Daily News: More than a newspaper

HARARE - Zimbabwe is a beautiful country which always leaves me in absolute awe each time I have the privilege of venturing outside Harare and visiting one of our many tourist destinations.

Three months ago, I went to the fabulous Eastern Highlands for the umpteenth time for a short break, and I was — as usual — left completely spellbound by the amazing beauty and life-giving tranquility of this blessed region.

But it was as I was reluctantly driving back from Vumba to Harare that I — for the first time since I joined Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ) in 2008 — began to fully comprehend what the Daily News is about, and what it really means to ordinary Zimbabweans.

Feeling sorry for a fairly mature couple who were frantically waving down cars on the side of the road on a bitingly cold early Saturday morning, I stopped and offered them a lift to Mutare, where they were going to see a sick grandchild.

As is common among most Zimbabweans, we exchanged pleasantries and soon engaged in cheap chit-chat about everything and nothing — from the weather to the economic challenges affecting most citizens.

I also soon learnt that the couple were retired teachers who are still deeply passionate about education in the country. They regaled me with stories about the many communities that they had had the pleasure to serve before and soon after Zimbabwe’s independence, as well as their fears about their beloved profession these days.

Then it was my turn to tell my story and what I do for a living. To my utter shame, I initially kind of talked down to them about newspapers and the Daily News — assuming that this was an alien world that they were not likely to be interested in.

My, was I in for a surprise!

They knew so much about the Daily News: When the newspaper was founded, some of the early staff members, how the paper was “silenced” in 2003, as the old lady so elegantly put it, as well as how it had come back “from the dead” in 2011.

We talked so much about “The Daily” that the one-hour trip to Mutare felt like a 10-minute journey in the end, and my heart was truly warmed by how they spoke about this beloved newspaper like they were real “stockholders” in it.

As I dropped them off at Mutare Provincial Hospital, I felt a tinge of sadness as it was like saying farewell soon after meeting parents that one had not seen in decades.

Rather timidly, the old man asked for a copy of the newspaper as he disembarked from the car, and his eyes lit up as I gave him the only copy I had, from the previous week. He said something in deep ChiManyika along the lines of “Please, look after the people’s paper” as I drove off.

Since that day, I always share with people who care to listen to me how the people’s “Daily” is bigger than a newspaper, and that many Zimbabweans feel as if they truly own a stake in it. When we are in pain, they suffer with us, and when we are victorious, it is their triumph as well.

Sitting at the sharp end of the business as I do, I am now also beginning to appreciate why when we came back to the market five years ago it was as if we were never away.

Despite the apparent malice of some competitors and detractors, we thrived from day one and seemingly against insurmountable challenges that have tripped many in similar circumstances.

And to think that when I joined this company in 2008 there was the smell of death in the air, with a mere two dozen or so core staff, mostly at our dilapidated printing press premises in Southerton, valiantly trying to keep the press going.

Even when we were given the green light by the government to re-launch the Daily News two years later, both friends and foes did not believe that we could ever come back, never mind as successfully as we have done.

Five years later, there is not a single doubting Thomas, not even our competitors. ANZ now employs hundreds of people and publishes not just the market-leading Daily News, but also its sister titles the Daily News on Sunday and the Weekend Post, as well as a plethora of successful specialist magazines.

All this has been achieved without so-called donor funds, and we now once again find ourselves at the top of the media charts, leading the way in many of the key success factors for the industry, including quality of editorial, cost management and operational efficiency, that others who were never shut down by the government have no choice but to copy.

As I have also repeatedly stated, and this is not a boast but the statement of a fact, ANZ is today one of the few businesses in Zimbabwe that manages to pay staff on time and to remit its obligations to the likes of Zimra and Nssa to the letter.

This is why curious outsiders sometimes ask incredulously how the Daily News has beaten the odds so spectacularly, as some competitors who seemingly get lots of government or donor support, have reported publicly that they are experiencing major challenges.

To all my colleagues I say thank you, and keep up the hard work.

And to our valued readers and advertisers I say a million thank yous!

Comments (3)

Sharon - I so enjoyed reading this article - something nice and refreshing for a change. Well done, Sharon.

Mbewa - 29 June 2016

Yes, we were elated that the Daily News came back. Unfortunately, you are now a pale shadow of yor former title under the illustrious Geof Nyarota and his team. You never present the facts nor preserve their true meaning but always offer some distortion to suit your predertimed goals or to pander to the difficult economic environment. Stories that hide publicly important information because they hurt your political firends are now the oder of the day. So are misleading headlines to sell one more newspaper. You now shirk away from plurality of opinions - attacking Mnangagwa all week long is now your favourite pastime, with puff pieces for Makandiwa an icing on the cake. This insults us intelligent readers, Madam. We now have to buy Newsday and The Herald to get to the bottom of any story. Surely, Zimbabweans deserve more than such feebleness.

ex-Journo - 29 June 2016

kip it up Daily! you add on to the assortment of publishers and there is more flavour in choice than being stuck in the tupid rubbish of that red dustbin.

SaManyika Chaiye - 29 June 2016

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