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Now that I’m done gagging…

…I think some kind of active follow up with the Standard is necessary.

I have no problems with tabloid newspapers. In fact I regularly read them when I’m in Nairobi. I do have problems with a supposedly serious newspaper that has “tabloidish” tendencies – and I don’t think it’s not enough for us to say but “hasn’t the Standard always been like that” etc. For some reason (and this is a whole other post), we are content to be a citizens who have our agenda defined by us by other people – politicians make tribe “the” quintessential factor in politics and we buy it; non-tabloid newspapers push trashy stories and we buy it; ISPs give us crappy service and we buy it. I could go on and on…

My point is we need to start exhibiting a bit of pushback as individuals – at some point our small (and perhaps meaningless to some) individual actions become a collective voice that says we are tired of this [fill in the blank] crap. I refuse to believe the all these people and institutions that are driving us crazy are above being influenced, the key question is who is trying to do the influencing…so far most of us with the intellect, the passion, the influence, the abilities etc. to get things going in a different direction are nowhere to be seen…we just want things to be “normal.”

Back to the Standard…perhaps we could write letters to the editor expressing our disappointment with their quality of reporting. The letters probably won’t see the light of the day, but at least my rants (and maybe yours) won’t be restricted to this blog. I agree with the commenter who has called for constructive criticism.

But first, I need to find an email address where letters to the editor can be submitted. The website wasn’t very helpful. Can anyone who has access to the hard copy of the Standard share the info?

19 comments to Now that I’m done gagging…

  • KE


    I wouldn’t even bother writing letters to the editor. The medium of news is shifting: away from print and onto alternative sources of news and analysis on the internet. The clearest sign of this for me was after this election crisis broke out, I turned to Kenyan blogs, who I felt were doing a much better job of reporting the news.

    I don’t think the Standard or Nation have recognized this shifting medium and if they keep up this amateurish reporting, they are going to lose readers to the bloggers and this will especially hurt their on-line editions, which are read mainly by kenyans in the diaspora. Then of course, less readers will ultimately lead to a loss in on-line advertising revenues.

    American print newspapers are struggling terribly because younger readers are now going on-line for all of their news and the sales of print papers has gone down considerably. I see the same thing happening to “traditional” media outlets in Kenya. It’s inevitbale.

    KE, but how many Kenyans in Kenya have access to blogs? Traditional media outlets remain the primary source of news for them so I think there’s still a reason to put pressure on them. In fact I think the diaspora can use the stick of online ad revenue to push for better reporting. It’s a language that they (media) can understand – $.

  • George

    To be honest, I don’t see anything contradictory in the Standard’s report. This is red-top tabloid that must appeal more to the emotion rather than the intellect. The Sun and The Daily Mirror do it in the UK and have done it for years. If the Standard were to claim it was a quality broadsheet, then we would have reason to shout from the rooftops. Because it is a tabloid, its reporting is very consistent with your typical tabloid agenda. Ory, I think you are wrong on this.

    George, I’m not sure the Standard would call itself a tabloid (maybe the Star?), they see themselves as a serious newspaper. Also in the UK, we have the Guardian, the Independent etc. to counter the Sun…what worries me is that there are no serious papers in Kenya (OK, with the exception of the East African).

  • I can’t bring myself to read the Standard to be honest. I will post the email address as soon as i get it because i can’t find it anywhere.

  • Abass

    Ory, the link to the standard is wrong, could u plz correct it

  • The Standard, to me, is Kenya’s equivalent to a really bad supermarket tabloid with its sensationalized stories whose facts you are always questioning. The writing usually leaves you shaking your head. What bothers me is that every now and then I read about the Standard building bigger/better presses. Meaning that in spite of my doubts about the Standard, there are people buying a copy often enough to justify the expense, or that the publishers have deep enough pockets to finance its continued existence. Do you think they read letters to the editor? They probably just make them up :)

  • Kamau

    Totally agree with protesting, I would even take it a step further and say we need to write the advertisers as well and express our displeasure with the crapatula that these “journalists” are peddling. One advertiser’s email is worth a ton of readers’ ones.
    Long term, the only saving grace is an NPR modeled format, publicly funded but independently run with some serious journalists running the show…..before then I guess we’ll have to made do with the posers that we have….

    Kamau, I’m with you on the NPR model, but public funding and independent will probably be oxymorons in Kenya for a long time to come. One alternative could be to support the smaller community radio stations e.g. Pamoja FM and Koch FM and help them develop better content.

  • Anon

    Hi Ory,
    You are right on very many levels and I am with you 100% on reaching the majority of the people on the ground who don’t have access to the internet. One suggestion I have is to try to get intouch with the journalists through your current base of frequent visitors to your blog. I’m confident that they have been to your blog at one time or another and they may contact you under annonimity to tell you the “truth” and have viable suggestions of their own. We often forget that print media and TV are not the only ways of reaching the masses what comes to mind is collectively we can spark the interest of independent journalist’s who have the funding/interest in doing documentaries such as Darwin’s nightmare where a local journalist was interviewed and their voice was heard. It won’t reach mainstream pop culture but the interest of genuinely concerned persons will be sparked and this maybe a way of bringing about dialogue on an international level and possibly more preassure on the truth and healing process that we now have to undergo vs continue to sweep under the rug as we have in the past.
    My point is that there are several different ways of approaching the ISSUES and often times when we approach it several people will have their views on if to go from the front or the back etc it really doesn’t matter as long as in the end we are all doing it for purely alturisitic motives things will fall into place. Patience is what we need as this is a long road we are embarking on with no blue print so to speak so we can make it uniquely Kenyan!

  • NonPulsed

    Actually, it is quite easy to “help” a newspaper see the error of it’s ways, complain to the advertisers. Show the advertisers what it means to support a newspaper that does not cover news. If Kenya Airways got the message, and passed the message back to the newspaper boards they would get the message real quick.

    For people flying into Kenya, fly another airline, save the ticket and send a copy to whatever airline is advertising. Send it to the airlines public relations department, and send it to the advertising department of the newspaper. The message will ring load and clear. I have done that when I get crappy service from hotels (albeit, with hotel reciepts). It helps when the recipients are high up in the food chain, or work on some comission, they get the message.

    So can we start by putting together a list of companies who advertise on Standard online, plus their contact information?

  • KE


    No, No, no….. The standard and Nation are for profit businesses. If they stop providing quality reporting, people will start finding alternative media outlets (blogs, radio stations, mobile phones, etc, etc). The market (read: capitalism and competition) will eventually catch up with them.

    I actually think that it already has, especially with the younger generation of Kenyans. Yes, people don’t have access to the internet, but in 10, 20 years, thist will change. And I also think this mobile phone revolution taking place in Africa will eventually affect print media. People are going to start getting their news updates on their mobiles (if it hasn’t already started happening).

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but most kenyans who have access to the internet are now relying on the blogs for their information.

  • Forget the newspapers – if you can.

    In 2004, I stopped reading the Kenyan papers even when in Kenya. I asked my dad to only save the business sections. I read a very interesting article on a particular technology that I had invested in. According to the article, the technology had fundamentally changed through innovation by some gentleman in the middle of nowhere Nyeri. So I drove out there, took me hours to find the place – and someone writing fiction couldn’t have made the story sound more different from reality than the “business journalist” had done.

    The journalist either sat in his office in Nairobi and made up the story, or got the story over the phone from the innovator or a combination.

    I now may read the occasional article. However, I prefer not to get my news, business or otherwise, from our “major” newspapers. I’ve been practicing reading morse code and smoke signals instead.

  • JKE

    …and there are billion examples. :mrgreen:

  • George

    Still on the Standard issue, without appearing to hold fort for them, let me reflect on a few points. We all need to agree to the fact that the media as a the ‘fourth estate’ is concept inconceivable today. Indeed, even in the most liberal societies, newsappers- quality or otherwise unapologetically represent very particular political positions. Thus for instance in the UK, the Guardian though a quality paper is Centre-Left, the Independent is Centrist/Liberal, The Times is Centre Right, the Telegraph (Torygraph), the Daily Mail and the Express are rabidly Conservative and mouthpieces of Middle England (Conservative Party). My point is that partisanship is a reality irrespective of whichever society one talks about. Establishing an NPR model will equally not work. Look at the BBC. Precisely because the licence fees is set by government, it operates with one arm tied behind its back. Indeed, I am reminded of Noam Chomsky’s very telling words about media criticism of political systems in liberal socities being more ‘symbolic than real’. What Kenya needs are newsapapers that represent very distict political ideologies. To believe in the myth of an objective media is at best a trip in fancy. It is simply impractical. I stand to be corrected.

  • A

    I’d rather read the Standard than that gutter press Nation Newspaper that has become the mouthpiece of one PNU party.

  • Anon

    Hi again,
    There is an organization in DC that I’ve known of that may be able to assist with the idea of reaching the masses via alternate media here is the link http://www.sfcg.org/programmes/cgp/cgp_radiopeace.html I also feel that film can change the perspective of the citizens of this globalized world. I just watched Guelwaar and it is amazing that the very things that were discussed circa 1991 are some of the issues we Africans are still grappling with on many different levels. Your proximity to the burgeoning African film industry in South Africa brings a lot of like-minded individuals at your doorstep Ory who want to make a difference and who can help spread your message even if it may not be heard in the next 10 years but it has to start somewhere don’t you think?
    Have a wonderful weekend all!

  • Kamau

    George said….
    ….To believe in the myth of an objective media is at best a trip in fancy. It is simply impractical. I stand to be corrected…..

    While your point is well taken, I believe there is an argument to be had on the kind of objectivity we’re talking about. It‘s true that it is practically impossible to have a purely objective media but I would say a fairly objective one would suffice. Of course this will open up the issue of how fair is fair enough and before long we’re trying to define objectivity, not unlike slick Willie talking about the meaning of “IS” is during the Monica Lewinsky scandal back in the day – but I digress.

    The first step to relative impartiality especially in Radio and TVs is to allocate equal time to opposing views, ‘fairness doctrine’ they call it stateside albeit it’s might never happen thanks to right wingers who hog pretty much all talk radio airwaves. In print media you could have two editorials run on the same paper…- small step but you gotta start somewhere!

  • This is an interesting conversation. I have been talking about the same things for a while – not re: the standard but re: the issues behind the media positions.

    “Does media – radio, newspapers or blogs – express the prevailing sentiment of a society or does it drive the sentiment?” I ask especially in relation to the just conculded post-election and ethnic violence but also directly related to our consumption of politics et al other issues.

  • Woz

    Can someone please tell me who owns the Standard? Not a company name please, but the main shreholders/their principals?

    I have heard of paper called either ‘The Star’ or ‘The Nairobi Star’ ( a tabloid); is it available online?

    Anyone have suggetions for a good article on press ownership in Kenya taht Icould look up ?

    Thank you.

  • Ory,

    You made a fundamental observation – degree at which our media houses are reporting is rotten. I tend to believe that the cause of this bogus performance is far reaching.
    I know a report with the Standard who happens to be a former college mate. Her grades were pathetic, she was demotivated, a chain smoker and beer was her best language. She ended up in this media house because she is well connected in those inner cycles.She is not alone. There are many sharp graduates in Nairobi who have a strong flare for journalist but never see the inside of these media houses. But, what we have are accountants or form four graduates or singers taking up the careers in these medias.

    Some of the top management cadre in the media houses are equally samblances of what editors could be. They have no passion for thier work – but they do it because they have to make a living.

    I could cite many reasons that, in my view, result to the results that we get from the Standard but suffice it by saying that for us to have a sound and more professional reporting from these guys – Standards and also Nation, a complete and rigorous change would be required.