Saturday, October 10, 2015

Public broadcasters across Africa lose better journalists to rivals over lack of credibility, lower pay, say delegates at CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards 2015 media forum.

Public broadcasters across the African continent struggle to have and retain good reporters which in turn lower the quality and level of journalism they're able to produce and its due to lower pay and a lack of credibility, delegates were told at the first media forum session held on Friday of the annual CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards 2015.

Africa's public broadcasters are perceived to be more interested in being state-run broadcasters and to toe party-political lines than being true independent, public broadcasters, journalists from across Africa were told at the media gathering held in Nairobi, Kenya this year to celebrate excellence in African journalism.

It's the first time since 2005 that the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards, described as Africa's version of the Oscars for journalism, is being held in Kenya.

Yet a lot of the issues pertaining to media houses' under-staffed, over-worked and financially squeezed newsrooms across the continent remain the same as a decade ago - with the added complexity and new challenges presented by the rapid growth of online news gathering and consumption in an increasingly digital and mobile world.

"Those who want to be serious journalists in Africa don't go to public broadcasters in the first place,or if they start out there they jump to rivals," said media forum panelist Wanja Njuguna, a senior lecturer in the communications department at the Polytechnic of Namibia who is also an editor and writer for The Namibian.

"Often better journalists end up being snapped up by the corporate world. So Africa has lost a lot of well-trained and experienced journalists to the corporate world because they're not being supported to tell truth by public broadcasters who are not as well funded and are in part state and political mouth pieces," said Wanja Njuguna.

"To go into journalism you need to have a passion. It doesn't pay so much [as other professions]. A lot of journalists eventually end up going into advertising and public relations (PR)."

"Africa for instance needs economic journalism and economic journalists who are in media with a good background in economics."

"We need to invest in our media institutions," said Hopewell Rugoho-Chin'ono, an award-winning documentary film maker, field producer and news correspondent from Zimbabwe.

"If you look at CNN International (DStv 401) for instance - most of the correspondents who are covering and reporting the African story, they are Africa who've worked for African media institutions."

"But they were taken and snapped up by CNN International and were willing to because of how much [money] they're offered by CNN and the chance to report real news. People need to pay bills and send kids to school. If they're not paid well, they're going to end up working for international news organisations."

"Also we need to bring back more credibility to public broadcasting across Africa. Public broadcasters are not performing public broadcasting, they're performing party politics. Anyone who wants to practise their craft and want to be associated with credibility, they end up working for international news organisations".

"Why are people leaving to go do PR? Because they're paid more. I want my child to be going to the best school. My colleague going into PR is earning good money. Media houses need to take journalism seriously and better funding to do good stories is important."

"You can see the better stories that's produced when journalists are treated well and people are paid better and there's resources to do better stories," said Wanja Njuguna.

"There's a lot of lazy journalism happening across Africa. We report on Twitter wars and we present that as a story and news," said media forum panelist Msindisi Fengu, a South African investigative journalist.

"We should have a debate on how do we take those stories forward and present that. Stories need to be presented stronger than mere gossip and Twitter wars".

"Across Africa we have journalists who sleep in the office and who take huge risks to get the story out - and they don't do it for the money or to get an award. Despite mediocrity in reporting, there's still many voices willing to stick it out for good journalism," Hopewell Rugoho-Chin'ono said.

"Over the past two decades in Africa things have changed for the continent's female journalists," saiWanja Njuguna.

"There are more women journalists today across Africa who are doing difficult stories; the hard stories that you couldn't do before as a woman. It is better. It's about knowing what to do when you want to do certain stories, like for instance covering an evening event."

"We have a lot more women working in hard news reporting and covering sports. It's working much better. But media houses need to invest more in sending all their journalists for media training and to invest in these courses and to make sure that their journalists attend."

"You need to know what is happening in your industry, what's going on and get the information and what's the right thing to do in media in the fast-changing landscape where something like legislation is constantly changing," said Wanja Njuguna.