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06 - 13 September 2006 
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Media Fraternity Must Walk the Talk

Lucy Kinyanjui wears many hats. She is a Knowledge Management Consultant specializing in Content Management, a specialist in development of Information Resource Centres; Institutional Repositories; and a Professional Journalist. Currently, she is the National Coordinator of Kenya SchoolNET (KesNET) and a Board Member of Schoolnet Africa (SNA) whose headquarters are based in Senegal.

A.E: What is KesNet?

Lucy: KesNET is an international non-government organization (NGO) established with the objective of promoting the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) among educators, schools, out-of-school youth and marginalized communities. KesNET aims at promoting collaboration among relevant stakeholders and sharing knowledge and experiences in education through the deployment of ICT within Kenya and worldwide. 

A.E: What is your role? 

Lucy: My role involves Internet journalism and document management. I manage KesNET website and carry out online Internet research on topical issues on a need basis. To keep my journalism knowledge current, I occasionally teach Journalism in private sector outlets.

A.E: Describe your working day

Lucy: My day starts by running through the daily newspapers. Apart from getting the news, I index information related to ICT in Education and application of technology in content management. This is followed by checking emails and responding appropriately.  Most of my work is on-line based. Thereafter, my day is managed through my work plan and calendar schedules. The activities involve attending meetings, seminars and receiving guest stakeholders. 

A.E: What would you say about the Kenyan media?

Lucy: Granted that, over the last 4 years democratic space has expanded, the Kenya media profile has equally risen. There has been a lot of progress in scope and in choice of products. The best and the worst have been experienced in the process. 

A.E: Anything positive about the Kenyan media?

Lucy: Yes, I must commend the media for trying to be the people’s watchman; sometimes to their own detriment. There have been incidents where life has been lost, people maimed and property destroyed, all in line of duty. The media has also shown courage in advocating for the expansion of information access and freedom of expression.   

The media is on record for being the conscience of the nation especially during ethnic cleansing, hunger, drought and support of whistle blowers.  

A.E: What do you dislike about the Kenyan media?

Lucy: There are a number of things. Firstly, most of the major stories that are of concern to the public are never followed to their logical conclusion. It is always a matter of hit-and-run and Capture-the-headline-and-move-on.  Secondly, there are too many stories from informed sources that are actually hearsays as they are never substantiated.  

Thirdly, in a number of cases, there is lack of serious research to support the content, whether print or electronic. Fourthly, the media is partisan to a large extent. Due to this, I am of the conviction that golden opportunities have been missed that could have molded Kenya as one people rather than a conglomeration of tribes. Fifthly, media owners have impacted the media negatively by continuously employing people who have no professional training. It is important to merge talent and professionalism for maximum beneficial impact.  Lack of professionalism has on occasion projected a bad image of the media. 

Also the media does not focus on marginalized communities as it should. When this happens, there is usually a public-relations self-aggrandizing agenda. Stories on marginalized people should rather be positioned on their inclusive survival strategies and achievements agenda and not on their poverty and crime levels as the centre piece warranting ‘Good Samaritan’ rescue operations for all to applaud. There are wonderful development and heroic stories among marginalized communities which do not feature as headlines as frequently as they should.

Lastly, in the political arena, some key politicians are forever hogging the headlines, yet most of what is communicated is their public relations agenda.

A.E: How can this be rectified?

Lucy: There is need to enhance the good that is already happening; the media should then take this a notch higher by focusing on the people of this country. We need to hear the voice of Kenyans more than that of outsiders concerning joint accountability for our destiny.

Education and professionalism must take the centre stage if journalists are to play their pivotal role. Media owners must likewise address the issues of remuneration. Collectively, the media fraternity must walk the talk. At present, they preach to all and sundry on corruption but not to themselves, yet they are in the thick of it!

A.E: What changes would you implement?

Lucy: I would like to see full implementation of professional ethics complimented with a high level of knowledge in diverse fields in order to have in-depth coverage on development issues, science and ICT, among other topics.  The media ought not only to report on them, but should also seek to simplify the issues to a level that enables the public to appreciate their benefits and hence be more involved.  

I would also like to see the media taking the central role in enhancing nationalism and positive co-existence. Presently, there is too much politics and entertainment at the expense of social and economic development. The media is yet to establish its niche as a unifier and crusader for development and equality.

A.E: What is your view on the Government regulating the media?

Lucy: The Government will always have a regulating role to play whenever the media are unable to regulate themselves. The media, not the Government, are to blame any time there is over-regulation! There need to be balance. Every freedom has accountability hemmed to it. The media sometimes over-steps their freedom, and somebody must demand accountability on behalf of the public. Numerous cases of infringement of individual rights, dissemination of pornographic resources, manufactured stories, bigotry and emasculation of our culture occur, all at the behest of profit. The Government has a responsibility to rein in such inappropriate behavior.

Though the media and the Government seem to be on a collision course most of the time; they can manage a civilized co-existence. After all, without the Government, the media cannot do business, and without the media, the Government cannot reach to the populace!

A.E: What is the future of the media? 

Lucy: The future of the media in Kenya is bright; however, it will depend on how media owners and practitioners navigate national development and the social and political heart beat. If they truly have the concern of this nation, they will manage the process to the benefit of all. Should they fail, they will give leeway to those individuals who long to see the media detained, to the detriment of all. The media should use their power for the good of humanity and not for evil, as has been witnessed in some countries worldwide. Media in Kenya should be a voice of reason, the glue that holds contending ideas in harmony. 

A.E: What are your future plans?

Lucy: To own a production house in ICT in Education and Social Development and have products, programmes and services with a branded e-learning channel.

A.E: What advice would you give upcoming journalists? 

Lucy: I encourage them to be both local and global in their perspectives, career development and menu of choice. Due to convergence of technology; one can be a global journalist while in their home. Time and space has been liberated by technology. Combined with one’s intellect, imagination, appropriate education, drive and a clear vision, one can be the best in a borderless journalistic career paradigm. The profession keeps mutating to exciting ways of working, communicating and achieving set objectives. Seize the opportunity and fulfill your dream!

By Purity Njeru
Ms. Njeru is an African Executive staff writer

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