ON Friday June 4, 2010, it was a “red letter day” for Alpha Media Holdings (AMH). That was the day Zimbabweans finally saw the first issue of NewsDay after over almost two years of waiting for registration. It was the first independent daily in seven years, and probably a first step towards diversity and pluralism in the media sector.
Thanks to AMH chairman Trevor Ncube, for his pioneering work, commitment and bravery in building this important voice. I became part of the dream 10 years ago. Today, the newspaper celebrates its 10th anniversary by publishing a reflective edition of the journey so far — that’s a special look back not only examining the paper’s history and what the paper stands for but the history of the country during that period.
I pay tribute to the editorial team for its unparalleled commitment and dedication telling the unadulterated Zimbabwean story through this daily paper during an extremely difficult period.
In the coming months, we will be serialising a selection of features on the most important Zimbabwean events which occurred during its publication life — social, economics and politics. For a decade since NewsDay hit the streets, quickly breaking new ground in local news reporting — the country’s largest independent daily paper has been daring, innovative and breaking barriers.
NewsDay is now distributed in every town and district across the country. Computer technology was a world away when the first edition of NewsDay rolled off the printing press, but today our digital platforms have the biggest audiences in the country due to our unique content.
Indeed, mistakes would have been made and lessons learnt in the process, but the daily, against all odds hugely imposed by a hostile social, political and economic environment — still claimed its rightful place.
Today’s 10th anniversary special edition is a celebration of the paper’s rich past and a positive and powerful look toward its future. The paper remains a witness to history, both on the national and international scale. NewsDay was established at a time when Zimbabwe was emerging from a decade of political strife, economic collapse, polarisation and social distress.
Its birth, therefore, in part represented the hope of a tortured nation and the paper sought to provide leadership as the country normalised. It still seeks to provide a platform for Zimbabweans to talk to each other without fear or favour.
Only through a robust engagement will Zimbabweans emerge from the current polarisation into a society characterised by high levels of tolerance. In that same breadth, NewsDay will continue to provide a platform through which Zimbabweans can express their fears and aspirations.
It was AMH’s aim to make the daily paper the “newsiest and best newspaper in the country”. We have no doubt that worldwide audiences still read NewsDay because they want to know what is going on, and we will tell them. Guided by our leitmotif “Everyday News for Everyday People”, the paper endeavours to offer a canvas upon which Zimbabweans showcase their best ideas to help transform the country into a knowledge-based society.
We aim to be a listening media organisation that deals with and reflects the issues that most concern those we serve. We want to help Zimbabweans to talk to each other, through robust engagement and help ensure a tolerant society by encouraging the celebration of our diversity.
From a business standpoint, NewsDay faces many challenges and unseen trials including inflationary pressure as newspapers print itself is double figure.
We are, however, very agile at working around these challenges, so that we continue to serve all our clients and readers.
It is both ironic and ominous that our anniversary should coincide with one of the gravest threats to humanity in decades, and allows us to put this into perception. It is enticing to believe that the coronavirus outbreak is beyond compare in its effect on Zimbabwe and the broader world, but there have been times in the past 10 years that we felt the same — civil strife, deterioration of people’s attitudes, hunger, polarisation etc. — and we survived.
Still, there are unique ways in which the epidemic affects us as a newspaper, and presents us with tough decisions. For instance, a journalist covering a conflict knows who the enemy is, and where the threat comes from. So it is, in reporting on the Zimbabwean story or COVID-19 — and make no mistake, this is a combat just like any other — our staff on the street face a threat that is treacherous, invisible, insidious, dangerous, and potentially fatal.
Then there are the commercial challenges — less stagy, perhaps, but no less significant.
Newspapers all over the world have been reducing or closing down their print operations for many years now in the inexorable march of progress towards an online future, and the COVID-19 pandemic has hastened that process; readers cannot get out to buy their newspapers, advertisers have no functioning businesses to advertise.
Indeed, we are committed to our digital and print editions for as long as our readers, subscribers and our advertisers continue to support it. Nevertheless, while we take justifiable pride in the speed of our digital transformation over the past few years, the pandemic has rammed home the lesson that the transformation will have to be even quicker.
We exposed corruption in all sectors, fissures that eventually ripped political parties, Government of National Unity, constitution-making process, disputed elections, political violence, murders, gangsterism and cartels, disintegration of the economy and the coup or “coup-lite” that ushered in the Second Republic. NewsDay staffers were harassed, threatened, arrested and tortured for daring to get “everyday news to everyday people”.
Recognising our efforts on one occasion, our journalists scooped all top media awards on offer for journalism excellence in the country. Certainly, NewsDay has its special place in development. We are not trying to give the impression of a fable, but an imperfect at that yet one that gives strength to us all.
We covered the coup when all else could not. Our coverage was unrivalled. Our currency is we believe every one of us deserves equal access to quality news and measured explanation. NewsDay remains the hallmark of independent journalism since it first rolled off the press 10 years ago.
As one would expect of any newspaper, we have chosen to mark the event with — content; in this case, the significant events that have had the most impact on the Zimbabwean landscape if not the world in the past 10 years, and how we covered those events. Our coverage begins today, and continues for the next 10 months in both print and online.
As they say, life begins @40 as did Zimbabwe this year. Thus, whatever the platform on which you consume our journalism, know this — we are, and always will be, committed to providing “Everyday News for Everyday People” and being the voice of this young country in transition. As editor-in-chief, I cannot but be proud of, and thankful for, the excellent work my colleagues (past and present) are carrying out in these challenging times. We plan to expand further afield. The best is yet to come. Here’s to the next 10 years … and may you stay safe!
Wisdom Mdzungairi is AMH editor-in-chief and NewsDay editor