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Thursday, 20 July 2017

DIMINISHING VALUE OF LEGACY MEDIA

It's no longer debatable. The mainstream media in Kenya is undergoing a serious erosion of its appeal. That politicians can elect to ignore such a powerful platform in an election year, speaks volumes about the diminishing value of traditional mass media. The legacy media is losing its influence, which in the past has driven the transformation agenda for the country.


That a debate meant to feature more than 5 candidates seeking the second most powerful seat in Kenya, featured only one candidate, is an indication of a fading local media and its waning dependability

Granted, there are now so many alternative ways of pushing political messages to the electorate, such that one need not worry about access or lack there-off, to established media channels.

But the proliferation of digital platforms and the availability of social media networks, should not be an excuse because mainstream media houses have strived to tap into these emerging communication technologies.

So what ails the legacy media in Kenya?

- The dynamics of journalism have changed but attitudes of journalists remain the same.

- Young media managers are taking over, but old systems still prevail.

- News gathering is getting deeper in technology but content presentation is becoming shallower.

- Education levels are rising but editorial standards are falling.

Time for self-reflection and evaluation is long overdue for the country's traditional media.


And yes. It won't hurt to also get spellings right!








Thursday, 13 July 2017

NEWS SLANT, SKEWED OBJECTIVITY AND PRETENTIOUS PRESS NEUTRALITY

Biases in media coverage can be subtle. They can also be very blatant. During this electioneering period in Kenya, the press is trying to project some semblance of balance, in the coverage of various political camps. But such pretentious neutrality becomes evident, once in a while. The news slant translates to skewed objectivity.


Notice how similar disruptions in two campaign rallies were accorded different headlines in the two leading dailies in Kenya.

Each paper appears keen to limit embarrassing it's 'preferred' presidential candidate.

In other words, one paper gets to be nice to the political establishment, and very liberal in giving prominence to negative aspects of the opposition.

And the other dishes the reverse treatment across the political divide.

So, it's like the country's main dailies have entered an election coverage pact, either between themselves, or with their political affiliates.

It will be interesting to find out if the dividends of this arrangement are political or purely commercial!




Thursday, 6 July 2017

TV INTERVIEWS: ELITES NON-INTEREST & FIDELITY TO PUBLIC INTEREST

Objectivity. Impartiality. Neutrality. Balance. These are words that media practitioners will be harshly judged against, as Kenyans navigates this year's electioneering period. That's why journalists ought to be aligned more with the needs of the public, than for politicians. Fidelity to the public interest should override non-interests of elites, in TV political interviews.


And so it becomes quite challenging to satisfactorily interrogate politicians, and associated political players on TV, especially, for the benefit of the watching public, a good chunk of whom are potential voters.

There's a very slim chance of getting approval across the various political divides, and the odds against journalists are multiplied by plenty of malevolent critics, who probably are adding their own prejudices or biases, and thus subtracting from the overall value of the engagement.

So, the chorus of disapprovals after every other TV interview or debate, where the interviewers or moderators get a serious bashing because of perceived 'media sins' of omission or commission, should be cognizant of the difficulties of serving competing interests that journalists have to routinely contend with.

In any case, is it better for the interviewer to exhibit great understanding of topical issues backed by solid research, to please his or her peers, or the elites in society, for that 'coveted' stamp of approval, but fail to resonate with many more who are not as knowledgeable?

Or should an interviewer demonstrate some level of ignorance, so as to represent the likely average grasp of the issues amongst members of the audience, to better help enlighten them, by having everything simplified?

I'm certainly not the best media informer, but in these two scenarios, I distance myself from the former.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

CAKE OF HISTORY AND DINING IN ADDIS ABABA

To be in a historical place is for most people a highly fascinating experience. One could get a fill and half of history in museums. But visiting ancient sites or places that have withstood the test of time and stood for over a hundred years, is the real icing on the cake of history. Even if you are a stranger in a foreign country, the encounter can still be breathtaking.


A quest for food led us to a very special eatery, on the suburbs of Addis Ababa.

From the entrance, nothing says you are about to dine in the midst of immense history, (and we wouldn't have had a clue if it was not for our very polite and extremely helpful guide).

But there's a sense of nostalgia of an era gone by, going by the interior decor.

And the dead giveaway is a huge portrait that proudly proclaims that this establishment has been in operation since 1898.

Our guide could have been on to something, when he told us that this was the very first hotel to be set up in Ethiopia.

It's really a pity that my taste-buds can't stomach the highly acclaimed Ethiopian national dish.

For real, it felt mighty odd to feast on a piece of "modern" fish delicacy, instead of fishing for traditional dishes in the menu, which have been served for many decades.


Friday, 23 June 2017

LIKE IT OR NOT, UNLIKE AS A LEAD IN A READ IS UNLIKABLE

Unlike, at the beginning of a story, I don't like. For the media, this amounts to making an untenable assumption about your audience. That their minds can supply the missing details they've been denied by the writer. Like it or not, unlike as a lead in a read is unlikable.

It's a bit taxing on the reader, if a newspaper article begins as if other critical details in understanding the story have already been furnished.

Yes, there is a not too bad possibility that this type of writing could be fresh and mercifully different from the 'tired', tried and tested formula of crafting story introductions.

However, any style of writing should not wander far off the known natural conversation patterns.

Imagine meeting a person you've not met for a long time...no...scratch that.

Imagine meeting a stranger and the first thing you say to them is, "Unlike...".

That's bound to cause some barely bearable confusion, as one desperately tries to hang on to every word that follows, in order to make sense of what is being communicated.

Terribly ingenious in a fabulously non-functional manner, I would say.

Unless...you are like...unlike...is like...a likely....likelihood!

Unlike...me!



Wednesday, 14 June 2017

TO TRAIN OR RAIN STAFF: THE STUFF OF TV NEWS ERRORS

What will it take to rid editorial eyesores from Kenyan TV news channels? It seems like a newsroom and studio gallery plague that just won't go away, no matter how many times the errors are pointed out. Mistakes happen, but again, so do corrections. And with live TV, the rectification process should begin soon and end immediately. 


It doesn't take much effort to change from rain to train now, does it?

How ironic is it for a discussion in one of the local channels to highlight the need to better equip journalists with relevant training, and yet the lack of a very elementary competence keeps being flashed on the screen.

Spelling!!!

How annoying is it to not only spot a mistake on air, but to see it over and over again?

Like I have often argued frequently, the many eyes in a particular TV production need to see more of these unsightly errors, and the brains scattered around the production chain should not all be scatter brains!

Friday, 9 June 2017

EDITORIAL ABDICATION AND DICTATES OF COMMUNICATION ETIQUETTE

The media, it is often argued mistakenly, is a reflection of society. This in not an accurate description simply because the media ought to inspire the society to aspire to some higher ideals. In other words, there's a good reason why newsroom gatekeepers play such a critical role. And there's always an editorial obligation to enforce communication etiquette. 


News sources and subjects given space or platforms in media outlets should also espouse qualities that foster the collective well-being of the society, even as they criticise what they deem not to be right.

However, as much as Kenya's lowly politicians are fond of doing it, it's not in the public's interest to use narcissistic language like:
"I demand to be immediately de-briefed on this constitutional lacuna"
So, it's a bit strange that the very confrontational opinion piece above was published in a national paper, in what appears like its raw or original form.

Such articles need not be entirely censored.


But if it is okay to edit for clarity and space consideration, this national newspaper should find it appropriate to ensure the points in an article are also articulated in a civil way.

I demand to see more editorial guidance. Newsroom heads must enforce communication etiquette!