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New Media for the Kenyan Journalist


New Media's Ubiquity

Imagine this, the year is 1912 and you are a Newspaper Journalist, and you hear of an invention called the RADIO & its great potential in journalism, wouldn’t you be worried? Now imagine, the year is 1950 and you are a radio journalist and there is a huge buzz about the latest invention called TELEVISION, would you have panicked? Journalism is a profession that has undergone a Darwinian process of evolution, from the talking drums and smoke signals to town criers and information posters to telegrams and newspapers to radio and television and now the internet and mobile telephony.

New or advanced technologies are often seen as a hindrance or a threat by what may be perceived as already “established” professions  e.g. Computers to the “then” Secretary with her loyal typewriter, the  digital watch to the “then” watch maker, the tractor to the “then”  farmer with his hoe  etc. This article is in relation to the current to be “then” journalist to his/her pen. Gone are the days of writing stories in shorthand and typing them later in the newsroom. Technology has been creeping into all professions and hasn’t spared the fourth estate and this is witnessed in all levels and departments i.e. from editorial to printing, from news gathering to news dissemination etc . It’s purpose has become synonymous with the everyday operations of a media house. This has presented an opportunity to Media Houses to use it as an excuse to layoff “unskilled” staff and streamline their operations. In addition new technologies have presented a ubiquitous approach to access news i.e. through mobile phones either by SMS, News Apps or mobile Internet, Computers i.e. through websites, blogs, email newsletters etc. But to be fair to Media Houses, Samantha Spooner, a New Media practising journalist from a prominent Kenyan media house, states that some media houses are forced to invest in their staff to bring them up to speed but the reality of the situation is that following strict editorial policy for so long has made them resistant to this evolution. She continues further to indicate that

it has been a long time since such an evolution revolution occurred and they aren’t as dynamic as before!

To repeat Erik Hersmans’ (

Those who create, develop and invest in new technologies are the ones who write the rules of tomorrow.

As much as we acknowledge the presence and purpose of such technology whether software or hardware, journalists are yet to fully or partially explore its potential. In recent training workshops on Development Journalism sponsored by UNDP, the session on New Media seemed to be an eye opener and a beginners class on New Media rather  than a deliberation of  how New Media can be used in sparring  Development Journalism. This is where it came to my realisation that as much as we know of somethings availability do we really know what it really is and how it can be used to one’s advantage? During the training sessions, we came to see how elaborating to the journalist  with the basic knowledge of New Media empowers them to improve their methodology in reporting in terms of increased news collection,  faster dissemination and improve creativity. Kenyan reporters are dynamic, versatile and resilient and I witnessed this in Mombasa earlier in the year where in the middle of a workshop journalists armed with a mobile phone, camera and a laptop were able to stay attentive in the training sessions while gather and send stories back to their respective news rooms. As I witnessed this impressive sight I could not help but wonder whether a huge majority Kenyan Journalists operate similarly to caged fleas that are not aware of how far they can jump.

Sadly for the profession as Aly Khan Satchu ( states,

journalists and the media in general urgently need to comprehend the New World.

He was in particular referring to New Media facilitating for Citizen Journalism to flourish for it is more grassroots’ and does not require much skill to execute.

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Posted by on August 16, 2010 in New Media, Social Media, Tech


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