Lessons in Managing Independent Media

Lister, Gwen
September 2004
Nieman Reports;Fall2004, Vol. 58 Issue 3, p46
This article highlights the strategy of The Namibian newspaper staff in ensuring the survival of the newspaper during times of crisis. Being a newspaper that is not tied to any political party or commercial interest has helped in cases of conflict with the authorities. Although governments in Africa continue to accuse independent media of siding with the political opposition, these claims are without basis in fact. The Namibian consistently adheres to a clear set of ideals, and this has helped during times of crisis. The value of building a committed staff is not to be underestimated, particularly in crisis situations, for staff members contribute to the ethos of a publication, and this, in turn, earns the support of a readership or listeners or viewers. Donor funding was vital to The Namibian as it struggled to get started prior to independence. Donors should ensure that funding is not summarily cut, but should reduce it gradually so that independent media can come to grips with sustainability as soon as possible. The Namibian has always managed to stay in touch with its readers. During the nation's years of struggle, it provided an outlet for the voice of opposition against apartheid domination, and through this process the newspaper earned what has been called its struggle credentials. Newspapers run by journalists are becoming even more vital in today's world. In the so-called First World, business managers are taking over, and this results, too frequently, in the unfortunate fact that profits dominate, not principles. This same situation is perhaps contributing to an erosion of newspapers in various parts of the world. But in The Namibian, staff were largely self-taught. The editor of the newspaper believes that it is possible to balance principle and profit. The Namibian resists increases in its cover price, aware that information must be accessible to the people, especially in emergent democracies


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