Criminals behind bars. Convicted and serving jail terms, some still professing their innocence, while others showing remorse for their heinous crimes. Such stories about prisoners are now being showcased in local TV channels. For what and so what?
KTN's Case File is an outstanding attempt at demystifying Kenya's penal system and what drives human beings to fall foul of the laws of the land.
It refreshingly seeks to reconstruct past crimes, carefully piecing together details prior to, during and after the crime is committed. The other amazing thing consequently is that a substantial part of every Case File is shot on location, outside the prison walls.
But one failing in my opinion stands tall. And it has to do with the fact that the traditional 5Ws and an H are no longer the holy grail of journalism, in the absence of another increasingly important question that needs to always be answered: SO WHAT?
Why dedicate so much resources in highlighting the not so rosy past of men or women behind bars? And even where the audience get to empathize with cases where there could have been a miscarriage of justice, one still is often left asking: SO WHAT?
Moreover, you hardly get to hear the take of an expert like a social psychologist well versed in aspects of criminality, being incorporated into the segment, and clearly, the reporter cannot be taken to be a credible authority on the matters being dealt with.
Lock Down: Women Behind Bars
Citizen TV's Lock Down series suffers from the same shortcomings. The lingering question almost always remains: SO WHAT?
Other than brilliantly capturing those turning points that made women and men take the law into their own hands resulting into their incarceration, and laying bare their emotional turmoil, mental and possibly physical distress, what is the one goal the producer hopes to achieve?
Are the various cases being subjected to a retrial in the court of public opinion or is getting inside the heavily fortified correctional facilities a means to no certain end?
There is a slight chance that crime could even end up being glamourized to the point of inspiring, especially those with an impressionable mind or devilish intentions or lose integrity, into deciding on a career move centered on criminality.
And it has not been lost to many people that Case File and Lock Down bear a striking resemblance that has set off debates as to who was copying who, between KTN and Citizen. But on this one, I fully concur with Robert Niles, when he states:
More value to the audience, for me, translates to answering the magical query: SO WHAT?"No one outside of the field of journalism cares if you consider your reporting more original or more worthy than others' collection of information. They only care if your reporting delivers them more value than what those others offer. And the readers will make that decision for themselves, thank you very much."