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Saturday, 10 November 2018

MEDIA, STATE AND PUBLIC INTEREST

The media is the watchdog of the society no doubt. But the 4th estate is also part of the same society. Whereas journalists are tasked with the critical role of holding those in authority to account, they should never lose sight of the fact that this is done in the best interest of the public. In other words, the media and the state must essentially belong to the same team that's seeking to improve the welfare of society.


It therefore makes a lot of sense to have the state facilitating the workings of the media, not so much that this will give it a valuable mouthpiece as an ally, but more so because only then can it strengthen one its most critical link to the public.

It's no wonder then that some countries go a long way in ensuring there's adequate support and investment in the media or information, communication and technology sector.


However, the media must in turn discharge its duties in an ethical, factual, balanced and professional manner.

This will then likely lead to better service delivery to the public.

It's not always guaranteed that the relationship between the state and the media will be cordial, but that's no reason for one or both sides to permanently be on attack mode.

The test of a functioning state and media relationship is how well the public feels its interest is the overriding factor!


Wednesday, 31 October 2018

PROF. CHRIS WANJALA TRIBUTE

You never can tell if it's going to be the last time to see someone alive. And neither can other people be certain they will get a chance to see you again. It's a very high stake gamble. Hence  the need to be extremely thankful for every moment spent with family, friends and colleagues. It's hard to believe that Prof. Chris Lukorito Wanjala is no longer with us.


Painful as this reality is, I will always remain grateful for the opportunity to host the late literature don in my house, shortly before his demise.

Prior to this glorious get together, I had extended an invitation to other people privileged to have interacted with the literary critic par excellence, in the course of our university education.

Unbeknownst to many of those invited, this could have been a a final and befitting opportunity to show their appreciation to the man who played such a key role in shaping their various careers.

We had a wonderful time with the few who made it for this meet-up.

It was such a joy to hear him say how happy and fulfilled he felt, and how proud he was of our 'little' achievements, so far.

Unbelievably, Prof. breathed his last less than three months after the meeting in my house.

He was instrumental in helping me secure an internship at the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, which was the foundation for any of my accomplishments in TV news reporting and production.

Prof. Wanjala also helped me to secure a scholarship to advance my studies in the UK.

As a literature major student, Prof. Wanjala had broadened my world view, as if aware how critical being a global citizen would be, later in my career.

I fondly remember how he introduced me to Japanese Literature, through the works of Daisaku Ikeda, and especially how astonished I was by the testimonials from survivors of the atomic bombing, during World War Two.

What I read in the books provided by Prof. Wanjala, was to later spectacularly deliver an even more shocking blow, when I had an opportunity to visit Hiroshima, in Japan, and take a tour at the Peace Museum, where the horrors of the American bombing shake the very core of your consciousness.

And even the semblance of media criticism exhibited on this platform, was moulded from drinking copiously from his cup of immense knowledge, during his memorable lectures.

Away from classwork, Prof. encouraged us to explore our creative abilities and unleash our performance talents on stage.

He also acted like a moral guardian, ensuring we don't stray too far, driven by our 'juvenile' dare-devil approaches to life.

Together with my very close friend, we once tried to get him to join us for a drink, hoping he would equally 'facilitate' the flow of alcohol.

His remarkable response?

"I neither partake...nor purchase!"

Till we meet again Prof. You are proof enough that angels live among us!




Thursday, 25 October 2018

EDITORIAL REPROACH: AN APPROACH TO NEWSPAPER ERRORS

A lot of  effort is invested in ensuring what is published in a newspaper is beyond any editorial reproach. This approach, however, may be far removed from the end product of many Kenyan publications. Frequently, the quality falls short of the readers' expectations. 


It may sound unrealistic to demand that newspapers should be certified to be error-free, before they reach the newsstands.

But some mistakes really can wind a reader up.

The last sentence in the newspaper article above is a toxic mix of concentrated hogwash!

What in the world of hocus bonkers is this?
Interior CS Fred Matiang; i has intervened.
i has giving up!

Thursday, 18 October 2018

FOLLY OF AN ALL KNOWING AUDIENCE ASSUMPTION

A primary roles of the media is to inform. The audience expects to either learn something useful or be enlightened about somebody or something significant. This does not imply that the average member of the audience is not well-informed. And neither is he or she all-knowing. On first mention of key details, the assumption should therefore never be that the information is obvious.


In the newspaper article above, the reader is likely to be flying rudderless, simply because there's no editorial support to aid in the contexualization of the details, and hence the understanding of the news story.

The intro talks about 'Members of the Country Assembly'...and inconveniently neglects to mention the particular county in question.

If Kenya has 47 counties, how is the reader expected to zero in on the one the editor is referring to?

There are names being thrown around like all the readers are all well-acquainted with the personalities being mentioned.

These may well be public figures, but the paper should not assume they are well-known by the public.





Friday, 12 October 2018

DEAL OR NO SWEETHEART DEAL

The media often enlightens the audience about subjects or issues that were hitherto unfamiliar. Publications that ply their trade in English can be particularly useful to learners of the language. But the lesson can at times be hard to grasp, if it's assumed that the meaning will be apparent to everyone. You can't take heart that the deal will be sweet.


In the above article, reference is made to a 'sweethearts deal' in the headline.

An average reader is likely to be perplexed because 'sweetheart' is a common endearment term, that oozes heavy romantic undertones.

There are two parties in this case alright, but one is an institution...the one that employs teachers in Kenya...and the other is a top representative from the teachers' labour union.

A stranded reader may as well be left wondering what a 'sweetheart deal' is all about in this context.

Well, the paper is correct in the sense that this is an acceptable expression, meaning a sort of favourable agreement.

But it's dead wrong to use search a term, without giving proper contextualisation, to enable the reader to derive the right communicative value from it.

Deal with this doubt sweetheart!

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

MORBID HEADLINE, CHILD MORTALITY AND KILLING HUMANITY

It's been argued that the media's penchant to broadcast or publish negative stories can lead to emotional or psychological trauma on the audience. The sad news may be factual, but does it distort the reality? That could be the case, especially when the media appears to threaten the very existence of society. A morbid headline promoting child mortality is a sure way of killing humanity.



In the above newspaper article, very critical elements of journalism are missing...and that gives the headline quite a chilling effect.

Even a casual glance at that headline, is likely to deliver a guaranteed repulsive reaction.

And that is only if the reader can survive the shock of the unintended repugnant message.

The elementary attributes of a news story missing in this abhorrent headline are CONTEXT, and...well...ATTRIBUTION!

There's a barely there indication that the headline is drawn from a conclusion of a study.

However, in the absence of a direct link of the findings of the study and the article's headline, one is left with little choice than to think the newspaper has no problem with anyone calling on mothers to kill their children.

Moreover, it's only in the first paragraph that one gets to understand the context of the story...that it has to do with children born with disability, and their parents being pressured to kill them.

These reckless omissions by the editor make the headline morbid, and its details sordid!

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

ENTERPRISE REPORTING, REGURGITATED FEATURES AND RECYCLED STORIES

Skills in enterprise reporting are welcomed in the newsroom. But is the world always going to provide interesting stories that journalists can continue to uncover, discover and cover? Highly unlikely. Inevitably, some stories will be recycled, even under the guise of making follow-ups. But the audience can easily see through regurgitated features disguised as new ones.


If a TV channel heavily promotes an upcoming feature, it builds anticipation and expectation that the story is worth making a viewing appointment.

Even if it's a familiar 'special' feature being hyped, one is hopeful of watching a fresh insight, perhaps a new angle even, or the latest developments in a story that's being retold.

However, in this particular instance, there was little to show that an attempt was made to add to the existing level of awareness about the story.


One gets a sneaky sense that the reporter deliberately chose to try and obliterate any acknowledgement that what was being served was a not so tasty dish of televised deja vu.

This, needless to say, was as futile as it was foolhardy.

Truth be told, this is a story that has previously been featured by both local and international media, from as early as 2010, as captured here.

Behold, however, this late 2018 version was largely centred on the same central 'fact' that the language spoken by the Yaaku community was on the verge of extinction.


The one loosely substantiated 'new' fact was that only three fluent speakers of the Yakunte language remained, (down from 7 in 2010?).

Maybe the media should consider borrowing the principle of specifically adding to the existing body of knowledge, before publishing, which is a key cornerstone in the world of academia.

If a story has already been covered, then it would be a requirement that reference is made to what has already been produced, even if by rival media entities, so that emphasis is strictly put on value addition, for the benefit of the audience.

And a bibliography also won't hurt, (just kidding!).