Taking over as Editor of The Standard at a time when the media ecosystem and the way news is produced and consumed have changed, is not an easy task.
From the Editor’s Desk by Walter Marwizi
One has to understand the rapidly evolving technological changes taking place in the fiercely competitive media environment in order to remain relevant.
While the traditional gatekeeper was a very important person, who decided on what to or not to publish in the past, the digital revolution has spawned an epochal transformation in the way information is transmitted.
Those who only yesterday were passive receivers of information are now actively competing with established outlets such as newspapers, radio and television.
From their homes, offices or parks, they now assemble their own stories, replete with pictures and videos and pass them on to the world, before tomorrow’s newspapers are printed.
A number of newspapers that have failed to adapt to the changing environment have already stopped publishing in other parts of the world.
This scenario means that news organisations have to embrace the 24-hour news cycle, that is extending the news beyond print pages.
Editors are at the heart of leading this process. If they fail to rise up to the challenge, their publications risk meeting the same fate that befell dinosaurs millions of years ago.
I am pleased to say that we at The Standard are alive to the changes taking place around us and we understand the principle of following the readers and their voices wherever they are.
The breaking news on Twitter and the peer-to-peer interaction on Facebook and other platforms have become the discourse that we can no longer ignore.
Apart from the print edition, our thrust shall be to be visible on all our digital platforms so that the conversations on the virtual sphere can take place and provide the solutions this country badly needs.
We have a deep understanding of the fact that the user on the website www.thestandard.co.zw is more than an ordinary reader. The user is a citizen journalist helping us with the story we cannot reach due to logistical and geographical impediments.
As a result, images taken on citizens’ cellphone cameras, iPads, and amateur videos are welcome and will find their way into our digital platforms.
Digital first is therefore no longer just a strategy, it is our new reality and we call on our readers to journey with us and be part of the conversations on our facebook and twitter accounts.
In line with the tradition set by the late The Standard founding Editor Mark Chavhunduka, the paper’s commitment remains first and foremost to serve the citizens, if it is to effectively play the watchdog role.
The paper has to provide citizens with information which allows them to make choices about how they want to be governed. It will continue holding rulers accountable, without fear or favour. We will not compromise on that important role.
As we pursue that goal, we will not restrict our coverage only to warring factions in both Zanu PF and MDC, but we will examine government and municipal policies, and their impact on the lives of ordinary people. That way we aim to keep officials on their toes.
We have a vested interest in seeing an improvement in the lives of Zimbabweans and The Standard will seek to amplify the citizens’ voices by turning its pages and online platforms into forums for civic engagement.
These will not just be a preserve for the affluent and demographically attractive, but should serve even the downtrodden members of society. Children who are in the streets also have important stories to tell, but hardly have a platform to share their view of the world with others who have no idea how it is to live in the open.
The paper will also prioritise coverage of all communities, even those in the minority.
We envisage a situation where The Standard should be a must-read with good, analytical and thought-provoking features which wrap up topics that would have dominated the week.
Corruption inhibits the growth of societies and it is our duty to expose cases where officials in the public service are fleecing Zimbabweans of their hard earned cash in order to do jobs they were employed to do. The passport office remains a haven of criminals who are taking advantage of desperate Zimbabweans seeking travel documents.
Equally, the police, who should be a disciplined force, are now rotten to the core. We will follow the diamond trail, which has remained a secret confined only to the powers-that-be. While trailing our lenses on public institutions, we will however also not forget about the dirty deals in the private sector, that are bleeding the economy.
We have been in this business long enough to know that reporting corruption is not like a hot knife cutting through butter. Such investigative work can only succeed when resources are available and with the assistance of whistleblowers.
Since we publish on Sunday, we will however lighten up readers’ lives by providing content that will stand out as a guide on trending fashion, hair, clothes, food, weddings, churches, health and fitness etc.
Postage stamp and only grey haired men in suits type of pictures now belong to the archives.
We don’t want Sundays to be boring, so we will make use of new story-telling techniques in order to avoid articles that are presented in a predictable and formulaic manner.
Already in this paper’s lifestyle section, writer and literary editor, Tinashe Mushakavanhu, has started to fill a gap created by little or no consistent platforms for literary discussions by penning a new Bookworm column.
We have no doubt his incisive writings on books and the local literary culture scene will end up becoming a referral point.
In the coming few weeks, these changes will become more visible as we repackage the paper to suit readers’ diverse needs.
We have no illusions that this will be an easy task. It will obviously be a difficult road, but our quest to provide content that is relevant to people’s lives will drive us.