We’ll meet again

via We’ll meet again – The Zimbabwean 29.10.2015

So The Zimbabwean has come to the end of one road.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t other roads. More difficult perhaps, but probably also more effective. After long involvement in the print media I don’t like to admit I see the writing on the wall. Print media aren’t dying; against all the predictions, people still buy books and newspapers in countries where they can afford them and here plenty get recycled till they fall apart.

In London, commuters have a choice of three free evening papers, in addition to the Australian, South African, Brazilian, Russian, Polish and other papers, all inviting passers-by to “Take One!” But is that a sign of life? Who pays for these various -Metros? Do you want to take all your facts – and opinions – from the advertisers who subsidise these? We know there aren’t many philanthropists among them.

The same influences are at work here, in their own subtle ways. A newspaper that sticks to news, rather than chatter, advertising in its many guises and pornography, will have as small a market as a TV weather channel that focuses on serving farmers or deep-sea fishermen.

Real news
The challenge is to spread real news, and encourage intelligent analysis in any media. Those things don’t make a short-term profit and our world is run by people who are both greedy and short-sighted. It will be a struggle, and before you say that I’m trying to tell the editor his job, just stop and think: can an editor control online content the way he decides what will go into his newspaper?

Clearly, he or she can’t. Even if the editor can remove material that someone else has posted, it has appeared. It has been read by a few people – or maybe many. Look at the way video clips circulate. Whether they are things that our bosses don’t want us to see, like that one of our “police” in “training”, or things they pretend they don’t want us to see, like the “adult” material that only feeds adolescent obsessions.

There are people trying to control cyberspace. They just use different methods from the ones who control what appears in your newspapers. An editor, if s/he is clever and always alert, can exert an influence, but power is shared more widely – if we know how to use it.

Engage our minds
We share responsibility for what the new online Zimbabwean will be. Of course the editor is still there, but the editorial blue pencil is not so obvious, to restrain what we say or remove the most offensive parts. We are all more responsible for what we say. It is easier to start a riot or to destroy somebody’s reputation online than it is in print. Let’s all take care to engage our minds before we put the keyboard into gear.

Of course it is possible to provide solid information on the internet. Wikipedia proves that. It is also possible to reveal the most hidden secrets of the most powerful people. Wikileaks prove that, but that case shows the risks a whistleblower runs are no less online than in print. The openness of the cyberworld affects us all. It is still dangerous for anyone living in a glass house to throw stones.

Wikileaks also show that they are as goods as their sources, lots of concerned people who are ready to share the risks. If you’re one of those, and if my courage isn’t empty talk, I look forward to meeting you online. And if you don’t start typing before I’ve made my point, I’ll try to do you the same courtesy.

If we can all help The Zimbabwean continue to be, online, a source of stories the other papers miss, stories with more facts than we find elsewhere and stories that provoke debate on the real issues. We might all become part of the change we want to see. And that’s not a party slogan; change is essential for life – and it only stops a little after death.
See you online!