Joe Finds His Voice


In a world of too much PR & little substance, Joe Ruzvidzo (@JoeBlackZW) is something of an enigma. He is actually what he says he is. What you read is what you get. No frills. No PR. He is the ultimate authentic individual.

This is rare these days where so many have mastered the art of blending and conforming. Of course we would all want to be liked. We are delighted when our Facebook posts get many likes. And we feel a rush of excitement when our tweets are faved and retweeted.

For our generation these have become sought-after stamps of approval. They are the virtual pat-on-the-shoulder that has made social media such a fuel for social discourse.

It’s quite sobering to see just how much social media has become a global stage for our lives. At first we used to think that what offends would not be retweeted or liked. But boy, were we wrong.

On social media Joe has stood out by calling things as they are. He’s the go to guy if you want someone who will call a spade a spade. He is an equal opportunity offender, offending without fear of favour. His social media profile is of an ordinary Joe Bloggs; no photo shopped pictures or varnished postings to impress his audiences.

But what he does is to impress by being himself. Your choice is to take it or leave it. And this is exactly what NBO Magazine feels like. In a note instructing me to get on with this piece of writing, Joe tells me that None But Ourselves (NBO) Magazine is not “about curating information for the general public” but more like curating information for himself. And this makes eminent sense. When you have read it, you realize that it is his take of what a compelling magazine should feel and look like.

His audience is likely to be people like him. Which naturally raises the question how many Joe Bloggs do we have out there? The answer is that there are plenty of them. So there should be a market for this magazine.

Even though ours is the age of too much information, yet paradoxically ours is also the most uninformed generation that ever walked on planet earth. Even though there is no shortage of reading material, most of it can be dull and unbelievably boring when it is not self-serving.

Digital media ghettos and self-selection on social media means we consume content we like and agree with. How enlightening can that be?

This observation holds true within the Zimbabwean market where online media has been abused for spreading lies, innuendo and  unsubstantiated allegations. Quality has largely been tossed out of the window. Of course there are a few exceptions.

It is my hope that NBO will add to media plurality. That is why Joe must be commended for this initiative. NBO should provide another digital platform for more voices to contribute to the national conversation.

Every society gets the media that it deserves. Zimbabwe is better served by a competitive market place of ideas where robust debate sharpens our ideas. This also raises the quality of our narrative.

As Joe says, he created NBO to solve a problem that he encounters daily, namely the paucity of reading material that he enjoys. This is often the foundation for many wining formulae. Some of the world’s successful brands were created by people wanting to eliminate an inconvenience they experienced or trying to fill a gap they spotted. I hope NBO hits the sweet spot and creates a following that translates into a successful business model.

Doom and gloom dominates Zimbabwe’s narrative right now. That’s why it’s exciting that Joe has spotted an opportunity in these dark days when many are giving up and leaving the country.

Where many in the diaspora have written their mother land off and don’t see why they should come back home, Joe has returned to the motherland. The launch of NBO is proof that individuals have the power to change and impact our circumstances no matter how difficult the environment.

I hope this power of one individual with a plan inspires many millennials to become a force for positive change in Zimbabwe. We all know it’s tough out there but I am confident Joe’s work ethic will see him make a success of this interesting project.

Digital media is relatively low cost and this could be the genesis of a new media player in Zimbabwe. With his authenticity, Joe has a chance to make NBO a compelling voice. This digital publication has my very best wishes.

[Read the launch issue here]

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Trevor is Chairman of Alpha Media Holdings (AMH) based in Zimbabwe, a company he co-founded 19 years ago. AMH owns four newspaper titles in Zimbabwe namely NewsDay (daily), Southern Eye, The Zimbabwe Independent (business weekly) and The Standard (Sunday). Trevor is also controlling shareholder and Executive Deputy Chairman of the Mail & Guardian Media Group (South Africa), publishers of one of Africa’s leading weekly newspapers the Mail & Guardian. M&G Media also owns Mail & Guardian Africa which is headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya. He is also a chicken farmer.