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NewsDay: A village brings up a child

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If this newspaper was an African child she would probably have been called one of these names: Nomzamo, Chiedzo, Norest, Trymore or simply Do-it.

All these names drawn from the list of our employees ably describe the journey that we travelled before NewsDay was granted a publishing licence on May 28 2010 and started publishing on June 9 2010.

Yes, all means were pursued; there were lunches, dinners, meetings, letters, applications and prayers too. We had no rest at all whilst others urged us to just publish as they claimed there was no law stopping us from doing so.

I recall one of the visits to the Media Centre and being told rather cunningly that in Malawi after Dr Kamuzu Banda’s departure 52 newspapers had been licensed and that only two now remained. The implication was that we had no reason to bother as the paper would fold as had happened elsewhere.

We however chose to err on the side of caution by waiting and when the licence was eventually granted in May last year we were more than ready.

During the wait we had not just interviewed and recruited a core team, we had also dismantled the team we had initially put together and which had been on our payroll for over a year when we realised that it could not deliver on the promises we had made to the public.

We then proceeded to appoint Vincent Kahiya, then editor of the Zimbabwe Independent, Group Editor-in-Chief and editor of NewsDay. Vincent has since been succeeded by Brian Mangwende as the daily paper’s editor.

Deciding what price to sell the paper for was no easy task as ours was new and we needed to come up with compelling reasons for readers to give NewsDay a try or better still buy it along with their usual daily. Whilst recognising challenges brought about by the non-availability of small denominations of coins in the country we decided to sell NewsDay at 50 cents and introduce tokens with the same value which would work as change thus locking readers to make purchases using the change that would ordinarily go towards other needs at a later date.

This has worked like magic as circulation has grown from 10 000 copies a day when we started to
50 000 today with copies of NewsDay being sold as far as Chipinge, Kariba, Plumtree and Victoria Falls. Our online edition is equally strong and the only source of reliable unbiased news on events in Zimbabwe for locals in far-flung places around the globe.

Similarly, advertisers have followed suit and our average pagination is now 40 and on other days we have published 56 to 64 pages, much to the delight of our readers and all that at only 50 cents.

It is truly pleasing to drive around a city like Harare and find people from all walks of life, including vegetable vendors, factory workers, office workers and management, decision-makers etc either reading or having purchased copies of NewsDay and each having found something in the paper that touches their daily lives.

This spectacle often reminds one of the 1970s where ordinary people, some even illiterate, bought copies of the Chronicle and Rhodesia Herald to keep abreast of political events that were unfolding.

It is our mission to bring back that newspaper- reading culture to far-flung parts of Zimbabwe and thanks to our partnership with Strand MultiPrint, the quality of printed copies is comparable with any newspaper in the developed world and our subscription base is increasing, thanks to Munn Marketing, our distributors.

The saying that it takes a village to bring up a child is true of NewsDay as both The Zimbabwe Independent and Standard staff have played very critical roles in offering constructive criticism, material and moral support, consequently the learning curve has been short and sharp.

In its short life NewsDay has made some mistakes after getting the facts wrong and proceeded to apologise. Our reporters have, on a number of occasions, been threatened and humiliated and called upon to make statements by members of the CID Law and Order Section.

Some members of the public have not helped matters either by failing to understand that matters before the courts are fair game in which the public has a right to know. Some have rushed to court seeking compensation upon publication of their court appearances.

As a further sign of respect to its readers NewsDay is a member of the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe, an organisation which encourages media self-regulation. Internally the paper has developed NewsDay Guiding Principles which set out to readers what the paper stands for.

Moves are also underway to appoint a Press ombudsman who will be a retired judge and will receive and adjudicate on complaints received from the public on articles that will have been published not just in NewsDay, but all our publications including the Online edition.

NewsDay can boast that it covered every major event in the country including conferences by the parties to the GPA, the controversies that followed the deaths and places of burial of Welshman Mabhena and Thenjiwe Lesabe and whether they deserved hero status and burial at the national shrine.

The paper has also given wide coverage to Professor Arthur Mutambara and the fallout with MDC after congress and the unfolding events in MDC-T and Zanu PF as well as the constitution-making process.

I recall one daily carrying an apology after failing to report the death of a national hero in two of its editions! Events in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have all received front page coverage and given that both Hosni Mubarak and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi were household names in Zimbabwe and whenever such stories have made it to the front page the paper has sold out.

True to its name and pay-off line “Everyday news for everyday people”, NewsDay has been able to show the people what their leadership in business, politics, councils and the commercial sector are doing and we leave them to make up their minds. What we do is to hold a mirror for Zimbabwe and we have no doubt that we will continue doing so for many years to come.

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