August 7, 2007

Stasis

The last week has been sort of a waste-case as PANOS has been in the process of moving into a new office. Last Monday I arrived to work to find my office being stripped and painted (customary upon vacating a premises), then today I arrived at the new place – assured that it would be ready to go after the long weekend – to find the painting crew at in again in my new office. Not wanting to spend another workday with my head swimming in paint fumes and annoyed that I’d walked 45 minutes for nothing, I turned around and took yet another day off.

I thought the free time would be a boon to some important side projects – finding a long-term place to live and helping to launch a community newspaper – but those too have yet to bear fruit.

Despite plastering ads around town, combing the classifieds, networking with whoever will listen and ingratiating myself on Facebook, I’m no closer to finding a house than I was when I arrived. With the knowledge that my hostel, which is too expensive to stay at long-term anyway, is closing down at the end of August a looming expiry date hangs over my head. I’m wary to really dig in and get down to work without the sense of security that comes with have a stable place to hang your hat.

Similarly, my efforts to help The Advocate – more of a good idea than a potential publication – get their first issue off the ground have been frustrating at best. The young upstarts that are trying to get it going brim with enthusiasm for the issues of the day and, from what I’ve read, are good enough writers. They’re journalists that are fed up with the media status quo in Zambia, sick of being muzzled by editors and tired of chronic underemployment.

But the problem is that none of them have any idea how to manage and organize a paper. They’re great beat journalists, extremely hard-working, but sorely in need of top-down guidance and marketing advice. Since they ‘hired’ me as production manager and human rights consultant, the ‘editor’ has broken just about every meeting we’ve agreed upon, missed every deadline and has still failed to deliver any content for layout.

When they approached me couple weeks ago to work with them, they assured me the paper would be community-based and have a human rights focus but it’s become increasingly apparent they’re willing to publish anything under the sun. News, opinion, sports, business, lifestyle and – at my insistence – a human rights section, has cast too wide a net for such a small undertaking. Furthermore, they want the paper to be national and have correspondents stationed all over this huge country, which even the established dailies can’t maintain.

They need to start just in Lusaka, establish a reputation with quality critical content, and start courting advertisers to make the paper sustainable (they currently only have enough money for six weekly issues). I have a meeting this afternoon with the editor to tell him so, if he doesn’t cancel.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yeah I hear ya on the house issues man - it's a bitch trying to find a place and not being able to feel comfortable in a temporary solution. Worst of all, the places I've looked at are the most overpriced hovels I've ever seen. You got any prospects lined up?

Bryn

B. Scott Currie said...

The man in Chad finally chimes in! Don't think that you could avoid my blog readership creepin' by routing your UNHCR connection through Geneva.

My main problem with housing isn't really the quality, but the quantity of places that are furnished, close to some modicum of civilization and and along transport routes. And when I do find something promising, they go and want $1000 USD/month or something ludicrous.

My faint hope is to try and get better integrated into the expat community, find someone vacating their room in a house and slyly slot myself in. That takes time, however, and I'm not exactly a social butterfly at the best of times...

Anonymous said...

heya Brandon,
I hope you're doing well...it's cool to see messages from the future.
Emilie told me that some of the locals want you to concoct and teach a journalism course complete with Currie Academy Diplomas (I may have made that part up!) Maybe you should invent a management course called "reasonable expectations" or "baby steps 101".
Good luck with your housing situation. I'm sure something will come along soon. Can the Hostel owner provide any guidance or think of anything you might not have tried yet? Or maybe he knows someone that will be willing to give you "special friend" rent rates.
your blog is fantastic reading,
Adriana

April said...

You need a big stick to threaten for deadlines!

Chris said...

Oh man, I sympathize with you. Getting out of the hostel after more two-plus weeks was a great feeling. Something will turn up soon enough. I ended up finding a place on the university campus here. Is there any student housing network there, either on-or-off-campus?

And good on ya for tackling the new paper. That's a big matzah ball.

Bryn said...

Looks like the blog dried up already eh Cummie? What'd the JHR do, deposit your stipend in full in a Liechtenstein-ian account? Off to join Hissene Habre and Charles Taylor for mohitos in some luxurious exiled resort?

B. Scott Currie said...

Haha, with all that money I'd get about 1.5 virgin mojitos, though the company would be priceless.