The weekly tabloid, known as The Zimbabwean, had been on the streets for 11 years, but publisher Wilf Mbanga said Wednesday that next Wednesday’s print issue would be the last, with the publication however continuing as an on-line news service and community information platform.

Newspapers
Newspapers

“It has been a long and tortuous road with many highs and lows,” Mbanga said, who also cited lack of advertising.

“Unlike most local newspapers, most advertisers were afraid to advertise in The Zimbabwean for fear of reprisals from (the ruling party) Zanu-PF,” he alleged.

The Zimbabwean, which was largely seen as an “opposition” newspaper, had also depended on donors whose support Mbanga paid tribute to.

He also cited the “punitive” tariffs imposed by the government when it declared paper a “luxury” and imposed a 74 percent duty on the cover price as one of the lows in the newspaper’s history.

“This had a devastating effect on the newspaper, forcing the cessation of the Sunday edition and drastic cutting of the number of copies of the Thursday edition, which at that time was selling up to 200,000 copies a week. Sales never recovered from this.”

The Zimbabwean becomes the third newspaper to shut down its print version in 2015 after the Zimbabwe Mail on March 18 and Southern Eye on April 1, both of which also opted to go on-line.

The country’s biggest newspaper stable, Zimbabwe Newspapers (1980) Limited (Zimpapers), has also felt the tremors of a volatile economy and either retrenched or dismissed workers on notice.

The Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) early this year expressed alarm over the closure of newspapers and urged media organizations to implement viable business models.

ZUJ secretary-general Foster Dongozi said the closure of the newspapers was worrisome as it affected job security of journalists and media workers.

“The closure of newspapers is of great concern to us as many of our members are facing uncertain future. We are not only concerned about the newspapers shutting down but also worried if they will be able to pay what is owed to journalists,” he said in a statement.

Media analysts have attributed the problems the newspaper industry is facing to high newsprint prices, slumping advertisement sales, the loss of classified advertising and drops in circulation as a result of the emergence of internet media.

In Zimbabwe, the biggest advertisers are the government and state owned companies who channel their advertising to the Zimpapers stable where the government is the majority shareholder.

Local authorities also find it prudent to advertise in the state-controlled newspapers because of their wider reach than those in the private media.

Apart from on-line publications, social media is also taking its toll on newspapers with many people with mobile phones now considering themselves journalists and taking for immediate release pictures of incidents which would otherwise have been published the following day.

Principal director in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services Regis Chikowore told journalists in May that the advent of multi-media formats had caused many people to shun newspapers and paying radio and television licenses because news could be easily accessed on the social media.

“If anybody who can read and write can pass for a journalist, doesn’t this pose a threat to the existence of journalism as a profession?” he asked. Enditem

Source: Xinhua

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