- It is crucial to recognise that journalism is not defined by the platform on which it is delivered, but rather by the principles and skills that underpin it.
- Community radio journalists go through the same rigorous training and education as their mainstream counterparts.
“Is there any national media here ama ni ile ya Jua Kali?” This was a comment by a senior leader in one of the counties recently as he spoke to the press. I cannot tell what he was insinuating but the undertones are clear. There is a perception towards journalists working for the so-called national media and those working in Jua Ka…oops sorry, community media.
Community radio stations have long been the voice of the people, providing a platform for local news, information and entertainment. They play a crucial role in reaching out to marginalised communities, highlighting their concerns and giving them a voice.
Data from the Communications Authority of Kenya shows Kenya has at least 50 community radio stations, out of more than 100. However, despite their numbers and significance, community radio journalists often find themselves overshadowed by their counterparts in mainstream media.
A few days ago, I sat with senior journalists working at different community radios in Kenya and one question kept emanating from our discussion. Why do community radio journalists in Kenya want to be treated as lesser journalists when all journalists pass through the same curriculum?
There must be a problem somewhere. It is this mentality and perception that is sending most to oblivion and making news sources treat them as Jua Kali journalists
The perception that community radio journalists are somehow inferior or less skilled than their mainstream counterparts is deeply ingrained in our society. Oftentimes, news sources will call for coverage from mainstream media houses and maybe have one or two community radio journalists to fill the list. In fact, one commented in my presence how it’s easier to invite such journalists to their functions because of how ‘cheap’ they are.
This misguided perception stems from a combination of factors, including limited resources, lack of access to advanced training and technology, and a historical lack of recognition from the larger media industry. As a result, many community radio journalists have internalised this perception, leading to self-doubt and a lack of confidence in their abilities.
It is crucial to recognise that journalism is not defined by the platform on which it is delivered, but rather by the principles and skills that underpin it. Community radio journalists go through the same rigorous training and education as their mainstream counterparts.
They learn how to gather and verify information, conduct interviews, write compelling stories and adhere to ethical standards. The only difference is the context in which they operate.
In fact, community radio journalists often face unique challenges that require a diverse skill set. They must be adept at connecting with local communities, understanding their needs and concerns and crafting stories that resonate with their audience.
They often work in resource-constrained environments, where they have to be creative and innovative in their reporting. These skills are valuable and should be celebrated, rather than seen as a mark of inferiority.
With advancements in technology, the playing field has been levelled to a great extent. Access to affordable recording equipment, internet connectivity and digital tools has empowered community radio journalists to produce high-quality content.
They can now broadcast their stories to a wider audience through online platforms and social media. The potential for impact and influence is no longer limited by the reach of their FM signals.
It is time for community radio journalists to shed the notion of being lesser scribes and embrace their role as vital contributors to the media landscape.
They should take pride in their ability to give a voice to the voiceless, to shed light on important local issues and to foster community engagement. By recognising their own worth and skill, they can demand the respect and recognition they deserve.
The larger media industry must also play a role in changing perceptions. Mainstream media outlets should collaborate with community radio stations, recognising their unique strengths and providing opportunities for cross-pollination of ideas and talent. This can help bridge the gap between the two sectors and create a more inclusive media ecosystem.
Community radio journalist