Pambazuka News, a sterling example of how new media can revitalize news gathering, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. That's a big enough deal on its own. It's even more important to note that, in a tech world sometimes overly focused on Silicon Valley, Pambazuka News is an African website devoted to African news and analysis run by Africans.
Pambazuka News was launched in 2000 by Fahamu, an African non-profit devoted to human rights and progressive reform. Its goal was, and remains, to connect activists intent on progressive reform in Africa. What is has become is a large, vibrant community of citizen journalists reporting the news from a pan-African point of view and with a focus on social justice.
"The articles we publish are not (with very few exceptions) generated by journalists, but by a large (and growing) community of over 2,500 writers, academics, bloggers, activists, organisations and movements. In that sense, Pambazuka News is probably the most well established, yet completely unacknowledged, example of citizen journalism."
Originally publishing three or four articles a week, the site now publishes close to thirty, in English, Portuguese and French, serving an estimated weekly readership of 500,000. In addition to online articles, the site's contributors produce podcasts, video and special reports.The site was in the vanguard of African podcasting. Its archives now contain about 60,000 pieces, a picture of the last ten years of Africa's life and a source for scholars.
A separate blog, the AU Monitor, provides "regular feedback to African civil society organisations on what is happening with the African Union." They even produce a radio drama that explores issues of importance to the AU. The organization has also set up a book publishing arm, the Fahamu Press & Pambazuka Books.
Pambazuka News is an object lesson in how new media can grow into something beyond its seed. The founders, and subsequent contributors, have kept a sense of mission while allowing the conversation to develop organically. The media that made Pambazuka News possible has continued to develop and another transformation is slated to change the look of the publication soon.
Sokari Ekine, a former editor of Pambazuka News is sanguine about its future.
"I think they are amazing - in reporting African political and social justice news from a Pan-African perspective, They include a range of voices, activists, academia, media, literary. They have challenging articles every week and are a huge resource on Africa as well. I dont see any weakness as they grow from strength to strength. They are constantly developing - it is now published twice weekly and has a growing African literature section."
The current website, which has design elements that are a bit dated, is in the process of being remade.
"In the coming months we will be launching a new website that will enable greater interactions, space for members to post information about themselves, upload articles, initiate debates, organise campaigns, and participate in online forums to which leading intellectuals and activists will be invited to facilitate."
Photo of Firoze Manji by cdelondon