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Wednesday, 20 July 2016

TV CONTENT: NOISE MASQUERADING AS INFORMATION AND A RARE GEM

The content in Kenyan TV stations is generally believed to be formulaic, unimaginative and predictable. The many talking heads in particularly simplistic talk shows, steers the broadcasting infamy towards toxic viewing levels. But amid the noise masquerading as useful information, some gems do stand out. It's a pity if they are not accorded a befitting recognition.


A good example is a recent brilliant attempt to enlighten the audience on the likely scenarios in reforming Kenya's electoral process, with respect to practical timelines.

The show was amazingly informative and the panelist were well versed in the topic at hand, with the added bonus of an actual involvement in the electoral process, be it on the administrative front or in direct elective politics.

The chosen topic was immensely timely, given that the next national elections in Kenya are slightly more than a year away.


There has been a clamour for an overhaul of the institution charged with conducting the polls, but a sober reminder of the diminishing time to implement the desired changes, is a useful addition to the political discourse.

Again, it's a pity that this weighty discussion was in a morning programme, in one of the local channels, hardly the appropriate time to engage a greater portion of the general public.

In such situations, station managers ought to have the wisdom to edit a stand-alone news item for use in later news bulletins, with appropriate updates, and further analyses or reactions.


The entire discussion can also be re-broadcast later or even on a different day.

Unless this channel has decreed that only entertainment-based programs will be re-aired, to generate maximum interest in the public, despite the minimal public interest.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

FROM SIMPLE ERRORS TO COMPLEX EDITORIAL INADEQUACIES

Explosive. The meaning implies a potential to blow up, but it's not so big a word. Yet a newspaper sub-editor, with his or her back-up copy perfection squad, can somehow still misspell it. Simple errors in the press, can be indicative of complex editorial inadequacies. 


These could arise from:

- wanting staff competence levels 

- abnormal propensity to publish mistakes

- aversion to attention to details 

- quality control systemic failures

- internal sabotage by newsroom gatekeepers

- overworked and underpaid dedicated employees

Or could this just be the product of pompous media critics like this one right here? (Yes..me!).

But any mortal ought to cringe at some of the content pushed out by Kenya's mainstream media.


If it's not being misled into looking for non-existent photos, (none of the 3 faces on the left, in the page above, come even close to Kenya's former Chief Kadhi)...


...it's an exhibition of gross violation of historical facts, in the era of powerful and available search engines.

The 1986 World Cup was held in Mexico, so its absurd for the article above to state that:
'Germany celebrations did not last long as Italy won the Madrid final 3-1.'
Neither is it sane to say during the 1982 World Cup in Spain, it is:
'...West Germany who went on to lose the final to Argentina 3-2.'
Go ahead...cry for Kenyan media.









Wednesday, 6 July 2016

OF MEDIA REPORTING ABOUT MISFORTUNES OF FELLOW MEDIA OUTLETS

For a long time, there had been an unwritten rule within Kenya's mainstream media, about not reporting the not so rosy internal affairs of any media house. But nowadays, tribulations of one media company are no longer a no-go zone. And sadly, beneath the veneer of projected sympathy, the coverage at times borders on rejoicing about a rival's misfortunes.


Job losses in the media industry are an emotive subject, hence perhaps the justifiable need to highlight this issue as public interest.

The press after all, routinely provides copious coverage of reorganization, resizing or restrategizing decisions, both in public and private entities, which result in redundancies.

But in so doing, there's little room to speculate that a media house could not be neutral in its coverage, although some vested interests in the downfall of particular establishments, cannot be entirely ruled out.

Some other factors, however, come into play, when it comes to one media house reporting about the goings-on in another outlet, possibly a direct competitor.

Should the struggles of one media company be viewed as an opportunity to shore up ratings or perceived superiority by its rivals?

I sincerely hope this is not, has never been, and will never be the case.

In the end factually, what goes around comes around.

Think of the manner in which one evening, a TV station stretched its coverage of the alleged disbandment of the Kenyan presidential press team.

The same channel was 'forced' to report news of it's own parent company's 'massive' layoffs, barely 24 hour later.

I should know a little bit more about these situations.

Sometimes back, on a very rare occurrence, I was sitting in the interview panel that was recruiting reporters for a then yet to be launched TV station, which has now just been closed down.

One of the applicants had unilaterally left previous employment, and I sought to know why.

"Are you a quitter?" I self-assuredly enquired, proud to be a direct hitter.

The very next day, I was handing in my resignation letter!

The Almighty has a way of humbling us...and we should be grateful it does not entail eating grass like Nebuchadnezzar.



Tuesday, 28 June 2016

MINING MINORS AND MINORING IN THE MAJOR

The increase in the number of long-form news features in Kenyan broadcasting stations is great. The in-depth look at issues afflicting the society, affords the country an opportunity to reflect on the presented challenges and contemplate appropriate solutions. A recent feature on child labour put the focus on mining minors but almost ended up minoring in the major.


The scope of people interviewed was impressively wide, which brilliantly captured the conflicting interests at play, and how these ended up disadvantaging young children in that community.

However, the choice of what speakers say in the final story, raised more questions for the audience to try and figure out, in what emerged as a vicious cycle of poverty sabotaging efforts to vanquish poverty.

One of the 'poverty stricken' parents (hopefully not a minor), talks of the poor market prices of the product of his menial work. He is determined though, because he has to provide for his children...all 12 of them!

The other parent confidently justifies pulling children out of a public school, and enrolling them in a private learning facility.

But she just can't afford the switch and so it's back to the mining pit, in the interim, because there's no point prioritising education, over putting food on the table.


This parent also argues that the main problem with government-funded schools is that teachers seldom show up in class, thus compromising the learning process.

But what do school administrators say? There are fewer and fewer children to teach!


The issue of affordable education in the context of free primary education is somehow a major factor too. And the reason why many children are out of school is 'exorbitant' additional levies.

There's no mention of the possible impact of state-funded bursaries for needy children.

Local education officials, meanwhile, don't want to enforce laws that require parents to take their children to school, opting to instead 'sensitise' them first!


I could go on some more, but suffice it to say,  this feature raised pertinent issues about mining minors, but its delivery bordered on minoring in the major aspects.

Curiously, another rival station did a similar feature on child labour, three years ago, but in a different part of Kenya.


Some more creativity in crafting the title of the feature, could have been a useful 'minor' addition.

Friday, 24 June 2016

NEWSROOMS DECIDE: NO MORE RECYCLING OF RETIRED WORDS

Kenyan newsrooms have a knack of recycling already tired phrases. It's almost as if there's already a default set of words for specific situations. Coverage of the death of a prominent person will most certainly include a 'fare thee well' reference. And in times of elections, it can almost be guaranteed that some people or a country will be deciding.


This predictable descriptions can really put someone off, especially because they go counter to the expectations of a vibrant and inventive media.

Is it that newsroom pressures predisposes journalist and editors to like short-cuts, making them easily raid their 'limited' vocabulary granary, at the slightest provocation?

Or are there certain pre-determined words that must be deployed during specific situations, to the exclusion of many other possibilities, even in international news channels?


Language is meant to be dynamic and communicators should likewise strive to enrich their variety of expressions.

There should be some limits though, when it comes to creatively engaging the audience.


Care should be taken before some editorial decisions are 'decided'!!





Friday, 17 June 2016

WHEN SECOND IS THE LEAD, LOCAL CONTENT, AND A TV RATINGS RAT RACE

That the Kenyan broadcasting industry is competitive is not disputable. So, every opportunity to brag how your channel is doing better than rival stations, is most certainly going to be fully exploited. It's all fair and square, until coming second becomes the same as being in the lead, in the ratings rat race.

If a TV station is part of a wider multi-media enterprise, you are likely to see sister platforms trumpeting any perceived success of one of their associated outlets.

Admittedly, the exaggeration itch is often very difficult to ignore, and one is bound to see an overdose of gloating and showboating.

The context it seems, can be easily manipulated to create self-serving favourable content.

But fidelity to facts should not be in question, even when reporting real achievements or pseudo-accolades.

It therefore requires some stretching of the imagination, for one to believe that coming number two, justifies a headline expressly stating a channel:

"......leads in airing local content."

Even the first paragraph of the self-aggrandising article is alive to the fact that this particular TV station is only among the leading pack.

Such distortions of the truth in the ratings rat race, can never change the fact that being second is not exactly the same as being the leader.

The one who is first reserves all the rights that appertain to leading, being number one, the best, and other allied top drawer rankings.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

LESS THAN SH2 BUDGET FOR SPORTS, OXYMORONS AND MEDIA MORONS

Editorial mistakes, however tiny or innocent are an eye sore. The annoyance-laden grammatical errors are often sugar-coated as typos, as if that lessens their sting. But at times the intended meaning becomes grossly distorted, courtesy of inattentive copy editors. How can the Kenyan government allocate less than two shillings to sports, in the annual budget?


That is the impression created in a sub-heading of an article appearing in the country's leading daily. There's a very glaring omission that renders this assertion nonsensical.

You see it...I see it...but apparently...the newspaper's combined editorial and production hierarchy could not detect it.

Who knew a 'b' could be that important. I'll try to let it be.

Hold on.

In another section of the same paper, a story is told of a bank that has embarked on a very peculiar quest.


Other than Sh 3 billion in equity from a strategic investor, the lender, it appears, is looking for a:

"... Sh800 million debt."

This Thursday edition was a gem of a publication for seekers of press peeves.

Lo and behold! The country's monopolistic electricity provider, is also pained by its own inadequacies.


It's maybe possible but hard to draw a different conclusion from the part of the highlighted article.

Oh well...we have survived worse instances of media incompetence.


Anyone remembers the 'super' man who hang onto dear life below an airborne helicopter?


He later resurfaced in a hospital and granted one of the local TV stations an interview, as a 'suicide victim'.

It's hard to tell if that was a functional oxymoron or someone was just being a moron.