BFP: What do you do?
AS: I am a journalist and Social Media Promoter in Ethiopia. Currently I am Managing Editor and Founder of an Addis Ababa-based online newspaper, newbusinessethiopia.com, and I also give online citizen journalism training to Ethiopians passionate about journalism, through the New Business Ethiopia Journalism Institute. My project is making the online media the top Ethiopian independent news source in the world.
BFP: What is the best part about your job?
AS: The best part about the project is that there was a lack of daily news from Ethiopia by an independent, Ethiopian, private media source when I launched newbusinessethiopia.com in 2009. I promoted the idea of an online newspaper registered by the Ethiopian Broadcast Authority to conduct journalism ethically and professionally. The few private English language newspapers still update their websites only once in a week – after they sold their hardcopies. Now, people read about Ethiopia from Ethiopian registered media everyday. Today we are able to report about any issues within hours and many, both private as well as state media, often reprint our coverage on their media quoting us.
BFP: What has been your greatest challenge (around business and development)?
AS: The biggest challenge is the lack of awareness about online media by the local business community (potential product and service advertisers). Even after two years, finding a local company to run its commercials on our site is difficult.
Local companies prefer running an ad on local papers which have 700 percent less audience than our news site. This has slowed the development of newbusinessethiopia.com because we are unable to recruit reporters in order enhance the quality and quantity of news coverage from Ethiopia.
The other major challenge we faced for about a year was that some readers frequently tried to label us either to the opposition or ruling party side mainly because we allowed any kind of issue-focused comments on every story we publish. We understand that such attitudes have been developed from the past 20 years history of the Ethiopian private press and resisted the attitude by responding politely to their comments. Now, most of our readers have realised that true professional journalism stands in the middle and takes no side – as we are trying to do at http://newbusinessethiopia.com.
BFP: How have you overcome these challenges? What are the secrets of your success?
AS: The challenges are still with us. We are working hard to sustain the media by looking for potential advertisers from abroad and subsidizing it doing related research and linking Ethiopian companies with foreign investors.
The secret so far is the passion I personally have to journalism as a profession and my way of living.
Don’t take sides, communicate the reality on the ground professionally and never give up; even if practicing journalism in developing countries is like playing with fire. This is my advice to those who have passion for journalism and aspire to do what they like in their life time.
BFP: If someone wants to do what you do, where should they start?
AS: Like I did, the best thing before starting online media is to first create a blog and actively engage in social networks and learn about the political, economic and social affairs of the country we are reporting about, as well as understanding basic journalism principles and press law of the specific country.
BFP: Finally: what do you hope to get out of being part of this community?
AS: As a member of Business Fights Poverty, I would like to understand the issues raised by different members and make contacts, which will help me to achieve my dream of making http://newbusinessethiopia.com the top Ethiopian independent news source overcoming the challenges I mentioned above. I also look for funding from organizations or companies in order to graduate some 100 Ethiopian bloggers based in different parts of the country who are taking our citizen journalism training online at http://NBEInstitute.org
Thank you to Andualem Sisay for taking the time to do this interview.
We’re always looking out for members to feature. Help us by taking two-minutes to update your profile, or by nominating someone for Business Fights Poverty Member of the Week.
This Member of the Week interview was conducted by Hester le Roux, BFP Member Relations Manager. Read previous Member of the Week interviews here.