HomeLocal NewsA new spring in AMH’s step

A new spring in AMH’s step

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In a family where your other siblings are two boisterous teenagers of 14 and 15, being a one-year-old could be quite fun and challenging too.

The Standard came just a year after The Independent which turned 15 this year. The parents hardly had any air between the two deliveries. But when NewsDay was born last year, the Independent was 14 and The Standard had just entered teenagehood.

The age difference which is a big problem in many families has however not presented headaches for the publishing arm of Alpha Media Holdings.

NewsDay can no longer be treated like a child. It’s demanding the same toys as the older siblings, wants to watch the same shows as the big kids and has bulked up to proportions where it can no longer be carried around or treated like one of the toys.

In fact the youngest baby of the family which turns one today has introduced a new spring in the AMH family’s step.

But the publication of the paper last year created huge expectations from Zimbabwe Independent and The Standard readers who wanted us to produce a Zimbabwe Independent daily. NewsDay had to grow very quickly to raise its game to readers’ expectations.

The team has managed to raise the bar of editorial excellence which is reflected in the good sales numbers over the last 12 months.

Growth has been driven by good quality stories from a dedicated team of reporters many of whom got their first ever newsroom experience at NewsDay. These include specialist writers like court reporter Charles Laiton and parliamentary reporter Venerandah Langa. Youngsters like Moses Matenga, Tinashe Sibanda Melissa Mpofu have settled well in the newsroom to complement veterans such as Kelvin Jakachira, Mernat Mafirakurewa and Owen Gagare.

Sub-editors are thoroughbreds in this industry and they do not come cheap, I soon learnt when it came to recruiting this lot. The subs desk led by Kamurai Mudzingwa is staffed by conscientious workers of varying experience, backgrounds and demeanour: from the philosophical Conway Tutani, genial Cynthia Motonhodze and industrious Tapiwa Kanyasa

Putting together the team posed the greatest challenge for me as editor. It was bringing to the party total strangers who were in no time expected to tag in the same direction whilst ensuring they do not step on each others’ toes. There were casualties as the cart heaved forward and missteps especially in proofreading but the team fell into step faster than anticipated.

No sooner had I set up the team in Harare than there was agitation for a Southern Edition of the paper. At least half a dozen sorties into Bulawayo created a vibrant newsroom that had to adapt to the work ethic at head office in less than a month.

That we got the best pool of reporters in the Bulawayo was a huge statement of our commitment to covering the Southern part of the country. I recall how at one time I received job applications from virtually all reporters and line editors from one newsroom in the city.

A senior staffer at the paper remarked in one emailed application: “I am prepared to move over with all my reporters . . . to save you the pain of interviewing individuals.”

Hard choices had to be made in the whole recruitment exercise but I am happy that the publisher’s immense support in this area ensured we got the best and are determined to keep them.

My brief when I left the Zimbabwe Independent in February last year was to set up NewsDay but I found myself beginning to enjoy the work of editing a daily while at the same time innovating in sections.

We introduced the very popular sms feedback column, which to me has been one of the huge successes of the paper. This presented readers with a unique opportunity to communicate with the editor directly.
The readers want to get involved. They have a stake in the product. They own the news.

While I have left the coal face (a place I still miss very much) after handing the baton to Brian Mangwende at the beginning of the year, I now have an opportunity to use the NewsDay pedestal to come up with greater innovation in our three publications. There is room — in fact, a desperate need — for an online, heavyweight publication committed to quality journalism. Zimbabwe needs an intelligent digital news platform that uses the internet. This is coming soon as part of AMH publications.

NewsDay has opened opportunities for the group to start looking at the media industry differently.

It is now about working smarter, using the strength of the group to improve on delivery and to ensure our publications become tools to help individuals to join the community and for the community to understand that needs of people that are part of it. Mangwende as mediator in this interaction has plotted a fresh trajectory of growth for NewsDay since he came in at the beginning of the year.

The paper’s growth path will always be charted by our ability to allow Zimbabweans to talk among themselves; and they are.

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