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Speaking to power through newspaper editorials in Zimbabwe

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This article seeks to provide an insight into the complex role that editorials – a newspaper’s institutional voice – play in highly polarised political contexts. It focuses on how the editorials of two Zimbabwean daily newspapers – The Herald, a progovernment newspaper, and NewsDay, a perceived pro-opposition newspaper – spoke to those in power at a time of transition from a government of national unity to majoritarian rule in 2013. The study also sets out to understand how both the newspapers’ editorials over this time responded to a contested political domain. Qualitative content analysis, rhetorical analysis and in-depth interviews were used to consider the tactics employed in the editorials to question and challenge the decisions and behaviours of those in positions of authority. The research findings contradict the common view in Zimbabwe that the privately–owned media blindly support the opposition while the state-owned media do the same with ZANU-PF. The findings show that in the period in question both newspapers exploited the editorial as a space to urge politicians to think of the national common good.
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Keywords: Zimbabwe; editorials; national common good; objectivity; political polarisation; rhetoric; transition

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Rhodes University

Publication date: March 1, 2019

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