Consumers of mainstream news products have greatly evolved. Their information intake does not just revolve around the output of established media channels. And that presents a major challenge to professionals trying to remain relevant in the news business, during the Covid-19 pandemic. For the top prize, good old news agenda setting remains priceless.
The coronavirus coverage in Kenya has involved a daily dose of what the country's health officials share, in terms of infections, recoveries and even deaths.
The shock value has since dissipated, and the audience hardly gets surprised by even new highs in the statistics, and their perceived significance can hardly be linked to a corresponding behavioural change.
News media managers therefore, have to re-examine how best to continue telling the Covid-19 stories in an impactful manner, that is both relevant and interesting.
Indeed, it would be foolhardy to send reporters to the government's press briefings, hoping they will come back with a good story, entirely based on what is said during the pressers.
Before leaving the newsroom, the reporters should already have their story, and attending the briefings should be an opportunity to enhance their predetermined content, or seek clarifications and official positions on the already identified issues.
In other words, the reality that press conferences are staged events should by now have firmly become self-evident.
- Don't send reporters to media briefings with questions to form the body of their story.
- Arm them with a story first, which will lead to probing questions.