early shareholders were liberal professionals, academics and business leaders who contributed a few thousand rands each as a gesture towards maintaining a tradition of critical journalism in an increasingly harsh political climate.
Since the fledgling company could not afford to buy mainstream technology, the paper was produced entirely on personal computers, becoming one of the world's earliest examples of Apple Macintosh-based desktop publishing.
During the Eighties, the Weekly Mail built up an international reputation as a vocal apartheid critic, leading to a number of clashes with the government that culminated in the paper's suspension in 1988.
The paper became important to people interested in South African politics, and it built up a readership ranging from the still-jailed Nelson Mandela and the exiled African National Congress (ANC) leadership to key foreign policy decision-makers in Washington, London and Bonn. An article in the Weekly Mail describing plans for secret talks with the ANC, precipated the resignation of apartheid president PW Botha.
In an era when newspapers routinely vilified the ANC and its leaders as "terrorists", this was the first paper to put human faces to ANC leaders and provide balanced accounts of their activities and policies. It was also the first to discuss sympathetically such "fringe" issues as environmentalism, gay liberation and gender.
It was the first paper whose news selection was colour-blind. All South African newspapers of the 1980s were aimed at racially defined markets, either black (Sowetan) or white (Business Day). Those newspapers that did reach black and white audiences (such as The Star, or The Rand Daily Mail) provided separate "white" and "township" editions.
It was also the first newspaper to cover the emerging indigenous culture that arose in the early non-racial bars in central Johannesburg such as Jameson's, Kippies and the Black Sun; the fringe cabaret; and "cross-over" music.
In 1991, the Weekly Mail, together with The Guardian in London, broke the "Inkathagate" scandal, which described how police funds were being secretly channelled to the Inkatha Freedom Party to block the ANC. Two Cabinet ministers fell from grace in the wake of the scandal and the weakened National Party government of FW de Klerk was obliged to reopen its stalled talks with the ANC.
Inkathagate was also the beginning of a closer relationship between the Weekly Mail and The Guardian, which bought a large share in the Weekly Mail and helped stabilise the small paper's precarious finances for the first time. In 1995, The Guardian became the majority shareholder in the paper, which was renamed the Mail & Guardian.
With the arrival of democratic government in 1994, many observers predicted that the Mail & Guardian would lose its purpose – and its voice. But it has adapted, and average circulation has gone up from about 25 000 a week to between 40 000 and 50 000 per week. Its jumbo year-end Christmas edition, renowned for its extensive report cards on all ministers in the Cabinet, sells almost double that.
The newspaper has demonstrated it is capable of being no less critical of the new dispensation than the old, without deviating from its former humanist philosophy. It is now mostly well known for its investigative reporting, particularly into corruption.
The arts section, titled Friday contains features and reviews as well as general entertainment listings. Its Monitor section focuses on good governance and social development. It also carries international and Africa news and a current business section.
The paper has also found international credibility, winning the British IPD Best International Newspaper Award in 1995, and the Missouri Medal for Distinguished Journalism in 1996.
In 2002, The Guardian reduced its shareholding to 10%, selling a majority share in the newspaper of 87,5% to Newtrust Company Botswana Limited, owned by Zimbabwean publisher and entrepreneur Trevor Ncube. Having relocated to South Africa, Ncube also took over as CEO of the company.
The Mail & Guardian newspaper and Mail & Guardian Online (see below) position themselves in the market as South Africa's quality read, aimed at the intelligentsia. The paper has been criticised for being expensive and ignoring its roots in the alternative press.
Mail & Guardian readers
It focuses on a niche market of people interested in a critical approach to politics, arts and current affairs. A large numbers of readers are among professionals, academics, diplomats, lobbyists, non-governmental groups.
Mail & Guardian focus
The Mail & Guardian newspaper focuses on political analysis, investigative reporting, Southern African news, comprehensive coverage of local arts, music and popular culture.
The Mail & Guardian Online
The site has a monthly readership of about 650 000 unique users and 5 100 000 page impressions, from South Africa and around the world. It is one of South Africa's top five news sites.
The website began its life as the Electronic Mail & Guardian, which was initially an e-mail subscription service that allowed readers living outside South Africa's borders to receive Mail & Guardian newspaper stories hours before reaching the newspaper's subscribers. Soon after, the service expanded into a searchable online archive, published in partnership with Sangonet, the country's oldest internet service provider. A website was added, which in turn progressed from producing a weekly mirror of the printed newspaper to generating its own daily news.
The Mail & Guardian Online was jointly owned by internet service provider MWEB and publishing company M&G Media until MG Media purchased 100% of the operation in 2008.
The Mail & Guardian Online works closely with the newspaper, but has its own dedicated editorial staff to produce breaking news on a daily basis to complement the analytical, in-depth feature articles from the newspaper. It has national, international, Africa, business and sports news, as well as arts and entertainment coverage.
It has interactive news photo galleries, discussion forums and special reports on subjects such as Zimbabwe, HIV and controversial South African President Jacob Zuma. It also features regular cartoons by acclaimed South African political cartoonist Zapiro.
The Mail & Guardian Online has received numerous accolades and awards, including receiving a Webby honourable mention in 2005 and being voted one of the world's top 175 websites by Forbes.com in 2001.
On 26 January, the Mail & Guardian Website was attacked by hackers, and the editor posted the following on the Mail & Guardian Domain:- "Dear Mail & Guardian reader; The Mail & Guardian's website is under sustained attack by hackers. We are dealing with the problem, but to make absolutely sure that your security isn't compromised, we have decided to suspend the service temporarily. It's a drastic measure, but we really don't want to take any chances with security. We apologise for this interruption of service. We'll be back as soon as we have made certain that the problem has been effectively dealt with. We'll continue to update you as soon as we have news. Christopher Roper, Editor (Online)"
Mail & Guardian Online readers
The Mail & Guardian Online has a broad-based readership of South Africans and Africans who prefer their news delivered fast and daily and South Africans abroad, tourists and foreigners with a special interest in Africa.
Mail & Guardian Online focus
The Mail & Guardian Online focuses on local, international and African hard news, sport and business; publishing analytical, in-depth reports from its print edition.
- 1995 - British IPD Best International Newspaper Award
- 1996 - Missouri Medal for Distinguished Journalism
- 2001 - Forbes.com voted the Mail & Guardian Online one of the world's top 175 websites
- 2005 - Webby Worthy honourable mention.
- Mail & Guardian Online (official website)
- ^ Effective Measure, September 2011
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
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