Monday, January 2, 2012

Success and Journalism

The Post remains a pillar of journalism for Zambia and inspiration for the media

By Rebecca Koch

Although the majority of publications are government-owned the most popular newspaper remains free of government bias. The Post newspaper, first published in the early 1990’s has quickly become one of the most popular news sources for Zambians and is known as the government’s watchdog. Watchdog is the common term used to describe journalists in the United States, so I was able to easily identify with their mission. But unlike the United States, where it is a common role of journalists to discover and uncover issues, many Zambian news sources simply support the status quo.

It was truly inspiring then to listen to the motivating factors of The Post’s founder and publisher, Fred Mmembe on Thursday (Dec. 12, 2011). Mmembe also is an academic, with multiple degrees and interests. He is currently working on a doctorate but discusses these academic accomplishments as afterthoughts to his true passion, serving as a voice for the people outside the government.

In a media environment that is so controlled and regulated, The Post is constantly challenged to take a stance that is usually against “popular opinion.” However, The Post is the most popular daily newspaper and continues to grow. The success of the private paper is surprising, considering the multiple challenges and barriers to a paper of its type. Lack of funding, resources and talent are the major deterrents to publications in the Zambian media environment.

But these challenges serve as motivation to continue publishing The Post.

“I don’t think struggles can deter anyone from doing what they love,” he explained.

With a successful portfolio such as his, Mmembe could have done a multitude of things that are more lucrative and glamorous than serving as editor-in-chief of a newspaper, but that was never the purpose of The Post (although they are more lucrative than comparable government papers). Mmembe confidently remarked that the paper and its success is a product of its human resources and readers, not money. A staff of educated passionate journalists who work to serve the good of the people can clearly work wonders for a community when developed in an area like Zambia and many others.

Throughout the first half of the interview we had with Mmembe, many of us were struggling to stay engaged. But the last conversation with him about why he loves his job and the strength of his publication uncovered the drive that exists in all successful journalists. Regardless of background, location or challenges, journalists must always remember their purpose (to serve the general public) and why their job is so important. Mmembe is an editor who is constantly striving to improve the paper and further the reach and success of his publication.

“This is my life, I enjoy it,” he said. “We will be here until they kick us out.”

Rebecca Koch is one of 18 students from Ohio University, studying abroad in Zambia over winter intercession, about media, society, and governance, through the Institute for International Journalism.

Rebecca is an Advertising major with a specialization in Marketing/ Sales, and Sociology.

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