Interview with @ChrisRoper



The new editor-in-chief of the Mail&Guardian is no stranger to digital. According to his profile on the newspaper’s website he has worked online for many years, “not just Twitter years, but real years”. Before being appointed as editor-in-chief, Roper was online editor of M&G, where the online audience grew by 60% under his leadership. The publication also saw 2 000% growth in audience from mobile and an 81% growth in overall publisher audience. He loves writing funny stuff – online and in print. And he has worked in various online spaces. He has a very impressive CV. You should read it here.

You mention your old job title in your bio, but you don’t tweet about work often. As editor-in-chief of the Mail&Guardian, with so many followers, is it possible for you to separate the professional from the personal on Twitter? If yes, how?

I believe that social media in general is a mediated space where users of a news brand can experience a bit more of the personality of the brand. So you don’t want to separate the professional from the personal, but you do want to make sure that your personal is a construct that fits the brand. It can still be honest – indeed, it has to be to work – but it’s moderated.

Are there things that you won’t tweet about? Why?

Of course, hundreds. Because they don’t fit the vision of the M&G, or further our mission in any way.

Have you ever regretted tweets that you made? Why?

Only when I’ve responded negatively to people. You really do have to think of yourself as a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) touchpoint.

Do you have an idea who your followers are? Do you keep certain kinds of people in mind when you tweet?

My followers are the people who consume the M&G on its various platforms. Those are who I speak to.

How would you describe South Africa’s Twitter landscape? What makes us unique/or not?

Nothing makes us unique. I’d describe us as exactly like any other landscape. The only differences lie in cultural signifiers. For example, Twitter censors threads in SA that contravene US mores, but don’t contravene ours (e.g. @khayadlanga’s #thingsdarkiesdo thread).

Do you think South Africans are more cautious to tweet about things such as politics and race and that they are careful not to make prejudices apparent, given our country’s history?

Quite the opposite. We’re way more aggressive about tweeting about those subjects, which is a good thing.

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Posted in Interviews