I was surprised that some foreigners came to study Kenya’s 44th tribe— Kenyans on Twitter, or just KOT— and I wondered what makes Kenya’s internet users so special that they needed an academic paper on them. I did not know how serious KOT is until I saw that they are a block with a diplomatic impact. Remember how the CNN boss came to apologise to Kenya after calling us a “a hotbed of terror , and then how Televangelist TD Jakes retracted his statement of labeling Kenyans as “natives”? That was due to the “hashtagged” conversations from KOT. In her book, cultural analyst Dr Joyce Nyairo has a whole chapter on the construction of identity from Twitter handles. I wonder what my @BeyondaHeadline says of me.
Kenyans are expressive. I like it, and twitter has spoken for people who otherwise would not have had justice or their voice heard. What I don’t like is how those with massive following criticise the media just because they can, without basis. Is Kenyan media 100 per cent efficient? Like hell it is. It has a loooong way to go, but we can appreciate the exponential growth it has had . Journalists grow on criticism, but here is why I rubbish some of those corrections.
The critique consumes little or no media at all
I will never forget covering the doctors’ strike from December 5, 2016. I will probably create a chapter in my book on how that time shaped my career and that of many reporters. On a link of 300- word story, you would see comments that begin with “Kenyan media is a sham”. That is alright, but then it goes on to point 1,000 things that the reporter did not explore… in this 300-word piece.
The commenter would not know that there have been 15 stories before this only that s/he has not read, 15 others that would have taken care of the questions that s/he is raising now. In the newspaper, there are news pages, which is mainly to tell you of the NEW thing in this narrative. If you want long, in-depth pieces, then there are features that come out once or twice a week.
Now, in a story that has been going on for two weeks, one picks a paper, reads one a one 300-word news piece and from it, s/he is ready to deliver a 400-word vitriolic verdict on the state of the media in Kenya? And when you ask “what portion of this health story do you feel has not been explored?” they will give you a generic answer like “Universal Health Care”. Give us a fucking break!
A newspaper is not an academic journal
News consumers want an answer to one thing: How is what you are reporting on going to affect me? You have said that the president has assented a bill, so is this going to make my life easier or harder? Yes? Tell me how. Now there are those academics who asks Verah Okeyo to talk about the Hegelian principle to explain to Kenyans why the price of flour has skyrocketed. Thank you for appointing me to that theory because I need to grow my IQ, for my own knowledge on how to approach my reporting, but to actually include those theories in my reporting? You’re tripping.
Consume the right media for you
There are those news sites with headlines like “10 things you did not know about Malaria, number 6 will shock you”. Those sites are not bad. All media represent a certain section of the society, and if you study them you will be surprised just how complex they are in their seemingly simple formats. They are a culture, a state of the needs of people, a phenomenon that can be used to study gender or social psychology. Just like there are 1,2,3 or 5 star hotels, there are news outlets and media houses that lean more to a certain section of the society than others. Now you cannot go consume a certain paper or news outlet that covered the sensational portions of some issue and then use that to judge my journalism which is contained in a niche paper. Gerrarahia!
We are here…to stay, because there are times we get it tight
Now there are times reporters risked their lives to get the news to you and enforce change. The cancer machines that broke down in KNH were fixed. Those huge scandals where your monies were being “eaten”, guess who informed you of those? Journalists. We are here, and believe it or not, a journalist’s primary concern in the public. You. So whenever you read a piece, show the reporter what needs to be added. Unless there is grammar mistakes or defamation or some form of recklessness, you are better off telling us where we are doing wrong than talking down to us.