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Friday, 17 November 2017

THE REAL THREAT OF FAKE NEWS

A lot has been said and written about the negative impact of fake news. A robust verification process is often touted as the surest way of guarding against the so called alternative facts. But even the best assembled fact-checking mechanisms have been known to fail miserably. The real threat of fake news though, is how easily people believe the deception.


It especially seems like for the majority, any information posted on the Internet comes with a secret 'doubt-free' ingredient.

How else can one explain the incredible level of susceptibility, that makes even the most twisted story so believable?

Case in point, I was, queueing for hours to get essential Kenyan government services.

And despite gallant efforts to resist, I found myself becoming a very active listener of a conversation behind me.

A number of public personalities were given a not so private dress-down, with the discussion revolving around their ill-gotten wealth, perceived celebrity statuses, ruined relationships and even failed marriages.

I was tempted to intervene, when the name of someone I know personally was floated, and the chatter descended into outright falsehoods.

Now that's the real threat of fake news.

The kind of misinformation being exchanged at the hyper-local level is truly scary and the monster that social media has become is hugely to blame.

Indeed, online platforms have enabled those hell-bent to cause maximum damage, to have their own paradise on earth.

The fuel sustaining this gullibility could be the tremendously sophisticated way online information is packaged, that makes it hard to discern lies from the truth.

So now more than ever, is the time to sharpen one's internal truth-sensing instincts, for one to survive this onslaught of fake news.


Saturday, 11 November 2017

BEFITTING BEEF WITH PRINT MEDIA

The print media has been grappling with how to retain a diminishing readership, with most readers now being averse to paying for content that by and large can be accessed online, on demand and on the go. This has in turn led to more editorial experimentation. I have no beef with creativity, but more needs to be done to achieve befitting relevance, beyond eye-catching headlines.


It's quite ingenious to use the 'urban' equivalent of the verb denoting quarrelling, to describe a cross-border disagreement over mainly 'rural' livestock, in the article above.

And it almost appears like the headline writer found it irresistible to string together 'beef' and 'cattle' to drive the point home rather colourfully.

But the article's headline, however, looks a bit odd, because the parties involved in the 'beef' are identified by a country and a city.

You would ordinarily expect either two countries being identified together, or both being represented by cities, for a more evenly weighted delivery of the intended meaning.

That notwithstanding, this use of 'beef' is to a large extent befitting!




Friday, 3 November 2017

HIGHER EDUCATION AND MEDIA AS PURVEYOR OF IGNORANCE

A primary reason for tuning into a news channel is to be informed of significant happenings. But the content in Kenyan broadcasting stations can try one's patience. The delivery and presentation too, can be grossly abhorrent. Local TV news gets particularly revolting, if it becomes a purveyor of ignorance, in coverage of higher education matters.


Let's first take a few moments to frown upon the blatant disregard of elementary English language etiquette above, masquerading as an innocuous typo.

There are 'more serious' issues at stake here.

How the graphics below got to get on air in their sorry state, should be a big worry to the channel's media managers.


If the on screen information is to be believed:

- An Assistant Lecturer, at some undefined point in time, used to earn more than a Lecturer.

- The same Assistant Lecturer now earns a substantially lower amount in a new pay structure, as compared to the previous rate.

Now that's negative progress, but I digress.

This kind of ignorance is not bliss, it makes the heart miss a beat or two.




Saturday, 28 October 2017

SOLIDARITY: WHAT WE NEED

The twists and turns in Kenya's prolonged and increasingly agonizing electioneering period, continue to raise tensions in the country. Critical players seem to be tearing the country apart. But what worries the most is not the political or institutional failures.  It's the devaluation of human life, when settling real, perceived or imaginary differences. Solidarity is what we need.


Like Mykal Rose chanted many decades ago, Kenyans need to constantly remind themselves of who the real enemy is, by telling each other:
Look at me I ain't your enemy
We walk on common ground
We don't need to fight each other
What we need, what we need
Solidarity!
Yes. We are all stakeholders in defining the destiny of the country.

No. That does not necessarily mean we have to die so that someone else assumes or retains the presidency.

The liberation struggles cost many lives undoubtedly.

But the liberty gained was to enable us to resolve arising differences without shedding more blood.

Violence, whether from state organs or organized gangs should not feature in conflict resolution.

Again, Black Uhuru's Steven Van Zandt composed lyrics ring so true:
Look at me I ain't your enemy
Don't believe everything you hear
This is not time to fight each other
What we need, What we need...
SOLIDARITY!

Friday, 20 October 2017

OF CREATIVITY, HATE SPEECH AND SPORTS HEADLINES

Those tasked with crafting headlines for newspaper articles, often come up with brilliant word plays that effectively capture the intended mood and communicate the salient points as well. But then there are times you look at some  headlines and cringe, in spite of some gallant attempts at raising the bar of creativity. Some sports headlines in Kenyan newspapers come dangerously close to hate speech.


It may seem like an innocent attempt to amuse or delight readers with catchy headlines, but it's naive to overlook the serious undertones that might also be inadvertently projected.

In the 'insensitive' headline above, the 'judgemental' headline writer seems to have long concluded that mugging is synonymous with 'slum boys'.

And come to think of it, 'mugging' is actually being glorified here!

You see, in plain language, the sub-editor is saying a team with many players drawn from Nairobi's informal settlement of Mathare, defeated one of Kenya's most successful football clubs.

In my opinion, the headline below is making a mockery of the downfall of a once vibrant supermarket chain, going by the manner in which the defeat of the firm.s football team is being reported.


 It cannot all be about seeing the funny side of other people's misfortunes.

Sadly, as previously noted several times in this very forum, it seems local sports pages happily continue with this trend, irrespective of the likelihood of such headlines being utterly offensive.

No. It's no defense to argue that it's all in jest.

Friday, 13 October 2017

MEDIA MARIONETTES AND UNSEEN PUPPET MASTERS

It almost seems like media outlets in Kenya have collectively conspired to be passive purveyors of election-related information. The press is often times now as clueless about key developments in this prolonged electioneering period, as the audience it intends to enlighten. The local media are thus behaving like marionettes, at the mercy of unseen puppet masters.


It's unusual for the same media described as being vibrant, to leave viewers, listeners and readers unsure about where the country is headed politically and legally, even after interrogating all manner of analysts.

Anticipatory aspects of news gathering and processing have been neutered and most of what is left is reactive coverage.

Clauses in Kenya's constitution appear alien in many a local newsroom, and not many journalists are astute enough to navigate through relevant statutes.

This leaves the media at the mercy of those touted as analysts or experts, but which then also leaves the door wide open for inherent biases, prejudices and partisanship that cloud the understanding of issues.


If the media can't arrive at their own underlying positions, backed by solid research, with which to test or counter-check with credible authorities, then it will be hard to know if they are being led astray, to serve extraneous purposes.

And there are plenty of nefarious puppet masters, well capable of manipulating 'media marionettes' to advance an agenda that's far removed from the public's interest.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

MEDIA MISEDUCATION

To inform, educate and entertain, is what a trainee journalist is bound to come across as the main functions of the media. There are also agenda setting and watchdog roles, among others. The media in Kenya at times appears to be blind to these important responsibilities. That's why the audience often encounters a lot of misinformation, excess entertainment and media miseducation.


Facts are stubborn. But some other types of facts have another layer of stubbornness: Historical facts!

This makes it quite foolhardy for a newspaper to publish glaring historical inaccuracies, like in the  article above.

The day Kenya gained its independence from British colonialists is well-documented, including the top dignitaries in attendance.


It should be a well-known fact that the Queen of England was represented by the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip.

And it seems geographical facts also present a challenge for the press, in this part of the world.


From Mount Kenya, a river is described as flowing:

North, then east, before settling, "in a south-west direction until it disappears into the massive Lorian Swamp in Isiolo."

Well, for international readers, this might not make much sense.

And for many locals, they might have no hint of a clue either, about the meanderings of this particular river.

But for area residents and those familiar with the geographical set-up of this region...the given description makes a lot of nonsense!

Yes, the river can flow north, and turn east.

However, there's no way it can then flow south-west.

That means it would be flowing almost in the opposite direction of the Lorian Swamp, where it's meant to end up disappearing.

And you would still expect Hargeisa to be somewhere in the semi-autonomous Somaliland, right?


How it was being referenced with Dadaab, in Kenya's Garissa County, will for now remain a mystery.