New Tech Tools Transforming Journalism

By Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor At Large | @ChiefKMasimba | February 27, 2014

The digital age is transforming the face of journalism, challenging journalists to tell stories in new and innovative ways. Today audiences are being bludgeoned by tons of information resulting in limited attention spans. What this means for journalist is they have to present their stories in a manner that not only attracts but keeps attention. Continue reading

The Power Of Investigative Journalism

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor At Large | @ChiefKMasimba | February 25, 2014

Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth, bringing to light hidden facts. With investigative journalism, the goals is to expose the truth through fact-based, ethical storytelling.


Abuses of power are often shrouded in secrecy. Similarly, corrupt dealings tend to operate in the dark. That’s why it takes more than just reporting but Sherlock Holmes like investigation to get to the truth of matters. Continue reading

Redesigning Journalism in the Digital Age

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor At Large | @ChiefKMasimba | February 20, 2014

Journalism in the digital age is increasingly about helping audiences filter through the gazillions of content being produced on a daily basis through high quality, interactive and engaging storytelling. Thanks to technology, journalism is being reshaped, and stories are being told with greater innovation.

Continue reading

Are Native Ads Good or Bad for Digital Journalism?

By Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor-At-Large | January 01, 2013 | @ChiefKMasimba

Late last year, The New York Times announced that it will be going big on native advertising in 2014 raising questions about authenticity, particularly on what is and what is not journalism.

Native advertising, described by AdAge as the hottest new form of advertising, is a web advertising method that employs content to lure readers. That’s a very basic definition. According to Sharethrough, a company which specializes in the medium, native advertising is a form of paid media where the ad experience follows the natural form and function of the user experience in which it is placed.

On January 8, The New York Times will unveil a new digital look which incorporates native advertising and will be more stronger on visuals such as video and photography.

The New York Times, a lodestar of journalism the world over, will feature the native adverts – first on the newspaper’s website and later on its mobile platforms – as way to shore up revenues in an industry hard struck by technology. Other large publishers such as Washington Post, Vanity Fair, Buzzfeed are already rolling out native advertising which promises greater interaction with users, albeit at the risk of breaking the separation between advertising and editorial content.

There are fears that consumers may be duped by the nature of native advertising – a hot topic in digital publishing – with consumers expected to distinguish between what is paid native advertising versus editorial content. Native adverts are made to be cohesive with the page content, assimilated into the design, and consistent with the platform behavior that the viewer simply feels that they belong, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). Put simply, the ads are supposed to look similar to the surrounding published content

Native advertising seeks to deliver content within the context of a user’s experience with formats including  features like a color bar and the words “Paid Post” would enable readers to identify material as advertising content.

“There is a renaissance underway in digital advertising that is driving brands, publishers and consumers to communicate with each other in more personal and natural ways,” said Patrick Albano, Vice President, Social, Mobile and Innovation Sales at Yahoo, and Co-Chair of the IAB Native Advertising Task Force. “Native advertising is an important piece of this evolution.”

According to IAB, native advertising has emerged both as an exciting new way for digital markets to engage with the consumer, and as a new source of advertising revenue for publishers. If you have been on a web page with branded content, you probably know how intrusive and distracting such content is to user experience. Because such content is formatted just like an news article, users can potentially be waylaid.

New York Times publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr, was quoted in a letter to employees as saying said that features like a color bar and the words “Paid Post” would enable readers to identify material as advertising content. He added that there would be “strict separation between the newsroom and the job of creating content for the new native ads.”

But whether readers will be able to figure out the difference between editorial content and paid advertising is shrouded in controversy. The seamless integration of branded messaging into consumers’ content experiences in order to acquire attention maybe regarded as an art of deception.

The Time quoted Edith Ramirez, chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission critiquing native advertising saying at a conference last year.

““By presenting ads that resemble editorial content, an advertiser risks implying, deceptively, that the information comes from a nonbiased source,” she said.

If readers don’t fall prey to the deception of native of advertising, it’s difficult to see how the ads will succeed.

“I firmly believe that advertising on the modern internet will be defined by meaningful content, not standard ads. There’s a movement happening, away from interruptive, traditional ads, and towards thoughtful brand stories — and native ads are the most potent and effective distribution strategy for content-based advertising,” said Dan Greenberg, Founder and CEO, Sharethrough. “For advertisers, native, content-based advertising is the translation layer between the modern internet and traditional TV.”

In his letter to employees, Sulzberger acknowledged that native advertising is “relatively new and can be controversial,” but is necessary to help “restore digital advertising revenue to growth.”

Publishers Team Up For Digital Cake

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha | Digital Media Specialist

The terrain of traditional publishing has been much about cut-throat competition but due to pressures presented by new media technologies, this is changing fast. Reaching audiences with content is no longer the domain of newspapers alone. Newspapers are feeling the heat. In the UK, competitor newspapers are beginning to collaborate to try and wad off the

According to a report in the Financial Times, publishers of newspapers and magazines are setting aside competitive differences to collaborate as they grapple with larger digital platforms and plummeting traditional advertising revenue.

The Financial Times quoted Lee Baker, director of the Association of Online Publishers saying that pubblishers were now collaborating to make sense in the digital era.

“Publishers are coming together to understand how they can work collaboratively.We are seeing more of that on a much more sophisticated level … Lots of businesses are simultaneously moving into very, very new territory, which is driving this approach.”

Taking things a little local, there in no doubt that technology and data are today driving the market. However, in Zimbabwe, publishers are lagging a bit in the technology race. One simply needs to look at the hiring patterns within newsrooms to understand that the technological shift has not adequatelly affected the way local publisher are doing business.

Having said that, it’s important that what makes or break a newspaper or magazine is content: original, quality content is the key to success.

Old Mutual Shuts Down Top Independent Arts Hangout Book Cafe/Mannenberg in Zimbabwe

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

One of Zimbabwe’s legendary arts and culture hangout, the Book Cafe and Mannenberg, located at the Five Avenues Mall in Harare’s Avenues suburb is scheduled to close its doors to the public at the end of the year due to lack of lease renewal by Old Mutual Property, owners of the property.

The two venues which are managed by the Pamberi Trust, have played a central role in the cultural life of the capital city. In fact, they have been the soul of the creative industry hosting artists of all guise from around Zimbabwe and the globe.

The Book Cafe was recently awarded the 2011 Prince Claus Awards worth €25 000 for its role in “culture and development”, built and focussed on a platform of freedom of expression across music, poetry and theatre with public discussion, film and multi-disciplinary arts.

According to a statement from Pamberi Trust Trust, OK Zimbabwe Pension Fund and its agents Old Mutual Property who own the Five Avenue Shopping Mall served notice to all tenants in the building that they intend to occupy the premise in 2012. Representations to the owners and the agents have proved to no availa, read the statement.

“After 7500 concerts and functions, 650 public discussions, over 70 book launches, 35 theatre productions, staging of 150 international touring acts and countless new local acts and collaborations that emerged within, Harare’s iconic music and performing arts centre, Book Cafe and Mannenberg, will close its doors to the public in Fife Avenue Shopping Mall,” said By Paul Brickhill, Pamberi Trust’s Creative Director .

“About 600,000 have entered the twin venues since opening, as Book Cafe in 1997 with Luck Street Blues, and Mannenberg in 2000 with historic performances by Africa’s great jazz pianist Abdullah Ibrahim. The two venues gave rise to the urban mbira phenomena, a Friday night institution in Harare’s nightlife, pioneered stand-up comedy, championed freedom of expression, laid the foundation for slam poetry, and created major youth and female arts development programmes. The venues were closely associated with many great jazz and blues acts in the early years, and latterly with the reggae renaissance sweeping Zimbabwe.”

Brickhill beamoned the little regard that is paid to civic cultural and intellectual life in Zimbabwe.

“One has to wonder what kind of Zimbabwean spirit and legacy we will create for future generations when the needs of civic cultural and intellectual life are so easily supplanted by those of commerce and profit, even while they can co-exist happily. Book Cafe, for those who truly know its heart, has been a place of beauty, joy and togetherness; and so it never failed to uplift the spirit. 350 artists earn a dignified livelihood at the venues, as well as 45 staff. Never in its history did it offend. All have been welcome, and so all came to visit at one time or other. As Edgar Langeveld once said, if you care to sit at Book Cafe long enough, a week or so, every kind of Zimbabwe will wander through,” said Brickhill.

“The pantheon of music, poetry, comedy, theatre and other artists that emerged through the Book Cafe and Mannenberg is simply the stuff of legend, their number runs not in dozens but hundreds. They know who they are, and in most cases so do the audiences. Some are here, some scattered, some have passed away and some retired. We pay tribute to them all”.

“There are not too many in political, social and media spheres that did not at some time engage in public debate in Book Cafe, and that includes many leaders of yesterday and today. We have been a place of free expression, a platform for exchange of public dialogue”.

“What will happen now is that we will bid farewell to Fife Avenue. The artists, audiences and friends who came to know and appreciate this space may also say their goodbyes, since each had their own way of being part of us and each other at Book Cafe and Mannenberg. This festive season is our last in this venue, and this New Year’s Eve is the last we shall enjoy together at this place, with a hug and a wish for the coming year at midnight”.

“Does the show go on? We will make our announcements in due course. For now, what I can say is that as one door closes in life, so another opens. After 30 years, we have not given up, despite some desperate hardships along the way. We have history. Honestly, it is for us just another bend in the path. To quote my old friend David Ndoro, with whom we invented much of the early years, ‘It is a journey, not a destination’. And so, yes, it will continue”.

“I would like, on behalf of some 1200 artists and our team here, to sincerely and humbly say thank you to every person who has supported, attended or performed at shows and events, who enjoyed themselves, engaged with others in the world of ideas and laughed together. To our many partners in the arts and civil society, as we always said, ‘we are building the kind of Zimbabwe we want to live in’. And so we did. And so we will continue”.

Retired General Solomon Mujuru’s Death Lights Up Social Media

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

Harare, Zimbabwe – Once again, social media and mobile telephony makes the news for breaking the news.

Early Tuesday, social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, were abuzz with news of Retired General Solomon Mujuru’s death. Mujuru, who was 62, died in a fire accident at his home.

Social networks carried vital information to Zimbabweans both locally and abroad ahead of traditional news outlets.  Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, had by mid-morning updated its profile on Mujuru to indicate that he had died.

If anything, this proves that social networks and the mobile have indeed come to Zimbabwe in a big way, and will increasingly become a source of local news developments.

The news went viral as people shared news via their mobiles phones and on social media platforms.

By mid-morning, the national broadcaster, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, had not yet carried news of Mujuru’s death, prompting some people to question its news-gathering approach.

With technology and news in the digital age spreading information so quickly, the broadcast network was rather slow to fill the information gap.

Regardless, the news spread like wildfire across the twittersphere and of course on to Facebook, with many Zimbabweans expressing shock, commenting and sharing the sad news.

Reporting on Mujuru’s death confirms that conventional news media in Zimbabwe have to position themselves appropriately in relation to the social networks and mobile phones to report news.

However, even though people heard the news of Mujuru’s death on social networks, they still wanted the information to be verified. Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks encourage people to speculate.

As much as they can be a source of news, social networks can be a repository for false or misleading reports.

What is required is for conventional news outlets to leverage on the power of social networks without compromising traditional journalism principles such as accuracy, brevity, objectivity and fairness.

In the face of social networks’ ubiquitous distribution of news that maybe false or true, traditional news outlets still have a key role to play in providing investigation and context into issues.

Solomon Mujuru, also known as Rex Nhongo (May 1, 1949 – August 16, 2011) was a Zimbabwean military officer and politician who led Robert Mugabe‘s guerrilla forces during the Rhodesian Bush War.

In post-independence Zimbabwe, he went on to become army chief before leaving government service in 1995. After leaving his post in the Zimbabwe National Army, he got into politics becoming Member of Parliament for Chikomba on a Zanu PF ticket. He was generally regarded as one of the most feared men in Zimbabwe. His wife, Joyce Mujuru, became Vice-President of Zimbabwe in 2004.