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The Standard: Down memory lane

 

I had just finished my probation at Thomson Publications, where Mark was incidentally employed as editor of Parade, but I went with my gut feeling and immediately agreed to join him.

To be honest I would have been more comfortable with a job as a reporter but Mark wanted a lean team and he felt that I would be useful as a sub-editor. That lean team comprised the following: Mark – editor, Karen Paul – sub-editor, the late Julius Zava – senior reporter, Michael Kariati – sports editor, Joyce Hamba – junior reporter and yours truly.

 

Of the existing founders, I know Kariati is corresponding for a number of organisations, while Joyce is now in the United States. Unfortunately I’m not aware of Karen’s whereabouts – the last I heard was that she was with an estate agency.

My recollection of the early days of the Zimbabwe Standard was that of a team that was determined to succeed because our reputations were at stake. Shareholders had invested a lot in us and our future was dependent on this project. Later the paper changed to Sunday Standard and eventually The Standard – this was mainly to position it as a weekly paper as opposed to one that was meant for just one day. “Zimbabwe” was dropped so that the paper would not be viewed as an extension of the Zimbabwe Independent.

Perhaps the most dramatic moment during my tenure at The Standard was the arrest of Mark and Ray Choto, who had just joined as chief reporter, over a story they had written concerning an alleged mutiny in the army. Mark was abducted at his home while Ray was invited to the police to give a statement, only to be handed to the army who whisked him away to some secret detention centre.

 

This horrific incident shook the team to the core, but we were not cowed and we suddenly realised that journalism was not a safe profession after all. I was particularly impressed by messages of solidarity that we received from all over the world as it made us feel that we were not alone in the struggle for press freedom. Mark and Ray were later released, albeit after they had been tortured brutally as evidenced by their swollen limps and faces.

As The Standard grew in age and circulation, I also rose through the ranks to chief-sub editor, assistant editor and eventually managing editor. Trevor, who was director and editor-in-chief of the group, took over from the Clives as publisher and Mark moved on. In a move that surprised all, Trevor moved swiftly to appoint the late Bornwell Chakaodza as editor.

 

The two had appeared to be sworn enemies during Chakaodza’s time at The Herald. It was under Chakaodza that the paper experienced phenomenal growth from a weekly print run of 15 000 to 48 000. We also had a special Bulawayo edition that was couriered by air every Saturday evening. Those were the good old days when Air Zim could be relied upon. I left the company at the end of 2009 to start my own business.
Happy birthday The Standard.

 

Tendai Mutseyekwa is founder and managing director of InterMedia, a marketing, advertising and communications consultancy.

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