One can unapologetically state that without brave journalists, we would have lost more lives to Covid-19. Health care workers alone could not contain the growing numbers. With the world under lockdown, reporters went far and beyond to ensure that people are educated and informed about countering the virus.
They continually work with experts to fact check and verify growing misinformation on the coronavirus and vaccines. As we applaud the role of health workers globally and other professions in fighting the pandemic, we must not forget the role of media in this battle. History must always salute the press in such uncertain times.
This idealistic mentality that journalism can create a better world comes with unconventional thinking, moving away from traditional journalism or media. It takes media owners, practitioners, and innovators to intentionally invest in a media that works and serves everyone, not a few, or create a media that we want our children to consume.
It starts with questioning the existing traditional systems of reporting. Is it enough for journalists to play the “watchdog role, or do the audiences today expect more than that?” What does “balance and objectivity” mean in covering unpredictable times like the Covid-19? Do we stick to the status quo or take a stand while following journalistic ethics and principles?
Skilled journalists needed
The next generation of storytellers will need more than just market skills. They need a village of community mentors to raise them and a network to create strategic connections and opportunities. The Media Challenge Initiative foundation is anchored on the desire to use journalism to change the world by developing a one-wo/man-army-journalist concept. The thinking is driven by today’s changing media needs and trends and the next decades.
A report by Poynter Institute on Core Skills for Journalists showed that for a journalist to succeed today, he/she should be an “applied psychologist, resourceful researcher, good writer, responsible analyst.” Such a journalist must also possess aggressive digital skills and have a strong understanding of journalism fundamentals and a solid editorial ethic. It isn’t easy to find all these qualities in one journalist.
Through our interaction with media managers in Uganda, one complaint stood out. Most of the media graduates were half-baked. They didn’t have the required relevant market skills, which is a significant challenge across all professions.
To respond to the above need, we started asking ourselves, what are the media trends? What challenges will the next generations of storytellers and journalists face? Most importantly, how do we prepare them to tackle these challenges? If we want to use journalism to create a better world, how can we fashion a critical journalist who plays the traditional watchdog role and advances positive and social change?
The result of this reflection was the Next Gen Journalist Project, a four-phased program designed with a thoughtful and intentional vision of building the next generation of storytellers and journalists that we also call journalist-leaders. It starts with a mobile newsroom supporting students in over 15 universities with practical skills in storytelling, mobile journalism and youth participatory radio.
The training is then followed by live news reporting and anchoring auditions to identify a news team from each university to compete in the annual Inter-University Media Challenge. In this contest, the students are given a chance to participate in various journalism contests, including news anchoring and reporting, feature story (essay) writing, photography, radio features, video features, and ‘One Minute of Fame’ features. Journalism is a practical course, and the media contest, in this case, is a participatory methodology to prepare the students for a highly demanding market ahead of them.
The five pillars of journalist training
The live contest is also witnessed by a panel of judges who provide participants with constructive feedback and help the organization identify the best 26 students for the annual Media Challenge Fellowship program. The fellowship is a 25-day multimedia training program spread out over six months for the top two young journalists who emerge from the yearly Inter-University Media Challenge. The strength of the program is premised on five pillars;
Besides being exposed to an interactive practical journalism curriculum, each fellow is also connected one-on-one to a professional media mentor in the industry for individualized career guidance and support. At the end of the fellowship program, fellows are equipped with practical skills and are ready to break into the media industry. Through the mentorship and networking events with media managers, fellows can create their strategic connections and professional relationships to get work.
By creating a pipeline and database of talented young journalists, the MCI fellowship program has become a recruitment platform for media managers and improved Uganda’s media landscape.
Mohammed Hammie is not your typical reporter. In 2019, the young Tanzanian swapped from being a regular journalist to media for community empowerment and has since specialised in telling stories about the human right to access clean drinking water, particularly in rural areas.
The theses dwelt on thematic areas in Kenya’s media landscape, from solutions journalism, content analysis of the coverage of Covid-19 as well as data smog in the newsrooms, which the findings show is having a devastating effect on print journalists.
The study calls for solutions to structural, political, and societal conditions that jeopardize the future of media as a viable business and a source of high-quality journalism in East Africa
There is no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic has altered our lives in unimaginable ways. Economies are bleeding. It has disrupted learning; millions have lost their jobs, while many others contend with reduced salaries. Yet, amidst the chaos and disruption, journalists – also hugely affected – have remained steadfast to their cause to tell stories of the pandemic. Some of them narrated their experiences to EAST site’s writer Isaac Swila.
The Covid-19 pandemic and the technological shifts have caused severe consequences to today’s press. However, Prof George Nyabuga says the writing has long been on the wall, yet many chose to bury their heads in the sand like the proverbial ostrich.
Ever since 170 journalists from Kenya’s Standard Group were made redundant in 2020, media experts argue that convergence of business processes in the media industry is an inevitable and necessary step. The term convergence has dominated media houses for years. But what does it mean and why is it crucial for the future of journalism in the region?
The digital and social media experience has disrupted the media industry in unprecedented ways. Gone are the days when media houses could solely rely on revenues generated from the sale of content, for example, newspapers. Kenya’s Standard Media Group understood the need to adapt to the ‘new digital newsroom’ and embarked on a three-year- restructuring programme, but the change is not without challenges as Peter Oduor found out
Kenya’s leading newspapers – The Nation, Star, and The Standard, recently set up paywalls on their online content. Though some readers are complaining, the uptake has been impressive. Senior editors who spoke to EAST Site’s writer, Isaac Swila, insist the paywall is the future.
What do Kenya’s post-election violence, Sudan’s protests that toppled President Omar al-Bashir, and the Arab Spring have in common? The audience played a crucial role in informing the world where journalists were restricted in one way or the other. Today, direct audience engagement in the news cycle has brought far-reaching changes to the media industry.
Ten years ago, an ambitious and daring Giles Muhame started an online platform at Makerere University. The platform’s main idea was to bring news in real-time. Initially, the online platform struggled as the audience was still rigid, preferring traditional modes of news consumption such as radio, print, and television.
One of the most significant impacts of the pandemic has been the dramatic shift in the global digital landscape and digital business. Africa’s media industry needs vision, innovation, transformation, collaboration, and adaptability to develop agile business models.
Kenya’s media still struggles with undue political interference as evidenced by sporadic harassment from government, coupled with economic constraints that have recently been amplified by the effects of the ongoing global pandemic
Debunk Media, a platform for explanatory journalism wants young Africans to understand how big events in their environments affect them and why those events are important to them… It wants to show them the little dots and the invisible lines that join these events.
The changing dimensions and presentation of the challenges facing women in the newsroom and the media as a whole call for a dynamic approach by women, gender and general human rights activists.
Almost all newsrooms, big and small, have had their operations severely affected by the devastating disruption wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic leading to loss of hundreds of jobs. Worse still, revenue sources for broadcast and print publications have shrunk as businesses collapse.
Job cuts, pay cuts, content reduction and closures – that is what many media outlets are currently facing. Some blame digitalization and the coronavirus pandemic. But could it be that they got their priorities wrong in the first place?
Freedom of the media is the cornerstone of a just and democratic society to promote socio-economic and political developments even though Eastern African countries fashion the independence for the sake of complying with international obligations.
The state of the media in Uganda has been the subject of several studies and commentaries. Whether critical or favourable, all attempts to analyze the health of journalism in the country tend to coalesce over its contradictions.
Journalists and the news media organisations in East Africa are today confronted with unprecedented economic and market challenges, increasing distrust, denigration of the journalistic work, and new forms of digital repression exacerbated by Covid-19.
In open societies where democracy flourish, the media plays a critical watchdog role by not only putting into check but also questioning the excesses of the government. Sadly, in Tanzanian media space these pillars seem to lack.
While solutions journalism as a news philosophy presents many opportunities for the strengthening of journalism practice in Kenya and by extension Africa; it is certainly not a quick fix.
Just like New York Times adjusted to digital disruption, Covid-19 has presented an opportunity for local media houses to analyze the emerging trends and audience behaviour to come up with innovative ways of generating revenues.