Harvard University's Nieman Foundation for Journalism on Friday announced its 2016 class of 24 Nieman Fellows, selected from top journalists around the world. On the list is Zimbo Jam founder and managing editor, Fungai Tichawangana.
"I am over the moon, I just want to keep on jumping!" said Tichawangana, on receiving the news, "and I'd like to thank the dedicated team at Zimbo Jam that keeps the site going through thick, thin and invisible."
Every year the Nieman Foundation for Journalism invites 24 journalists from around the world to participate in the one-year fellowship, and has educated more than 1,400 accomplished journalists from 93 countries since 1938.
In addition to taking classes during their time at Harvard, fellows attend Nieman seminars, workshops and master classes and work closely with Harvard scholars and other thinkers in the Cambridge, Massachusetts area.
In addition to representing Zimbabwe, Tichawangana is the only journalist in the 2016 Nieman class from the African continent.
Tichawangana will use his year at Harvard to study digital storytelling techniques, the development of interactive media and online security.
On his return to Zimbabwe, Tichawangana will bring back these new skills and learning to take Zimbo Jam's work to new levels and to continue training digital media professionals and citizen journalists in Zimbabwe and beyond its borders.
"This is such an honour, both for me and the hard working team at Zimbo Jam and Exist Digital. To be recognised by an institution like Harvard is the most humbling thing. It's been a long journey, starting withitsbho.com in 2004," said Tichawangana.
"Since then we have been telling the untold Zimbabwean story; that story of potential, passion, and possibilities that so many young people here live every day despite all the challenges surrounding us."
In 1996, Tichawangana signed up for Electrical Engineering at the University of Zimbabwe, but while there found that his true passion was a mix of science and the arts; he loved to write, he loved to take photos, but he also enjoyed tinkering around with gadgets. When he discovered web design and computers in 1998, all these things came together beautifully.
In 2000 he teamed up with Brian Gondo and Tsitsi Masvaure to start one of Zimbabwe's first dedicated web development companies, Venekera Works. In 2004, Venekera set up the entertainment portal www.itsbho.com, which went on to become hugely successful, reaching over 9 million hits per month at its peak. Itsbho.com was pioneering in how it used video at a time when media embedding technology was still in its early days.
Venekera Works was purchased by Celsys Limited in 2007 and in 2008 Tichawangana spent five months building a new website, which was launched in November of that year as Zimbo Jam.
Zimbo Jam has gone through many cycles; has been hacked a few times, shut down for non-payment of hosting fees several times and has struggled to become a self-sustaining business in the tough Zimbabwean economic environment, but Tichawangana and his young dedicated team have persisted.
Zimbo Jam continues to tell the other side of the country's story; that of its triumphant arts and culture sector, which has defied all odds and continued to grow over some of the toughest political and economic years in Zimbabwe's recent history.
In 2010, 2013 and 2014, the site was awarded the National Arts Merit Award for Outstanding Online Arts Publisher and its journalists have been invited to attend or participate on international fora, such as the Highway Africa New Media Awards, the CNN Africa Journalist of the Year Awards and even a session on Internet freedom at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
In Tichawangana's one-year absence, Zimbo Jam and its umbrella company, Exist Digital, will continue business as usual under the capable leadership and oversight of the team that has long provided support for the site.
Zimbo Jam thanks all its loyal readers and those who work in the vibrant, growing arts industry in Zimbabwe for the support over the past 7 years. Here's to many more years of jumping – and flying – together as we share the magic of our country with the world.