•Journalists need to innovatively work around the issue of laws through seeking judicial pronouncements through public interest litigation, working on articles through collaborations, networking with non-journalistic players and continuous trainings on the same.
•Good and professional content and news has space and its paying off in terms of rebuilding trust and credibility in the media and satisfying public demand for information and accountability.
Many times words like “objectivity, accuracy, balance” seem stale in journalistic discussions yet, for professional and public interest journalism to flourish, we have to continuously talk about them.
The words have space on the table. They provide the foundation of professional journalism.
We read many stories in the media, and you just simply call the reporter to thank him/her for a wonderful story.
They are plenty in our media. Well packaged and written/aired sourced, topical and professionally done. Equally, many times you encounter a story- nice and public interest story- and from the structure, sourcing, presentation, facts among others, you feel the reporter wasted the story- hurriedly done, sensentional in framing and presentation and half done.
While the pressure for breaking news is real and competition from alternative media is pushing journalists to the extreme, evidence is abound indicating that audiences are still very interested in well done, topical and news that speaks to them.
In depth pieces that dig our facts, interpret trends for them, expose human rights violations with specifics, focus on news innovations that promise development and offer solutions to the many challenges facing humanity and call out impunity.
This journalism, severally called investigative journalism is on the rise in African just like in the rest of the world, is on the rise.
There is a resurgence of high-quality investigative journalism in Sub Sahara Africa, including by traditional media and small sized and highly specialized online investigative platforms.
Several investigative journalism hubs either housed by mainstream media houses or established by independent outlets, either working in-country and cross border joint investigative works or are funded by partners with focus on thematic public interest issues are increasingly coming up and doing great public interest journalistic work.
A joint study by FOJO Media Institute and WITS University entitled “Mapping of Investigative Journalism Hubs in Sub Sahara Africa” notes that its important and encouraging that such investigative hubs are coming up using innovative ways and the people’s right to know will hugely benefit from such serious investigative journalism
Those intent on investigative journalism must remind themselves about the tenets of such approach- it approaches stories in a process rather than event orientation, needing patience, skill, sources, flexibility, resources, Professionalism, art of persuasion, courage and being legally savvy.
It requires thinking, having contacts, data, being selfish and being ready for criticism. As Richard Mgamba notes, its in-depth fact finding about various matters that occur in our society for journalists dwell inside the society and reveal hidden truths. It does not only report, it educates, exposes and uncovers secrets.
The story of the COVID 19 vaccine seems to be suffering journalistic injustices- such a scientific story requires professional approach- the society demands, the science and trends supported by factual data.
Lets reduce the simple presentation of hyped misinformation and fears- let us avoid being emotional as journalists and strictly stick to factual information. Even in politics, which is largely liberal, they had to come up the publication of political opinion polls Act 2012, which guides on how media reports on such issues. Instant polls or a few isolated vox pox might be the most professional way of reporting on such matters as the COVID 19 vaccine efficacy.
Reading the current stories about the vaccine in Kenya, I was reread an article by George Ogola in the Conversation entitled “Why African Journalists aren’t doing a good job on COVID-19”, where he blamed the media for only reproducing international media narratives on the outbreak.
He noted that instead of the media interpreting information on the corona virus for the audiences, it was just reproducing World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines without auditing them or their applicability in Africa, singling the social distance and self-isolation concept.
Investigative journalism for pubic interest is the way to go, and despite challenges like constraining laws and administrative codes in many countries that have seen journalists harassed and pushed to selfish censorship, lack of resources to invest in such ventures, inadequate training and skills upgrading on investigative journalism, and safety concerns for journalists, there is space and opportunity for investigative journalism.
Journalists need to innovatively work around the issue of laws through seeking judicial pronouncements through public interest litigation, working on articles through collaborations, networking with non-journalistic players and continuous trainings on the same.
Good and professional content and news has space and its paying off in terms of rebuilding trust and credibility in the media and satisfying public demand for information and accountability.