Children’s Author, Dellaphine Chitty, On Writing Trickster Tales

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor At Large | @ChiefKMasimba | February 24, 2014

Children’s author, Dellaphine Chitty’s book titled, “Bruh Beaver, Bruh Rabbit and the Man in the Moon,” which she co-authored with her daughter, Dawn, is a delightful trickster tale with origins in African American culture.

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The book tells the story of  two animal characters whose power struggles eventually lead them to an intriguing location. In the story, a seemingly weak animal gains leverage by the mere use of cunning wit and strategy. Continue reading

Is Traditional Journalism Facing A Demise?

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

Berlin Germany – There is no question that the internet is transforming the news industry, just as it has reshaped so many other industries.

The internet has democratised access to publishing tools, making it much easier for new entrants to join the news ecosystem, from blogs to new organisations like WikiLeaks, the Sunlight Foundation and the Huffington Post, none of which existed six years ago. And smartphones let people publish text, photos or video wherever they are.

That is not to say that everyone is now a journalist, but it means that the chances of something important being captured by somebody at the scene are much higher. All these developments provide new ways to do journalism, and can also improve the practice of journalism by making the activities of its practitioners more transparent.

Technology has redefined the space of news and information:

We can read whatever we want

Wherever and whenever we want

The tyranny of news media and traditional journalists is over. In 2005, one of the leading publishers Rupert Murdoch made this ominous state, “I BELIEVE too many of us editors and reporters are out of touch with our readers.”

The centuries-old profession of journalism is undergoing change so cataclysmic that it may soon be unrecognizable. Traditional, or “legacy,” journalism models are indeed in a state of decline.

Modern journalism exists due to a curious convergence of factors that trace their origins back to the beginning of the last century. We think the world needs journalism and journalists.

However, the days of relying god-like figures from above to tell us what’s important, presenting journalism as gospel are over. The model of traditional journalism which often regards readers as stupid is over.

The internet, by altering the underlying economics of the news business, has thinned the ranks of professional journalists. Has the net created other modes of reporting to fill the gap?

The very foundation of traditional journalists which relies on advertising is increasingly becoming obsolete, and a disaster is already beginning to happen to the profession of journalism as it has been traditionally practiced.

More than ever in human history, there are more people that can source information, assess, interpret, share and analyze. Put simply, journalism is no longer an exclusive practice. The tools of the trade are no longer an exclusive reality in today’s media environment.

Lets starts with a basic definition: journalism refers to the journaling of selected daily activities. What new media has done is to provide people with the tools to create their own content, they are doing that, and this is enabling an emerging global conversation

Traditionally, journalism was the preserve of a news or media house with a structure, system and style and the news house.

News media houses had preconceived objectives to package, report news, issues and people which they would sell to audiences or so called eye-balls.

However, in the beginning, journalism was practiced to inform people – it was a social good. But as a result of industrialization, an industry grew round journalism and enterprising business people emerged and built a business round the business of informing people.

Today, the power of the grip on the audience is being lost and now being replaced by the power of the audience. Now, people are easily sidestepping the traditional practice of journalism which relied on monopoly of knowledge and information and are becoming part and parcel of the creators of news and journalism themselves.

The exclusive professional role of the journalist is no longer tenable. In other words, the exclusivity of the role of collecting, analyzing, verifying and disseminating of information  is now throroughly disperse  d due to the power of new technologies.

Costs

Traditional journalisms was highly prohibitive in the costs of collecting and disseminating content as well as footing the costs of journalists but this is collapsing.

Moreso, traditional journalism was severly limited in diversity, variety and individualization but the new media has built a wide variety of choices for audiences.

In this respect, traditional journalism could never tell whether it engaged with its supposed audiences relying on things such as Letters to the Editor but the advent of new media platforms such as Facebook has largely shifted this dynamic. Today, the audience has become less predictable, and exists in real time presenting real challenges to traditional journalism.

Today, audiences can come up with their own analysis of news thereby upturning the fixated old presentation formats of traditional journalism.

Traditional journalism involved audiences in a miniscule way due to the limitations of space, time and resources.

The advent of citizen journalists, a complete no-no in traditional journalism, has also resulted in new perspectives. Because journalists cannot be everywhere, new media tools now give power to audiences to collect and share information anywhere and at anytime. Take, Syria or Egypt as an example.

Ethics

While new media has been accused for the proliferation of ethical breaches, it is fact that ethcal breaches are not exclusive to the new journalism platforms. Take for example, former US Today’s Jack Kelley, who fabricated portinons of stories and plucked quotes from other newspapers. In addition, former Washington Post’s Janet Cooke, was forced to return the famed Pulitzer Prize for fabrication in 1981.

Ownership

Ownership and commercial pressures largely influenced traditional journalism with journalists having very little room to maneuver. This in itself limited the breath and scope of content, the very essence of journalism.

Breaking News

Traditional journalism is no longer positioned to provide breaking news due to its snail pace. Stories of significance  are now being broken on new platforms in ways that are far from the formats of traditional journalism.

What we are saying is that new platforms have refashioned traditional journalism to its very foundation, which is, simply, to communicate and exchange information.

According to the Pew Centre report 2010, in 2002 only 24 % of the people got their news online, 43% got it from radio and about 45% got it from reading the newspaper. But in less than a decade, the transformation has been tremendous. In 2010, 34% of the people got their news online, 34% on radio, 31% from newspapers and 44% on mobile.

Zimbabwe’s Newspapers Shortchange Readers

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

SINCE June last year, Zimbabwe’s print media sector has experienced significant growth but how much of this growth is benefiting citizens’ right to information remains in doubt. Among the independently-owned daily newspapers registered and operating since 2010 up to date include: NewsDay, Daily News and The Mail. This bring to seven daily newspapers published in Zimbabwe including the two state-owned dailies, The Herald and The Chronicle and tabloids H-Metro and B-Metro.

Add to this a batch of weeklies including The Sunday Mail, The Zimbabwe Independent, The Standard, The ZimbabweanThe Worker, The Zimbabwean on Sunday, The Financial Gazette, The Manica Post and The Patriot among others.

In fact, according to media analysts, the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC), a government body responsible for media registrations, licensed a total of 22 publications but it’s telling that no broadcasting license has been issued as the same time.

However, the state-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation remains the sole broadcaster in the country and its coverage is largely in favour of President Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party.  There is also a flurry of South African-based newspapers that are encroaching into the Zimbabwean market including The Sunday Times, Mail & Guardian and Business Day. At the same time, several Zimbabwe-focused online newspapers have emerged during the past ten years. Examples of online news platform include http://www.NewZimbabwe.com, http://www.ZimDaily.com; http://www.ZimEye.org; http://www.ZimOnline.co.za; http://www.ZWnews.com among others.

“The arrival of new players is refreshing but whether they are contributing to the public sphere is another matter. However, there’s an opportunity for more voices and opinions to be heard, but whether this is happening is another issue altogether,” said Eernest Mudzengi, Executive Direction at the Media Centre in Zimbabwe.

Suffice to state that while there’s a semblance of diversity in the print media sector, a critical analysis shows that the newspapers are not really serving the information needs of audiences. The coverage of issues in the newspapers is highly predictable.

“It has become very easy to predict what appears in most newspapers without reading the whole paper – save for sports pages, which actually give the best coverage despite the fact that most disciplines are not widely covered,” said Leonard Kari, an avid newspaper reader.

“On the first page of most of our newspapers we have not seen much diversity in terms of coverage. It largely more of the same. We need from the new papers a preferring of alternatives from the same-old polarised politics,” said Mudzengi, adding that much of the reportage in the local newspapers lacked exuberance and vibrancy. “There is a continuation of polarisation in the media. We need more media debate around political issues and key processes such as constitution-making in the country. We need more in terms of analysis because some of the stories especially on the first pages are predictable.”

Mudzengi said that it was not enough to only license newspapers because the most effective medium to reaching out to Zimbabweans was radio. He cautioned that the registration of the newspapers could be a cosmetic reform, and that the newspapers had to be vigilant in their coverage of issues.

Most of the newspapers merely mirror the polarized nature of Zimbabwe’s political arena which is dominated by ZANU PF and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) at the expense of telling compelling stories that are of relevance to the lives and livelihoods of Zimbabweans.

Government-owned papers have exploited their hitherto dominance on the market to act as cheerleaders for Mugabe, 87, and to denigrate Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai, according to a report on Zimbabwe’s new print media in the Global Post. On the other hand, the independently-owned media have a coverage stance to criticize President Mugabe and ZANU PF.

Further, experts and sources quoted in the newspapers are quite predictable. It appears that the newspapers lack ambition to expand the circle of the so-called experts that comment on issues of national relevance.

To make matters worse, the distribution of newspaper products in Zimbabwe is largely urban-centric. The majority of the population – approximately 70 percent of the population – are effectively left out. According to Dr. Ibbo Mandaza, a former newspaper publisher, 80 percent of the newspaper sales take place in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city. It is not surprising that the voices of rural folk are marginalized in newspaper reports. To state it bluntly, the rural folk are a missing voice in the new print media in Zimbabwe. One hardly gets to hear what is happening in Zimbabwe’s rural areas in the new print media.

Mandaza noted that the cost of many of the newspapers which range form US fifty cents to two dollar were still beyond the reach of many Zimbabweans. While there is batch of newspapers now the Zimbabwean market, advertising – the mainstay of newspapers – is very low in most of the publications raising questions about the sustainability of the enterprises.

“The arrival of new newspapers was long overdue but its too early to tell whether the papers will proffer and alternative and whether they will be financially viable. What is happening in Zimbabwe is not new – it happened in Malawi, Zambia and Tanzania but it’s to early to tell,” said Mandaza. “It’s hard to believe that many of the newspapers will survive beyond a year. The newspaper are limited in terms of reach and spread. The print media is limited in terms of its impact nationally.”

Mandaza said that there was a failure by the new print media to understand the reader. He added that in terms of technical capacity, the government-owned newspapers were far stronger that the new newspapers.

According to Kari, many voices are being left out in the national conversation.

“Many voices are left out in the national political dialogue and many voices have been silenced and have died a silent death. There are very few development stories which one can glean from our publications. Headlines are obsessed with politics yet very few people are benefitting from this kind of news coverage,” said Kari.

Kari suggested that local newspapers should revisit their mandate which is to inform, educate and entertain while ensuring a plurality of voices and a diversity of issues covered in order to influence a new conversation in the country.

What Makes A Great Writer: Insight or Effort?

A Labour of Love

Writing: A Labour of Love

In graphic terms, insight is like the proverbial tip of the iceberg to the process of writing. Beneath the tip is the whole sum of effort that is required to ensure that writing gets to see the world. Much of what takes place after insight has long gone is hard work, tears and blood so to speak that make writing becoming real.

Of course, for great writers, insight has its part to play. But the fact of the matter is that insight is not always available. In itself, insight is highly ephemeral. It can be like the passing wind.

So it is the effort that has to kick in to ensure that the insight can remain alive to see the light of day.

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