Since 2020, the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has been running a journalism innovation and leadership course that aims to shape the next generation of news leaders. In this short series, we catch up with some of the graduates and look at how they used newly learned skills in their careers.
Guthrie Munyuki is a Zimbabwean journalist with more than three decades of experience in the news industry. 22 of those years have been spent with Daily News, one of Zimbabwe's largest, legacy print newspapers, where he rose from reporter to group editor-in-chief of the parent company Jester Media Services (JMS).
Inspired to keep learning, Munyuki enrolled on UCLan's course in 2021 to chart the news group's steady digital transformation, build digital products and maximise revenue potential.
This interview has been lightly edited for brevity.
Q: What are the key challenges facing independent news providers in Zimbabwe? How are you thinking about overcoming them?
GM: The rate at which revenues in traditional business have been declining has not been met with a requisite uptick in revenues generated from digital products, despite much attention shifting to online audiences. Zimbabwe, and indeed the JMS, is not an exception.
We have taken an incremental approach to digital transformation rather than a revolutionary one, as this is guided by our lived realities in Zimbabwe, where traditional businesses continue to perform better than digital offerings.
Q: What are the most important skills the course taught you? Are there any that you haven't thought of previously?
GM: There is the constant fine-tuning of metrics that track our readership growth in terms of circulation and subscriptions, as the company has adopted a subscription-based model to sustain readership sales in light of declining street sales.
I am now able to understand the full functioning of the business. I have evolved from having a bird’s eye view of how the business operates to crafting strategies that enhance revenue growth and looking after audiences' preferences and needs.
Q: What is the key project or strategy you are now able to execute?
GM: My MA thesis looked into the Daily News' revenues: the key contributors on both sides of the business - print versus digital - and to see how we could maximise revenues with the organisation.
The level of understanding of digital transformation and the need to keep supporting the traditional business is improving. We have seen a heartening uptick in revenue of around 20 per cent, which is encouraging.
Q: As a news leader, what do you see as the number one priority within your organisation?
GM: The most important thing that UCLan leadership programme taught me was that laggards do not survive in an ever-changing world of news.
For one to be on top of their game, there is a need for a culture change - moving together and sharing a common goal. In our group, we have a culture of doing things together, making sure that no one is lagging behind.
Q: Has this course changed your outlook on the media industry?
GM: I now know that the media industry is in a state of flux. We need strategies for survival as well as embracing change.
Q: What’s next for Daily News and JMS?
GM: Daily News is a part of a group that is growing after having become fully integrated. There is life in Daily News and its future is bright as evidenced by an uptick in business, as a result of embracing culture change and acceleration of its digital footprint in Zimbabwe.
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