In the midst of this, a new type of news organisation is becoming an increasingly important and influential voice.
At Storyful, I helped to build the world’s first social media newswire (it was acquired by News Corp in December 2013). Wires are a hugely competitive space, with vendor lock-in and complicated content licensing restrictions making it a tough market to get a foothold in. But, just as with Storyful, The Source has the agility and focus that is allowing them to make inroads. Here’s what makes them different.
The Source’s core team is made up of an editor, a project co-ordinator, a news editor and two bureau journalists. Editor-in-Chief Nelson Banya and News Editor Alfonce Mbizwo are both former Reuters, and both have a background of working for national financial publications.
Over a number of meetings, both of them explained to me their vision for The Source. What really stood out was their passion for making economics interesting — for relating financial news to the everyday lives of people in the country. They understand that every political story has an economic angle, and every economic story has a political impact.
In addition to the focused daily news cycle, deeper investigative reporting has raised their profile significantly. Sometimes this has gained them unwarranted attention — literally in the case of the raids in 2015.
Community and training
This core team is backed up by an expanding network of stringers. Over a 48 hour period, I participated in a training workshop run by the European Journalism Centre for current (and potential) members of this network. The Source is committed to training the basics, but also focuses heavily on ethics, diversity in reporting and handling sources, both online and offline
Training leads to better quality content for the site and is creating a new generation of digitally-native journalists country-wide. This is something the Storyful editorial team deployed to great effect, with many trainees going on to become senior journalists and editors. It’s a great way to build capacity and culture in a growing newsroom.
The Source is not afraid to experiment. Their ultimate business model is not locked down, but Nelson and the team have been experimenting across the board with an email newsletter (with tens of thousands of subscribers), Facebook communities and a vibrant WhatsApp broadcast group.
Two upcoming projects will help them grow their way towards sustainability further. Superdesk, an open source newsroom management system from Sourcefabric (with whom I worked from 2010–2013) will power their Wordpress digital site, but also allows them to flexibly ingest and output feeds of content, paving the way for a business-to-business play in the financial newswires space.
Sourcebot, the first phase of an innovateAFRICA grant, is going to use chatbot technology to deliver personalised news via Facebook messenger. Both Nelson and Alfonse see Facebook as key to building their online brand and experimentation with bots, AI and Live video is a core aspect of this.
This willingness to experiment with new technology, invest in the team and remain flexible with their business plans makes The Source an exciting prospect not just for Harare, but for global financial news. And with Zimbabwe on the brink, there’s no shortage of news to report on.
You can, of course, check out The Source online: