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Saturday, 28 November 2009


Is the messenger and the message one and the same thing? A journalist in Kenya has been physically accosted by a news source. The reason being advanced is that the said journalist, in the coverage of a certain story, overstepped a perceived boundary. So why isn't the anger being directed at the story and instead is focused on the journalist?

The answer might appear to be obvious but it might not be that simple to explain the whys and the wherefors. To the level-headed at least, if a news source strongly feels a story is overtly portraying them in negative light, then all they need to do is give their own side or version. And the good thing is that any worthy media channel is expected to respect everyone's right of reply.

The public is the presiding judge

However, it is perhaps not hard to see why a person will not want to grab at the opportunity to give their own side of the story. If they especially know they cannot put up a credible challenge to counter any accusations levelled against them, this might not work for them.

And because the public is very discerning, the easier option for them can take the form and shape of crude and rudimentary tactics, like physically assaulting the journalist. This serves to assuage their ill-conceived sense of justice and also moves the attention away from the core matter of the dispute and into the terrain of side-shows and drama.

Giving a Punch for the Public

But whereas the general public is supposed to draw its own conclusion, this is often not done from a neutral point of view. Before they even make their own judgment, some people will have already taken sides with regard to the story.

For example, there are those who feel that journalists are a pestering nuisance and any one of them that gets attacked had it coming. The argument is that reporters should learn to keep their distance and desist from what amounts to waging personal vendettas.

The dedicated search for the truth in a given story is thus mistaken to be a pointer to a personal interest on the part of the journalist.

In the Interest of the Public

Shocking as it may seem, it at times become easy to forget that journalists are usually detached from the stories that they do and it is even required of them that they try to put aside their personal feelings or interests, when pursuing a story.

The simple reasoning is that whatever the mass media covers should be in the public interest ideally. The primary allegiance is to the public. And for the truth to serve its intended purpose, the messenger should neither be seen as the message personified nor should the messenger massage the message.

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