A tribute to great colleagues

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Editor’s Memo..Dumisani Muleya

YESTERDAY was my final day as editor of the Zimbabwe Independent. So effectively from today, my deputy for many years, Faith Zaba, is now in charge.

It has been a long and spectacular ride in top positions for more than a decade. Yet a far longer journey in journalism — reporting, investigating and editing stories of public interest — and sometimes stories merely interesting to the public, but not necessarily in the public interest.

I chose Zaba as my deputy when I became editor over eight years ago for many reasons; her nous for news and newsgathering; her networks, her experience, capacity and indeed good work ethic.

Gender was also an issue. Talented women in the media, as in other facets of society, sometimes go unnoticed in professional elevations due to patriarchy. We still live in a society where men have a chokehold on power and play predominant roles in leadership, societal control and social privilege.

So Faith is definitely a suitable replacement. Given the editorial latitude, resources and support, she will perform.But then again, we now live in politically shifting sands and dramatic changes in the media; the vagaries of the volatile environment, political and commercial interests, and technology will have a huge bearing on her performance.

Besides, Faith knows that anyone taking charge of the editorial in the current Zimbabwean media environment has to make a great leap of faith (no pun intended).

The other challenge is that editors must now join the search to find innovative and sustainable business models. It’s difficult, but the fundamentals are clear: either create compelling and quality journalism, which implies credible editors and good reporters with competitive skills set, that readers are willing to pay for, or find viable alternatives to monetise your audiences.

Only then can one truly say, hand on heart, that they are still relevant in the new media landscape and journalism. Otherwise, some models are simply unsustainable and doomed in this dynamic environment and attendant upheavals.

Of course, Faith was not the only great colleague I had during my long career at Alpha Media Holdings (AMH), which spanned more than two decades. There were many other good people — OGs like publisher Trevor Ncube, production old hand Jeffrey Milanzi down to Archibald Makoni, a dedicated shop-floor veteran — despite some problematic and needlessly unpleasant moments, especially of late.

Most of the newsroom was inspiring. I’m talking about talented individuals, an inspirational collective which is largely an epitome of professionalism and commitment. People who would toil — sweating blood — out of passion for very little in return.

Naturally, we also had some cynical, nasty and incompetent opportunists around.But in this era of vast swathes of information and huge volumes of real-time news, amid shoddy stories and fake news, it is encouraging that AMH journalism still remains part of the silver lining; an oasis of truth and credibility in a cosmic desert of rolling lies and mass deception, notwithstanding mounting internal pressures.

We had our own shortcomings; made some mistakes, failed our readers occasionally and struggled with meagre resources in tough working conditions, but that’s part of the game. For the mistakes we made, it’s regrettable and we apologise. But we accept the other difficult challenges as part of professional hazards.
The chase of perfection is usually unattainable, but when you chase it you may end up catching excellence. That way we created good brands through quality journalism and dedication.

Even if journalism is a thankless job (from some places you literally leave with nothing), the newsroom crystallised its mission — agenda-setting and public interest reportage — and executed it very well.

Most newsroom colleagues refused to give in to political and commercial pressures. Some compromised and corrupt elements did, but still we stood firm. Zimbabwe needs independent journalism, not compromised, captured and partisan coverage for political and commercial expediency, to recover and rise. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can.Well, it’s over to you madam Faith. Wish you all the best!

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