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.

Is quality important in business?

Quality is a non-negotiable element of business. Business is all about transcation. It’s a give and take. The level of quality at every stage of that exchange process is what can make or break a business.

 Quality Chart

In that sense the, quality in business must be maintained at many levels of the business cycle, including internal operations, shareholder and customer service management, product or service innovation, design, costing and delivery.

 

With better quality in its approach, a business exponentially increases its chances to capture the market share. Put in other words, quality is the currency of staying in business.

 

Ensuring quality in business involves detecting defects or problems in a product or service and correcting them before they get to the customer. In the event that a customer has problems with a product or service, quality involves redressing the issue through good customer management service.

 

In its simplest form, it’s about taking each and every customer to heart and ensuring that they are fully satisfied by the nature of the exchange process.

 

Of course, some business gurus say that quality is a perceptual and subjective attribute, but with proper systems and processes in place, it is an attribute that can be transformed from the abstract to the measurable.

 

In short, quality can be made concrete.

 

Business that ignores quality in its product or service provision only does so at its own peril. The business wil inevitably lose credibility and customers in the marketplace, and will experience a downturn in its bottom line.

 

So the fewer the defects in a product or service, the greater will be the customer satisfaction and customer retention. It is more likely that customers will also recommend their friends and relatives to purchase the business’ product or services.

 

As stated already, quality in business enhances the relationship between a given business and the customer.

 

Having said that, it is important to note that quality in business in not a static. Rather, it is a dynamic, living process. As times and circumstances, and market charachteristics shift, a business needs to continue redefining what quality means in its focus area. Of course, there are some long-standing values that will never be eroded by time such as good aesthetic, delivery on time, absense of errors and defects among others.

 

But the metaphysics of quality demand that business exercise an awakened consciousness to ensure that a customer’s experience of the business is enhance.

 

Quality in business does not happen in a vacuum, it has to be exercised with full consciousness of intended results.

Does Teacher Training Matter to Developing Countries?

Since time immemorial, teachers of all types have always acted as a doorway that leads people, especially young people, through the maze of knowledge.

The quality of the teacher has and will always be what determines the confidence and progress that is made by the student. If the teacher is bad, it will only reflect in the student’s attitude and behavior.

Better teacher training is therefore an essential component of a student’s process, and consequently a student’s personal advancement is the heart of national progress.

That is why better teacher training is a key fundamental to national progress. The goal to achieve universal education cannot be achieved if teachers in developing countries are not well trained to deliver quality education to students.

According to UNESCO, Sub-Saharan Africa requires 1.6 million additional primary school teachers,450,000 new teachers are required across the Arab States, and an additional 325,000 teachers in South and East Asia, primarily in Afghanistan.

But it is not quantity alone that will make a difference to these mainly developing regions of the world. Rather, effective teacher recruitment, training and deployment policies and ongoing support is key to ensuring that progress is realized in developing countries.

Education is a lifelong necessity for the individual as well as professional growth but only if that education is provided by a teacher who fully understands their job and executes it properly.

When students receive proper training and a subsequently go into the world, the sum of what they go on to achieve is determined by the quality of teachers that they have had in their life.

The development of teachers thus has an incredible impact on developing countries’ ability to build a solid base of well trained human resources. A human resources base that consists of people with quality skills acquired through teaching is essential for progress.

A lack of teacher training capacity will only derail the ability of developing nations to figure out solutions to the major problems that they face.

However, while highly critical, training teachers alone is not enough. Well trained teachers require effective incentive schemes so that they can efficiently deliver knowledge to students. Effective incentive schemes also ensure that well trained teachers are retained.

Also, teachers need to be supplied with proper resources that will enable them to carry out their work. In addition, teachers need to function in an environment in which they are free from intimidation and victimization, conditions that are usually non-existent in many developing countries.

To make matters worse, in many developing countries, well trained teachers and other professionals have been victims of brain drain thereby contributing to the regression of their own countries, and costing national budgets dedicated toward teacher training immensely.

Even if well trained teachers are victims of brain drain, it does not negate the fact that the process of training teachers is an essential bedrock to progress and development.

Put bluntly, poor teacher training is indeed a barrier to the improvement of education and progress outcomes in developing countries.

For example, in the teaching of math and science subjects, teacher quality does matter in order to convey highly abstract concepts to the students. In the event that the teacher is not well trained, he or she will not be able to encourage students to think on their own. The same goes for other subjects.

Well-trained teachers are therefore critical in helping students to identify both what they are good at and what they want to do in their lives.

In a full cycle format, well trained teachers have the ability to adequately impart knowledge to students, and if well taught, students can go on to use the knowledge in sectors that contribute to the overall growth of developing countries.