Murder, betrayal or New Year celebrations – these are the topics on the list. It is December 30 and we have to decide which story will be on the cover of tomorrow’s newspaper. Unfortunately, there will be blood leaking from the newspaper on New Year’s Day. The murder of a German-Namibian farmer is breaking news. Everyone in the boarding room is shocked by the brutal crime that happened on a farm outside of Windhoek.
Welcome to working at a newspaper in Namibia. No, it is not that every day is with shocking news like this. But the crime rate in this country is very high.
I am a guest-journalist at the German-Namibian Newspaper, Allgemeine Zeitung, in Windhoek. It’s the oldest newspaper in the country, founded in 1916 to report First World War news.
It is a unique newspaper with a print run of 5,000 per day, written daily for just one per cent of the population: the German-Namibians. Most of their ancestors came during the colonialism. In Windhoek one still finds German named streets, German food in restaurants and old buildings left over from the colonial era.
When I arrived at the beginning of December, my editor-in-chief told me that they are in Sommerloch, which is the time of the year, where people are in vacation and there is a lack of stories.
Unfortunately, the crime rate is higher during Christmas time, when people are away travelling.
Other constant topics beside crime are rain and poaching. It’s such a dry country and rain is rare. That is a huge problem. Another problem is rhino-poaching, which happens often. Rhino horn is fancied by Asians, because it’s believed to be an aphrodisiac and status symbol.
We are three newspapers under one roof: The Sun (English) Republiklein (Afrikaans) and Allgemeine Zeitung (German). They belong to the same company and they share one office. So sometimes it can get very loud, with phones ringing and people talking in three languages.
I am responsible for the weekly weekend magazine, which is about arts and events. The art scene is small, like in the Yukon. Often, artists are coming from Germany to exhibit here.
I write the articles and I do the layout. It is done old school: with pen and paper. The journalists have to draw the layout on the page, calculate the characters per line, and cut the picture so that it will fit. When the layout is done, it goes to the graphic designers. They put it in their computer program. When the pages are set and printed, our proof reader edits them.
I love my work. It is great to do each step of the newspaper and then on Friday I hold the finished paper in my hands. I have a lot of freedom and can choose the topics in agreement with my editor-in-chief. I already asked if I could stay longer, but unfortunately my visa is expiring and the next German journalist is coming soon to replace me.
“Only if you marry a Namibian,” the woman from Human Resources joked. Well, I have four more weeks to go.