Indigenous language press adoption of new technologies for survival

If the indigenous language press is to survive and remain sustainable as news providers, their adoption of new technologies is mandatory'. New technologies would provide creative ways for the press to maintain a presence on the market and keep connected to their audiences. Above all, the indigenous language press should still strive to draw the interest of the young generation that has no interest in hard-copy newspapers. New media technologies include the development of specific software that delivers news on smartphones. This has been a common approach by most newspapers. For example, in South Africa, News24 has an application that gives readers access to its different publications. This would allow the indigenous language press to navigate new possibilities that would help them educate their audiences about their specific cultures, values and beliefs, a role indigenous language newspapers are expected to play. Thus, if the indigenous language press is to endure, it may have to pursue digitally assisted survival.

Zimbabwe’s indigenous language press can learn from the Quebec French initiative meant to serve Quebec’s indigenous language population (Abrams and Strogatz 2003). The people of Quebec were aggressive in allowing their indigenous language newspapers to go online, be accessible via mobile phones and develop specific software that could be accessed in Quebecois (Abrams and Strogatz 2003). This helped the papers to keep in touch with the more ‘tech-sawy’ generation. Lewis (2008) argues that if indigenous language newspapers adopt new technologies for delivering content - for example, the ability' to be accessed on smartphones - they would help in the transmission, evolution and preservation of that particular language’s syntax, grammar and other structural properties. This preservation is crucial for the perpetuation of the indigenous language press itself.

If indigenous language newspapers fail to keep up with modern communication technology' changes, they will be able, at least for the time being, to keep the older generation of readers, despite not attracting the young generation that uses interactive technology like smartphones. Connecting readers in real-time creates meaningful and valuable interaction with audiences. Lewis (2008) notes, ‘technology has become exceedingly' commonplace in many' fields (like the indigenous language press) over the years because it has the ability' to empower its users in multiple ways’. He further states, ‘The initiative of confronting indigenous language loss should start with the indigenous press first and foremost’ (144). Research has shown that the use of technology to communicate indigenous languages improves people’s acquisition and linguistic competency' in that language (Chun (2011 ; Levy 2007). This would be an added advantage to the press, as readers will have

Indigenous language press in Zimbabwe 69 authentic interaction with the language. Hearne, Wilson and Stewart (2008) assert that new media technologies, if adopted widely in indigenous language media in general, possess a beneficial effect in that ‘the interpenetration of global media technologies with hyperlocal needs, creatively adapted to work within and sustain the local culture rather than to replace it or homogenize it’ (iv).

More so, experimenting with new technologies for indigenous content distribution may create a new business model for the indigenous language press that generates more revenue and simultaneously links them to more readers. Pearson (2000) notes,

It is likely that in the long-term, survival of our indigenous language media will depend upon our ability to exploit the new information and communication technologies ... they have the potential to help people maintain their tradition - we need to grapple with them and devise strategies of exploiting their potential.

(71)

Meadows (2000) notes that, in Australia, the indigenous press network has started relying on innovative uses of communication technologies. There will always be arguments against the use of technologies in indigenous language media. Some would argue that technology represents cultural capture - it is a harbinger of cultural imperialism. Others would note the disruptive effects of technologies. But, it is a narrow conceptualisation of ‘indigenousness’ if it is seen as something separate from everyday life processes.

Discussion

While most of what was the Zimbabwean indigenous language press is extinct, there is immense potential to resurrect this section of the press through a wellmanaged grant and subsidy approach. On their part, indigenous language newspapers would need to adopt new technologies. More so, they need to redefine their relationship to the indigenous communities they sen e. From what our interview respondents said, it is evident that the press-community relationship needs renewal. The community should restore their belief in an indigenous language press that focuses more on national issues than community ones. The starting point for this restoration of trust is a bottom-up approach that allows them to provide news on what is transpiring within their communities.

In that regard, indigenous language newspapers act as senders of news and, possibly, resist the propaganda of the elite politicians and urban-based mainstream newspapers about their experiences. The result would be a heightened awareness of that community’s problems by residents who read the newspaper, and a willingness to engage with the problems at communal levels (Traber 1985). Barstad et al. (2016) note that news reports in indigenous language newspapers can contribute immensely ‘to the creation and maintenance of the community’s stability and its adjustment to change in the larger social environment’ (1). Riggins

(1992) argues that indigenous language newspapers can be influential in intervening against issues that the particular community views negatively.

In their current form, indigenous language newspapers in Zimbabwe are still vulnerable, content-wise, to covering events happening outside their communities. This compromises their ‘indigenousness’, and worse still, local communities in Zimbabwe have no control over these newspapers. The indigenous language press has not even resisted the dominance of ‘non-indigenous’ content in their newspapers. Perhaps they are accustomed to seeing ‘their’ indigenous language newspapers reflecting dominant national politics over local issues and power dynamics. Other attendant dangers include the limited financial muscle of the community put indigenous press, smaller staff and possibly less journalism training, as no highly qualified journalists would want to work for an indigenous language newspaper in Zimbabwe in their present state.

 
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