Our first story as NewsDay way back in 2009 was from award-winning journalist Moses Matenga, who impressed by insisting: “I have what it takes to be part of the team to successfully launch the NewsDay”. Though wet behind the ears, short in stature he was tall on ideas as he was.
He was still a student at the Harare Polytechnic School of Mass Communications.
The human interest piece was on a hungry-for-success basketball player from the high-density areas nicknamed Alefu because of his height, but who was bound for greater things in the sport.
NewsDay then was an insert in Zimbabwe Independent, as we tested the waters before the launch of the tiger.
From the time then-chief executive officer Raphael Khumalo invited me to work on the project as founding editor, the task at hand was clear: Create an award-winning team to launch a new daily onto the market; to challenge the existing products and surpass them in news content and readership.
Close to 6 000 applications for the various posts on offer came in, and I had the onerous task of sorting out the possibles, outright non-starters and attractive candidates.
There was order in the disorder of my little office, with piles of applications all over with each representing something: news, sports, entertainment, sub-editing, courts, discarded and fall-backs on.
But it was a nightmare for the cleaners!
My colleague, “Newspaper Engineer” Moses Mudzwiti was working on the aesthetics; the beauty of the product. In this he was assisted by a veteran imported all the way from Greece for the task.
The idea was to get a blend of old and new hacks. The old hands would bring maturity and stability to the team and that very critical element of journalism without which one is like a political party president without a party — sources.
The new and hungry journalists would bring creativity, excitement, drive to excel and create a name for themselves in the field. And most critically they would provide for the paper’s long life as they would be the old hands of tomorrow.
Some of the new hands who joined at inception are still with the publication to this day Charles Laiton, who joined from the courts, Verenanda Langa, who joined from Parliament and of course Matenga.
Old hand Tangai Chipangura, who came in as news editor, has excelled and surprised even himself to be now deputy editor of The Standard.
Wellington Toni also came in to take charge of the sports desk.
That we were onto a good thing was confirmed by none other than then permanent secretary in the Information ministry George Charamba, who onerously warned he would descend on us with a hammer if we commenced publication without a licence. And this at a time when we thought our project was a public secret!
There was need to create a gender balance in both the newsroom and backroom staff. Our first chief-sub editor was a female veteran of the media trenches, Ropafadzo Mapimhidze.
Recruitment also entailed creating a team in Bulawayo, which team later morphed into the Southern Eye.
Interviews, conducted with Loud Ramakgapola and Constantine Chimakure were really interesting as one was exposed to the qualified, hungry, desperate, religious and even luscious. I remember one female candidate who came dressed in a fishnet, leaving nothing to the imagination. Had to remind her that this was a newspaper interview for a sub-editor, not a page 3 Girl for Playboy Magazine!
The newspaper has grown over the years and has withstood the challenges of the day to still be in publication at a time a few have fallen by the wayside due to the economic vagaries of this country.
Editors too have come and gone, some were laid-back, some wild, some loud; but their contribution to the Everyday News for Everyday People dish has been immense.
I believe the young team who coined the pay-off line must be thankful to this day that even when they missed their presentation slot by 20 minutes, we still gave them the opportunity to present beyond the set one hour.
They were fresh. Had exciting ideas and they impressed and were awarded the contract.
The blend of youth and age has enabled NewsDay to survive the turbulent waters of publishing, and I foresee a bright future for the paper.
Like a proud mother goose looking at her brood, I can borrow someone’s words — 2030 rinenge richiripo!
Barnabas Thodhlana is former editor of NewsDay