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What is ailing Kenyan Journalism Pt. II?

Some more interesting / thought-provoking stuff from the comments section.. .my response to some of the issues raised is in bold.

Acolyte: Speak of the devil. :mrgreen: Starting a paper may not be hard but keeping it running will be hard,the advertising pie in kenya is not all that large.

Kenyan Pundit:True.

Acolyte:Let me ask what do you define as a well written story on politics?

Kenyan Pundit: Something that’s more than a compilation of random facts…and more of an attempt to piece things together. I would like to see more stories that have an investigative or scoop aspect along these lines or that attempt to make a connection between the current state of Kenyan politics/government inaction and the conditions that most Kenyans find themselves in like this story does. Or that attempt to move away from the political amnesia that plagues Kenyans, like this one does.

Acolyte: Yes I know the press has to move away from the usual he said she said stories. But what else do we want on to be told on the political scene? More of the people’s opinions?

Kenyan Pundit: See above.

Acolyte: Well once in a while there is an opinion piece but the people aren’t the news makers coz many people wouldnt buy a paper to read a story about Wanjiku talking about the constitution but would do so if it was about one of the maverick MPs.When you talk about hard hitting that usually ties in with investigative reporting.And from some of your comments above you can see the challenges that face that kind of reporting.Also there is a limit to how much social activism a newspaper can do that will make it change from a newspaper to some sort of social activism newsletter.

Kenyan Pundit:I’m not looking for social activism, just good reporting…there has to be more than just a recitation of events and facts. Particularly now that the government is not breathing down the neck of the media like it used to. I was talking to someone from Zimbabwe the other day and they were so envious of the fact that the Kenyan press are able to operate relatively freely…journalists in places like Uganda, Ethiopia, and so on are being killed and hounded out of their countries just for trying to report the truth…I think our media is under some obligation to put their hard-won freedom to more than cut and paste stories. Also those journalists who are feeling constrained by the major media houses have alternatives if they are willing to step outside of the box.

Acolyte: There should be a healthy balance in a paper between news reporting and advocacy (of course depending on the papers’ editorial policy . But dont forget that newspapers are a business so as long as the people buy it they will keep churning it out, but that does not mean what they are doing is ok. Anyway I think I may have lost my train of thought time for me to go!

Kenyan Pundit: Thanks for your chemsha bongo! Allow me to quote liberally from this op-ed: “If nothing else, I know what makes a good newspaper. And that something has nothing to do with circulation, profit margins or staff size. Other factors come into play.
For example, good newspapers are unwavering in their commitment to their community, whether that “community” is a national audience, a big city or a small town. They serve as a kind of glue that provides various factions with the same information so that they can unite or divide based on their views. They are linchpins for change, not for their own personal gain or to buck the status quo. Instead, they understand their mission: to use all of their collective talent to make the community a better place…. And good newspapers go a step further. They provide insight into the issues that your family talks about around the dinner table each night. If their stories make you wiser, outraged or even empathetic, the papers are succeeding. You should see your concerns and experiences reflected in many of their pages. That’s a must, because that pattern keeps you loyal. Good newspapers play it straight. And when doubts surface, they explain their actions. But they are neither arrogant nor defensive. Instead, they appreciate a basic truth: that an open door provides transparency and more. It brings in new thinking that enriches the end result….Good newspapers have another quality: They are not formulistic. Instead they take delight in presenting a rich and varied menu each day, including stories that surprise and even amuse. They know that there are few stories unworthy of pursuing. The question becomes how?”

21 comments to What is ailing Kenyan Journalism Pt. II?

  • Hi Ory:

    Sorry to write you in the comments, but couldn’t find your email address. Please drop me a line at caribbeanfreeradio at gmail dot com and I’ll send you the contact info for my friend in Jo’burg.

    Was great meeting you in London.


  • It is always good to be a source of inspiration and inspire soul searching.:grin:Well I think there are stories about the dealings among the different parties everyday esp in the intelligence part of the Standard.The Standard also does many detailed dossiers about players in politics highlighting their wheeling and dealing of the past.I think that it is their behaviour over the whole referendum affair that may have rubbed many journalistic idealogues the wrong way.Not to say the Kenyan press are blameless but I also think that after weathering the storm and the oppression during the one party state and latter years of the Moi administration they have become somewhat complacent with what they have achieved seeing as corruption as their only other major issue.But social issues could get more coverage but I think that also what happens is that even though many of these issues get coverage little about them changes and the press tires of highlighting them case in point the K street prostitutes there is a special about them every year in the Nation and the Standard year after year.Speaking of which did I read this years?:roll: although that does not give them an excuse to not do so.As for the alternatives you offer for those journalists who are willing to step outside the box do those options really exist in Kenya and if so do they put food on the table?There are very few alternatives for journalists in Kenya who want to do the “right” thing.
    As for your last para about what the press should be I do remember learning them during my lectures and their are few if any newpapers that have achieved the ideals that are set fourth there.If they are point them out to me.
    Nice post gives us something to think about……

  • M

    Personally i’d hate to be a newspaper editor. You have to be mindful of:
    1) Whoever is funding you
    2) Advertisers
    3) Your staff
    4) Your readers
    5) Government
    6) Your competitors

    They all want one or more of the following
    1) Business
    2) Entertainment
    3) Information
    4) Their cause(s) to be pushed
    5) Commentary
    6) Analysis
    7) Profit

    I’m very skeptical that any one paper can please everyone at the same time.

    No one is claiming that a paper can please everyone at the same time, but they can aspire to good journalism as difficult as it may be.

  • zines! zines! zines!

    I know I seem obsessed. But I keep thinking about taking school magazines as a model for how to think about networks of locally-driven, relatively inexpensive zines, fortnightly or monthly, that could speak to local concerns, while also achieving some sort of national forum.

    I think Aco is right on “official” reporters. But what about the power of unofficial reporting. Biased, true. Partial, true. Perhaps inflamatory. But also, at times, a spur to action (at least in my ideal world).

    Think about how small zines could actually begin to develop civic responsibility in local high school populations, offer chances for small workshops from established reporters and journalists.

    Did I mention that international foundations, especially those dedicated to democratic causes, would absolutely leap at the idea of a people’s press? I know we have issues with accepting international funding, but it could be one way.

    Locally-run, high-school and radio-based zines. Short pieces. I think very jua kali.

  • Mymmoh

    All the above is true to a certian extent. But taking all what’s been said into consideration, the audience is the key. It would be the community Ory referred to as the “good papers” being loyal to. I have to point out that I think the general Kenyan audience is not ready for “good journalism”. Kenyans prefer random excitement. Sensationalism and not really fact. I agree this is a problem that could sprout from too many idlers due to unemployment. However, I believe that I’m correct in stating a paper that is more of tabloid reference sells better than one that phrases its information in a news format. So maybe its not the journalists or journalism. Its the people, the readers. We need to change those attitudes first. And cultivate a desire for true knowledge.

  • @ Mymmoh
    I feel you 110% coz that is what I was trying to bring out at some point earlier.The bulk of the people aren’t ready for some the lofty ideals that are being espoused here.We can’t expect our papers to reason like those in the first world when most of the people are not yet there yet.People are still buying the papers as “flawed” as they are now because they are meeting a need, when the people are ready the papers will be less tabloid like.So let’s give society time to catch up

  • M

    The thing is, like it has been observed, the problem may not entirely lie with the papers.

    For instance, in my opinion the Sunday Standard is one of the best reads due the the investigative pieces contained therein. Problem is a disturbingly large percentage go straight for the Penknife and Society.

    Put another way, i’d still buy it if it only had the investigatvie jouralism and analyses alone.

    Most Kenyans i fear will do no such thing.

    So, as a newspaper editor this is a very big deal indeed. At the end of the day the business angle of the newspaper wil take precedence.

    The only paper that will achieve the goals you put so excellently will probably have to forego the business angle altogether to have a chance of success….

  • a little patriotism in jounalism won’t hurt. How about the lack of a sound bill for the freedom of information act currently in parliament? Maybe citizen jounalism is the way so solving some of our press problems

  • I do not know if this will post but I want to do this anonymously.

    Do not take this the wrong way. I do not mean to be judgemental but it seems to me to be that this is the standard ethics before all, standards before money, service before profits spiel.

    Look around you and you will see something amazing. The organizations and the people who practice what you are talking about here, they live it first and mostly, they do not advertise it.

    Walk the walk first and those around you will see it. Talking the talk is cheap.

    If you want to make this happen, start doing it. Do not wait for peopke around you to contribute. As you do what you need to do, you will find that good people with the capacity to participate will find you….

  • I think acolyte envisions a perpetuated paradigm of the journalistic norm that has plagued Kenyan journalism. Those who otherwise blaze the trail .i.e Phillip Ochieng for the most part are viewed as pariahs in their profession. Accepting substandard journalism is a critical element of a society mature or otherwise and how they view facts and not folk tales. Tabloid journalism is rampart and has been embraced as pseudo custom.

  • Osas

    My opinion about Philip Ochieng is not all that high *smile*; I can’t stand people pretending erudition, but constantly misspelling all their “fancy” words, and heaping one Latin grammar blunder on the other, while trying to impress others. Oh my, maybe it’s just my pet peeve.

    But I agree with another argument that was brought forth here: I wish that the good articles would still be honed a bit better, and that just a few more in-depth articles with substantial information and research were added; the usual mix of light and heavy, tabloid and high-brow as such can and should continue.

    Oh: and I wish that Kenyan state offices as well as NGOs in general, and journalists in particular, would learn that emails can actually be *answered*. Yes, it is possible :) .


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