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The plight of the private press during the Zimbabwe crisis (2010–18)

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This study critically examines how the private press in Zimbabwe survived during periods of economic and political crises. In year 2010, the Zimbabwe media fraternity saw the re-opening of Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ) after closure in 2003 and the emergence of the NewsDay, published by the Alpha Media Holdings (AMH). The study examines how these publishers survive the economic challenges in Zimbabwe, especially during the prolonged period of the Zimbabwe Crisis from 2010 to 2018. It critically investigates how these two publications have remained operational despite the limited advertising revenue – owing to company closures – and the adversarial relations with the government – a critical source of huge advertising revenue. Given that copy sales of newspapers hardly sustain business entities, this article explores the alternative sources of income and the impact of vested interests on alternative revenue for privately owned newspapers. It is a qualitative research based on findings from thirteen semi-structured in-depth interviews with a purposive sample of ANZ and AMH officials and journalists. Publishers have relied on two main survival strategies, namely, internal cost-cutting strategies and building good business relations with the ruling political elites. Internal cost-cutting strategies have included newsroom convergences, retrenchments, salary reductions and freezes, reduction of newspaper pages and shutting down national newspaper bureaus. External survival methods, on the other hand, have been seeking donor funding, attracting political investments and embracing the new political order for government protection in the event of failure to pay statutory obligations such as taxes and pensions.
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Keywords: AMH; ANZ; economic and political crises; in-depth interviews; political investments; private press

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Johannesburg

Publication date: June 1, 2018

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