Monday, January 30, 2017

Too many cooks spoil the broth

By Kemo Cham
[First published on] Here is a selection of the Monday August 8 edition of some of the leading newspapers in Sierra Leone. If you had all these there was more than 90% chance that you hadn’t missed any news of the day, or rather the week ending Friday 5th August.
Interestingly  though, none of these papers had anything on what was supposed to be one of the biggest news of the day – the death of one of the country’s most popular businessmen, Moseray Fadika.
Mr Fadika, a politician, was a presidential hopeful until his death the previous day. Two of these papers, as you can see, interestingly standout.
The Salone Times featured him among 10 people thought to be vying for the presidential ticket of the ruling All Peoples Congress party. A smiling Fadika is seen in the middle of the top row.
Perhaps the New Storm carries the most ludicrous headline lead of the two. ‘More trouble for Moseray Fadika,’ it reads. Imagine that, over 24 hours after the death of the man in London. News about it had been all over the social media.
The thing is, the basic concept of the news being something of currency has long lost on the Sierra Leonean media, and no one seems to care at all. These are the national papers, for God’s sake!
According to the IMC, out of over 160 registered papers, only about 27 are published regularly. Only about 15 of these are actually daily. And these are among the top ones.
I guess it’s the matter of too many cooks spoil the broth.
Sierra Leone, which prides itself as the country where the first print
newspaper was published in black Africa, enjoys one of the most
liberal, if not the most liberal media environment, in the world.
Almost every day, a new media institution is established because of the
liberal policy towards media pluralism. There are issues with that,
and some media rights activists are genuinely concerned, even if they
do not seem to have an answer to it.
The country has gone ahead to produce some world class journalists. My very own boss immediately comes to mind here; Umaru Fofana, and his late nephew, Lansana Fofana. I remember religiously listening to the BBC and eagerly waiting to hear the voice of the late Fofana on issues about Sierra Leone on the BBC’s Focus on Africa.
There is also Winston Ojukutu  Macaulley Jnr, who briefly reported for the BBC during the war time. He is now a politician, regretfully.
I have also heard of names like Olu Gordin. He had been dead …………
years before when I arrived in Freetown on May 1, 2011. He is
regularly mentioned for praise by Umaru in the office, which to me
tells how good a writer he must have been. And there is Sam Mzigar, the ………………
There are other journalists of exemplary record I wouldn’t mention for
fear of been accused of bias, due to my close relationship with them.
And most, if not all of these people, passed through the local media
in Sierra Leone. So I have found it hard to understand why,
despite this exemplary record, the media in this country is in this status of misery.
I have many issues with how it operates, but two reasons in particular come to mind, immediately. Firstly, the fact that in December all the entire print media go on holiday. Yes, you read well, holiday. No paper is published for about three weeks. They call if the festive period, the period leading to Christmas.
“Do you really expect the people to hold on and not knowing what’s
happening in the country until after the holiday?” I once found myself
asking a colleague journalist. But that was before I formally joined
the local press.
Since 2011, when I first arrived in the country after about 18 years
absence, I had concentrated on my freelance work, mainly with the
Nation Media Group of Kenya. When I joined Politico I got to know the answers to some of my questions; for instance, why the papers go on holiday.
To some extent it’s not the doing of the publishers. But I still hold
them responsible because I think they can put a stop to that absurd
The second reason is the funny aspect of the local media is the fact that Monday’s edition of the paper is almost always full of stale news items. That’s because most papers do their layout latest on Friday of the previous week. This was why the major papers missed the Fadika death story. This has robbed readers the chance of reading the latest happenings over the weekend on Mondays.
Say what you want about the print media, but a lot of people wait to get credible and latest information from it.  Laying out a Monday publication on Friday gives dubious people two days heard start on social media to have a field day.
Newspapers cannot be as current as radios or TV, but they have to come close. There is no excuse for newspapers on their Monday publication, to miss a news as big as the death of a prominent presidential aspirant.
This is the hallmark of a lazy media. And it is one more reason why
major players like SLAJ and IMC should have a serious reflection.
The joke that’s called the Sierra Leone media has really gotten worst.

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