By NYX MCLEAN
We are now just a little over three months into the shift of Grocott’s Mail to a teaching newspaper. It has been a good and challenging experience for all of us on the Grocott’s Mail team.
We have learned many lessons along the way, including how to guide student journalists through the real-time process of covering news and events in the community while still working remotely in a digital newsroom. We really miss having the experience of being in a physical newsroom. But hopefully, we will get to experience that next year as more and more people are vaccinated, and we see a drop in COVID-19 infections.
Our students under Rod’s guidance as editor have really driven the news production aspect of Grocott’s Mail. We have also been lucky to have the support of some lecturing staff at the School of Journalism and Media Studies who have worked alongside their students as they cut their teeth on working for a local news organisation and the community that relies on their coverage.
We have through Facebook been able to get real-time feedback on how the community feels about the topics covered, such as COVID-19 vaccinations, and how they react to our students’ writing. We are able to share this information with students to inform the writing choices they may make in future articles.
We have also noticed greater engagement with our content on Facebook than through any of our other platforms. Based on this we decided to run a platform survey to identify where our readers are reading Grocott’s, and where they would like to find us in the future.
Currently, the results show that most of our readers find us on Facebook (57%), and then on our website (29%) and the GMDirect WhatsApp group (29%). Only 19% of our readers receive our weekly newsletter on Mailchimp. It is important to note that readers were allowed to select multiple options on the survey, and some did so – this is why those numbers do not total at 100% when combined.
Based on where readers are finding our articles, Rod and I think it is safe to say that for December and January we will shift our focus to our website www.grocotts.co.za and to our Facebook page while our students go on a much-needed break.
We are a teaching newspaper which means we are largely reliant on the work of our student journalists who are doing their training with us at Grocott’s Mail. This sees us receiving a diversity of stories, and interesting angles to stories as students bring their own perspectives and writing styles to journalism.
But it also means that when the academic year ends, we lose our student journalists to their end of year holiday. We may have one or two who are choosing to continue to work with us during this time as they have been bitten by the writing-for-the-Makhanda-community bug. Even with their presence, we will still be a very small team until the start of the academic year.
That is not to say we will not be keeping things going but rather that we are going to shift how we do things until our new cohort of student journalists arrive.
Over the next few weeks, we will begin to wind down the GMDirect pdf that we distribute via WhatsApp and Mailchimp. We will continue reporting but we may not be able to generate as much content as we would like to justify the production of GMDirect. We know this may be a disappointment to some, but it will not be for too long. You will still be able to find us on our website: www.grocotts.co.za and on our Facebook page.
If you would like to send us feedback on how you have found Grocott’s Mail to be over the last three months, please feel free to email us at email@example.com or send us a text on Messenger. We welcome your feedback and will use it to inform the path forward.