Friday, August 10, 2007

Reality of Kenyan journalism

Patrick Kariuki Muiruri is known for many things, the fiery Gatundu North legislator has been implicated in tea and coffee wars in his area, does not shy away from confrontations and most of all, “tells things as they are.”

So, when PK said how poor journalists are, and that they survive on hand outs, he found some support from some parliamentary reporters.

“It’s the truth and people don’t like admitting the reality, for once, I support PK,” said one parliamentary reporter.

I decided to engage the journalist because it is the only way to know the way they feel. After all, it can be assumed PK was making reference to journalists based on his experience with them.

Journalists in Kenya are heavily vilified for being lazy, poorly read and surviving on hand outs.

Yes! It is true!

Sample this, a correspondent from the Nation or Standard earns a retainer of shs 15,000 and the rest is calculated on contributions. The possibility of making shs 30,000 a month is tough for some.

What correspondents earn in these two papers is what most staffers earn at the People daily and Kenya Times that is- shs 30,000.

This means that if the journalist has a family, they can only live in Kayole, Mathare North and Kawangware. There is nothing wrong in staying in these areas but bear in mind that the same criminals you expect the journalists to write about rule these areas.

So, there sets in greed, we all want to live beyond our means. But who is to blame, the journalists or the media owners who pay poorly?

The other reason is that journalists mix with the movers and shakers of the economy, some of the, can only buy beer, not even food. The politicians and businessmen exploit the poverty loophole to use the journalists in the dirty games.

Journalists are also guilty of agreeing to be used.

For instance, journalists in rural areas, they have no official vehicles, have to use politicians’ cars to the function. If not the politicians’ cars, they use the DC or DO’s car. How do you expect a journalist who was given a ride from Mathioya to somewhere interior to report negative issues about the people giving a ride?

There was this story of how some coast legislator kicked out a journalist from his vehicle because he had dared to contradict him. Unfortunately the journalist was left in the middle of the forest.

So yes, journalists may be a shame, but is that not the story of our society?

That is why it borders on immorality for a Kenyan journalist based abroad to hold themselves in their high horses and castigate Kenyan journalism (one actually did, and his comment was ill informed.)

The conditions are different, they are tough, just like that civil servant has to withstand staying in Ruai yet expected to report to work at 8 am, and journalists too have their excesses and vices.

By the way, you will be shocked that when it comes to handouts, the journalists in Nation and Standard get higher share because the newspapers are highly read. The other journalists get lesser handouts.

We can lie to each other about journalism and single it out as the most corrupt but it may be a reflection of corruption in society. And as such there are very honest journalists who I know will not take your handout, it doesn’t matter the source.