6 Feb 2012

Simon Kelner visits Daraja

Simon Kelner with Kwanza Jamii Managing Editor, Simon Mkina,
and Igombola Village Executive Officer, Brighton Mdoya

Daraja was honoured last week to play host to an illustrious visitor from the UK - Simon Kelner. Until a few months ago, Simon was the editor of The Independent newspaper, famed for his enthusiasm for innovation, whether in poster-style front pages or as the driving force behind the Independent's new sister paper, the i. He continues to write a regular column for the paper. But his main role now is as Chief Executive of The Journalism Foundationa new independent charitable foundation which promotes, develops and sustains free and independent journalism throughout the world, set up and provided with core funding by the proprietor of the Independent, Evgeny Lebedev. It was in this capacity that Simon was visiting Daraja, to learn more about our Kwanza Jamii newspapers, and to discuss ideas for how his foundation can support our work.

We took Simon on quite a tour, taking in DFID and the British High Commission before heading up country to see our papers in action, to meet our staff and to understand the context we're working in. We got as far as the village of Igombola, Lupembe ward, two hours from Njombe (on which I will write a separate post later).

Our visitor was clearly enthused by what we're trying to do, and could see that we're already achieving a lot.  To get such a positive endorsement of our work was personally very gratifying, a vote of confidence for all of us who are involved with the papers.

He was less convinced by our business model, our struggles to generate revenues and to bring the papers closer to commercial viability. But it was from these conversations that we took one of the biggest positives from Simon's visit: to have one of the UK's most highly respected and experienced media minds challenging us to think differently was an invaluable opportunity. And as a result, we have some exciting ideas for where we can take our papers over the next few years. Watch this space.

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For more pictures of the visit, see the links below from the Journalism Foundation site and from Mjengwa Blog. Maggid Mjengwa is our main partner for the Kwanza Jamii papers.