Local news

Mugabe ‘coup’: ‘Editors need post traumatic help’ for bruised ego

By Nkosana Dlamini

TOP journalist and media trainer Chris Chinaka (pictured) says editors from the country’s mainstream publications should consider seeking post traumatic assistance for bruised ego which came as a result of failure to report accurately on events that characterised the ouster of President Robert Mugabe last month.

Mugabe’s ouster triggered a stampede by the country’s mainstream media, international and social media to glean the inner details of the big story.

It emerged local media was too slow to follow and publish the fast events some of which were broken by international and social media.

Most local journalists relied on faceless sources who often misled them leading to publications of outdated and inaccurate stories.

Editors from local mainstream publications Friday took time to reflect on the period and were frank enough to admit to bungling the story.

Chinaka was blunt with his colleagues whom he said squandered the little credibility that they had when they often took readers down the garden path through inaccurate reportage.

“There are colleagues today who are suffering from power denial psychosis,” Chinaka said during a panel discussion in Harare on Friday.

“The amount of influence that they thought they wielded is not there.

“We got the story wrong and we are not willing to concede that we got it wrong to a point where one says, I think my colleagues need post-traumatic stress disorder or therapy with the shock that it did not happen the way that I had pushed.

“We are sensitive about that because we are human beings; it’s global, it’s natural that as human beings we are defensive.”

Co-panelist and former Financial Gazette journalist Ranga Mberi also scorned his colleagues for fumbling in the dark in attempts to outdo competitors in telling a story whose details were being kept a closely guarded secret.

Mberi said local papers often published speculative reports which turned out to be false as events unfolded.

He urged the media to refrain from publishing falsehoods and be honest to say they did not know.

Mberi, now a staffer with a top telecoms firm, said his erstwhile colleagues also did “not cover themselves in glory” after they were evidently sucked into Zanu PF’s factional wars.

“Before the coup sadly it became apparent that journalists had picked sides in the war between Lacoste and G40,” he said.

“It’s something that a lot of journalists refused to discuss but this happened. So you knew that if you wanted to get the G40 side, you go to which paper and if you want to get the Lacoste side you go to which paper.”

Media Monitors of Zimbabwe director Patience Zirima also said conventional media was at a loss on how to cover the fluid story, often leading with stories that would have long been overtaken by events.

This, she said, saw journalists resort to their own “sources” to cover the inner details of the story but this also turned out to be disastrous as the purported scoops were often miles away from the truth.

Former Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) director Takura Zhangazha said publishers keen on profiting on the country’s biggest political story since independence placed journalists under pressure, with results showing in their failure to report accurately.

He also rebuked some local journalists for allegedly selling their souls to Zanu PF factional elements, often resulting in their stories following factional slants.

Zhangazha said the media should use the new dispensation being ushered by a post-Mugabe era to return to basics and regain the public’s trust.

The post-coup dialogue was called by the VMCZ and the Zimbabwe National Editors Forum (Zinef).

Gary Murambiwa
the authorGary Murambiwa