Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Bloggers v/s Journalists...a take on the sports scene in Kenya

The ongoing tirade in social media circles reminds us of the Former Chief Justice of Kenya, Mr Benard Chunga, who got worked-up by an 'experts' report and was, caught on national TV saying:

"Experts on what, for what, about what? What are they experts for?"
This same line could be used by some of the journalists in the last couple of weeks who have felt like bloggers are ‘raining on their parade’. Not to bore you with the rants, we shall tackle it from the sports point of view.
One of the reasons this blog was started was because sports journalists and reporters (in our thinking there are very few sports analysts in the country, hence most media house have reporters who do just that were lacking in their presentation of sports news to their audiences.

This has improved to some extent with some media houses seeking to involve practitioners in the respective sports such as rugby, football to engage in briefs every once in awhile. But as for generation of local sports content, there is still a lot of ground to cover. We have no media house willing to take up exclusive sportscasting and none still has a dedicate channel for sports (Radio Africa Group has a semblance of a sports radio station but is usually relegated to football more than any other sport – there has also been mixed reactions from advertisers regarding their editorial policy, some asking if they could switch to socio-economic and health issues).
Almost all the TV stations have perfected the art of sending a cameraman who shoots clips which end up being ‘super-edited’ making them least relevant to the audience. If in cases where they have another media house’s clip such as SuperSport, BBC Sport or others, they end up showing unnecessary scenes which do not add value to the audience.
As for live coverage, most media houses have invested in OB vans but are usually denied coverage by the more monied pay TV channels. Initiatives such as that by Nation Media Group to focus on youth tournaments are laudable but still lacking in creativity and appeal.
Some like Citizen TV & KTN have once in awhile tried producing local sports digest programmes which again filter away due to lack of investment in local sports content. These are also usually deplete of any meaningful visual effects and creative presentation. 
Most radio stations have adopted the ‘live coverage’ of some sports such as football and rugby, but in most cases the same journos are viewing this in their studio beamed from cable and pay channels- not much creativity there.
As for coverage of local sporting activity, there has been marked improvement, though it’s usually knee-jerk and not always consistent. This is relegated to the weekends, fine for most sports enthusiasts. As for expertise in those sports, the best they do is have interviews and funny opinion shows and polls which irritate more than serve the purpose of analysing and remedying the sports world.

We still wonder how foreign content gets well over 75% on a daily basis while we have local sports that can make up for that. True our sports world is still small compared to more developed countries, but we have issues that can be tackled better – management, youth development, local leagues, pundits, sports business and marketing, sports events bidding and hosting etc.
Some dailies have pull-outs such as the Daily Nation on Monday – but this comes and goes depending on the editorial policy of the day. The Standard had also started some analytical bits on sports and business but these faded as the paper even readjusted their ‘upside-down’ look (where had that come from anyway?)
Others have simply lost it, The Star in particular dedicates almost 3 pages to English and European football. OK we know Kenyans love those leagues but surely aren’t you doing a disservice to the local league if you cannot dedicate the same coverage and additional stories? In fact, most sports journalists seem to be more of ‘experts’ in the international leagues than our local scene.
Back in the 1970s and 80s, it was exciting to read old rivalries like the AFC-Gor, Motcom-Kenya Breweries, Faisal-Scarlet in our dailies. True the local football game sunk in the 90s and early 2000s but that’s why you have a job, make our case and keep it relevant, if I want to know about Bolton, I can easily log on to the EPL but help me know more about Karuturi Sports, Posta Rangers and Sofapaka na kadhalika.
For some of the disciplines, an expert (be it a former player or manager) would be much better writing about it than a journalist. I have seen some lift word-for-word what some blogs write and do not even bother to acknowledge their sources.
It is sad that most of the journalists never make use of their wealth of resources – from the libraries, the archives (not just Kenyan National Archives but their own), former players and managers, and even the Internet.
We have a couple of sports writers who we shall not name since we don't want to appear to sell their agenda on this forum. They have grown in the industry and every so often, point us in the right direction in engaging with our audiences. 
Blogs in Sport
Photo by Fred Glo

It is without a doubt that sports bloggers in Kenya (though few) have proved their worth in reportage and coverage of sport – even with such meagre resources. Experts we may not be labelled as such yet but we’ve shaken the order of things and suddenly media houses have taken notice. True our editorial policy at times borders on the absurd but that’s what makes sports interesting.
These tools have also made it much easier for one to write what they see, believe is good for sport and also remedy situations. We have cases where sports officials have asked for our assistance to help make their sport better and we gladly oblige.
We have also seen some media houses try to co-opt bloggers into their establishments (The Star with James Murua & Grace Kerongo and recently Capital FM with ArcherMishale while others have tried making their regular  columnists as blogs (*Fail...) but none has tried the same in the sporting world.

It is necessary for sports journalists to accept the changes in media and either go with the flow or join it. 
The Internet is both a medium and a way of dissemination of content. Obviously it has ‘democratised’ how we communicate with our audiences and affected the bottom line (read ad revenues) but the smart people are busy understanding and trying to monetise these tools not mourning over it. And as one behemoth media owner would say “new times demand new journalism...(the) challenge is to take the best of traditional journalism...and combine it with the best of contemporary technology” – well put Sir!


Kwambo said...

Richie, you hit the nail on the head.


Anonymous said...

hi, interesting article but the font is rather faint and hard to read.