Mainstream media has always been the most trusted and up to date source of information in Kenya and the world over. Apart from entertaining, its other functions include educating, informing and to summarise all, get keeping.
The shaky relationship between Kenyans and the mainstream media started off since the 2007 elections, my friend told me. The media, which should have played a major role in airing what was really happening became partisan, trimming what Kenyans wanted to hear and airing what editors wanted us to hear and see.
Then came 2013 and the mainstream media terribly failed as politics got into newsrooms and finally into the heads of editors and directors in our radio and TV stations. A close social revealed to me that all that is there in a newsroom is what can only be termed as newsroom politics.
A story about what Sonko did today will be given more airtime than that on children and women dying of hunger in Kapedo, Turkana. The question is, how does Sonko’s gold-plated Land Cruiser impact positively on a Kenyan if that is the news that will be aired for close to 10minutes?
Compare this with a story about starving children in Turkana, children who need help to survive. Unfortunately, such news come last in most bulletins, effectively highlighting how the mainstream media has terribly failed, giving room for social media to be the only true and up to date source of information.
For instance, in 2013, the mainstream media resolved that they were not going to air ugly incidents during the general elections because they feared fanning trouble. How is this true? Media’s objective is to air things as, how and when they happening, not to practice peace journalism.
If a Kenyan mainstream media journalist is reduced to only reporting on how Raila’s shoe was ‘laughing’ or how DP Ruto called Raila ‘Jamaa wa Vitendawili’, then journalism in Kenya is on its deathbed. If this journalist will do a feature story on food security or on insecurity or why Kenya really invaded Somalia and his/her editor trashes the story because he/she wants to give her/his favourite politician airtime, then the journalist should be worried. He/she is an endangered species.
Today, politics are the order of the day in most media houses. Editors are pocketing money to please politicians. They want their favourite politicians to get airtime than other important things. Politics has made a mainstream media journalist an endangered species.
Commercials and money is another aspect that should worry a Kenyan journalist. Today, TV and radio stations want to make more and more money. Commercials are taking the space of news. Commercials are the order of the day. Unlike international media houses like CNN and Al Jazeera, our local stations are money-minded. Take for instance a TV station like Citizen TV. In its 7 pm news, ideally news should take like 30 minutes. However, a keen look into how the news comes will tell you that news takes 15 minutes while the other 15 are dedicated for commercials.
Now a reporter has gone to the field and gathered life-changing information. Unfortunately, on reaching the newsroom, an editor who doesn’t understand what the reporter went through as they collected the information trims the report and gives it 2 minutes or less. All this is aimed at creating room for commercials. This is literally killing the reporter and hi/her efforts.
Ideally news should be given more airtime than anything in media. And not just news, but life-changing news. The media has terribly failed to live up to this very noble mandate. Instead, the editors and journalists are dancing to the tune of politicians and business moguls as they put their careers into jeopardy.
The social media, you can choose to agree or disagree, is today the only standing true source of information, raw and hard news information. An accident along Thika Road will be posted on facebook as it happened. A robbery incident will be posted immediately it is captured. So is rape incident. No one is going to post how Raila laughed or how Sonko arrived with heavily armed body guards at Lee Funeral home.
A Kenyan mainstream media journalist is simply an endangered species.