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Could this be why more people are switching off the news?

media

Back in the day, news bulletins were a must watch for many. They were informative, and for those who didn’t have time to read the newspapers, they gave a rundown of the day’s events that kept one abreast of the current affairs. But this seems to have changed in the last decade or so.

Lately, more and more people are avoiding watching the news. The reason, they say, is that news is mostly morbid and depressing. There is hardly anything positive or uplifting to watch — save for some infusion of informative and educative features.

Take, for example, the 9pm bulletin on Citizen TV that aired on Saturday, March 30, 2024. The lead story was Kajiado Governor Joseph ole Lenku decrying the fact that Tanzania has allowed trophy hunting of elephants. The jumbos at Amboseli National Park, a shared heritage in the cross-border wildlife ecosystem, are at great risk. So far, three have been killed in as many months.

The second story was on the alleged land grab in Oloolua Forest. This galvanised friends of the forest to demonstrate against the threat to the critical environmental resource in Kajiado County.

These were two protest items from the same county.

The third and fourth stories on the TV station’s running order were also protests — Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka alleging a sinister plot in the suspension of the National Dialogue Committee report by the High Court followed by the ongoing revelations on the fake fertiliser scam.

Other news stories were insecurity in the North Rift, the doctors’ strike, and regulating private security guards. There were three stories on police officers — one who was swept away by flood waters and whose body was yet to be found; another who was killed by bandits in Sibiloi; and lastly one who shot his colleague in Mbooni.

The only story that one would say was positive was on Kenyans who have found jobs in Somaliland. We were told some 8,000 Kenyans are engaged in education, construction, and hospitality sectors in Hargeisa. Given the level of unemployment in Kenya, this story gave a ray of hope to others who would want to venture out there in search of gainful employment.  Those interviewed gave glowing tribute of Somaliland, saying it was a peaceful country that allowed them to go about their business unhindered. Yet this story was a distant number 11 on the running order of the station’s bulletin.

All the other stories were heavy and/or depressing. Even though this was the Easter weekend, there was not a single story on its celebration or anything around it.  The opportunity presented by the holiday was a great chance that the editors let pass to serve the viewers lighter stories.

The Safari Rally going down in Naivasha got only one mention and was relegated to the sports segment despite it being a big event that happens once a year. Besides being flat and bereft of the adrenaline of a motoring event, its economic and commercial, entertainment, tourism, and socially therapeutic aspects were lost.

The inclusion of a news feature on the danger that fluoride poses to water users in Nairobi was informative and educative. However, this feature was not in the 7pm Kiswahili bulletin, which often lacks the depth and seriousness accorded the prime time (news in English) at 9pm.

In a nutshell, news editors need to have a 360-degree outlook so as to give the audience a balanced, diverse, and rich news menu. There should be a paradigm shift in news gathering and delivery that speaks to audience first as opposed to serving viewers editors’ choices. This way, perhaps more people will be lured back to watching the news at a time of decreasing eyeballs and readership in a digital era that has enhanced platform plurality, choice, and diversity in content consumption.

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