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Value added content: End ‘he said’, clicks journalism or forget audiences

The Star splashed a story on its website titled, “Raila, Kalonzo right to front children for EALA – Ahmednasir” (November 16). The report was based on a tweet by the “Grand Mullah”. He hit 2 million followers the other week.

“Lawyer Ahmednasir Abdullahi has thrown his weight behind Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka for nominating their children to the East African Legislative Assembly,” the report said.

“Ahmednasir said the two leaders have sacrificed a lot for Kenyans, and it was wise for them to front their children.”

The Grand Mullah, a staunch Kenya Kwanza supporter, must have collapsed from his seat and rolled on the floor with laughter reading this. His exact tweet dripped with sarcasm, which Lion Place entirely missed:

“I support 100 per cent Raila and Kalonzo’s wise decision to nominate their children to EALA. Raila and Kalonzo have sacrificed so much for Wanjiku…please let the kids (they are in their 30s and are unemployed) earn some salary!”

The Star completely missed the scorn in the city lawyer’s words. The sheer literalism in conveying the Grand Mullah’s meaning is a damning indictment of the depths to which our journalism has sunk.

It’s a classic case of journalists disengaged from reality chasing clicks. Or who have been robbed of their sense of professionalism by a numbing laxity and obsession with social media.

Alas, this is not an isolated case.

K24 TV reported online that parents in a village in Gatundu, Kiambu, were feeding their hungry children on bhang and alcohol so that they can get high and forget about food.

“Shockingly, the devastating long-term effects of the drought especially on vulnerable children in the area have seen parents devise weird means of giving hope to the future generation,” the November 6 report said.

Feeding children on marijuana and booze is “giving hope to the future generation”? The irony.

“The hunger-hit parents are now forcing their children to consume bhang and alcohol, which [are] cheap and readily available in the infamous village, to stop them from demanding for unavailable food.”

Really? Did the reporter witness this first-hand? No, he heard it from “village elders”. How did he verify this outrageous claim? Don’t you think the reporter needed to do a little more work on this story to establish the truth? Between alcohol and bhang, and food, what might cost more? Well, the “village elders” said, and that was enough.

The jury is in. Audiences are sick and tired of this trashy churnalism. The State of the Media Survey 2021 released in January by the Media Council of Kenya found the number of respondents who watched TV for at least 30 minutes a day dropped from 74 per cent in 2020 to 58 per cent last year (14 points sharp decline).

Radio listenership remained unchanged at 74 per cent. Print readership stagnated at 25 per cent.

Of course there are many factors accounting for these audience trends, but certainly content is key.

On November 1, Radio Africa Group head of content Paul Ilado announced to his troops that the media house was adopting a new strategy. “Audience-first is a simple concept. Simply put, it comes down to knowing your audience better and serving them better. And while that sounds simple, in reality it requires a radical mind shift from all of us from how we have traditionally operated,” Ilado stated in a follow-up memo after a staff meeting.

“It requires that we are judged by the quality and the impact of the stories we write and not how many stories we write. It requires that we diversify our sources to include experts, women and men, and that we do more analysis and solution journalism in print.”

RAG, like most Kenyan media houses, is struggling with plunging audiences and revenues. The big task facing newsroom honchos is how to win the audiences back, grow them and generate sustainable revenues.

Last week, Nation Media Group created the new docket of Managing Editor, Value Added Content, to be held by outgoing Daily Nation ME Bernard Mwinzi.

His job is “overseeing the generation of multimedia investigative stories and special reports for print, broadcast and digital platforms,” the paper reported.

Value added content sounds like what the doctor ordered for Kenyan media. Run of the mill journalism has no place in the Digital Era where anyone with a smartphone can instantly report unfolding events to potentially a global audience.

Why would anyone sit down to watch a TV news bulletin, buy a newspaper the next morning, visit a news website or tune in to a radio broadcast when they can get the same content on their phone for free?

Newsrooms must produce high quality content beyond ‘he said’ and chasing clicks online, or they will become dinosaurs of the Digital Age.


See you next week!

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