One of the things I have come to resent about not being in Zimbabwe is the fact that I have to struggle to get any worthwhile information about what’s going on in the country.
To be honest, it’s not like while I was in Zimbabwe, information was that readily available either (with the polarization of the media and all that, sometimes confusion abounded).
But reading newspaper stories in Zimbabwe has one benefit that the online media doesn’t have (for all its supposed advancement and signification of progress).
Newspaper stories have the benefit of giving you the ‘dull’ news. In fact they generally devote two pages at least to ‘dull’ news.
Dull news is the news that does not excite, thrill or make anyone wish to come back for more (unless you’re a sucker for that sort of thing).
Dull news is the news that comes from official sources – whether they are statements from the police, the government, the NGO sector, various ministries, analysts and experts and commentators in the fields of economics, mining or agriculture.
It’s dull because it is hard to embellish. It is dull because it cannot be ornamented with fancy language and any attempt at using clever twists of phrasing might render the article incoherent.
So dull news is the news that states it as it is (notwithstanding the angling). This is the kind of news I miss.
You only find it nicely tucked away in the broadsheet hardcopy spread of freshly minted newspapers because most of the online media outlets are all about sensation and cherry-picked stories selected from newspapers across the board and served up again to the public as ‘latest posts’.
Granted, Zimbabwean newspapers have clear biases and slants are the order of the day.
The good thing about them though is that when you know the slant of a paper – you can read it with heightened awareness of the nuances and a healthy scepticism of the conclusions being arrived at.
It’s like eating a well cooked dish that happens to have grains of soil in it – you eat with caution, your tongue inspecting every morsel to screen for unwanted soil particles before you chew on it – because failure to do this would make the meal an uncomfortable and onerous task for your molars.
My point is discerning Zimbabweans consume news by interchanging lenses, by recognizing the slants and by constructing meanings independently of the explanations proffered to them by the stories.
We assume particular reading positions when we hold a state-owned newspaper and assume a different reading position when we partake of the news served by private-owned papers.
And in between the varying versions of one event or the contradictory interpretations of the same speech – we pick out, like grains of soil – the biases and hope that what is left remains edible.
…to be continued