Third Eye

Why development journalism is the next big thing

Friday, November 19th, 2021 00:00 |
Journalism. Photo/Courtesy

Journalists will tick off reasons why journalism dubbed as development focused is dead on arrival.

Top of the list is that Kenyans love politics, that development journalism is boring, is biased and lacks objectivity and on and on.

This week a development focussed story that featured in one of our local stations has been trending and drawing the attention of the international community. The story is fairly simple, but boring it is not.

The story, dubbed table banking, is from Turkana where some women came together, and meet periodically to pool resources.

One of the ladies is the secretary cum treasurer and records each contribution on an exercise book, sometimes writing the math on her hands. 

Their meetings are a mixture of many things: music, prayers, storytelling; it is essentially a village social gathering of the local community. Then they get into business

After the resources have been pooled, they do their math and put forth their needs which are assessed openly against the resources available. Then loans are given out according to needs.

The women then invest their money as per the agreement. It is a picture of happy faces across the shade under a tree as the women dance away.

The camera work is great, the story has been beautifully edited, and the journalist tells the story with such conviction and beauty.

At the end you look for boredom in the story and come out empty. It is an engaging story, entertaining, informing the public, and indeed ticks all the boxes on good news stories.

Granted, it is a bit longer than the usual hit and run stories, but this is the kind of intense journalism that attracts attention, that wins awards.

And sure this story has caught the attention of the world and some development agents, it is understood, are on their way to Turkana to understand how this local initiative is changing lives in that community.

 Unlike most average stories and particularly of political nature, this Turkana table banking story would take a while and a lot of logistical work to execute.

Those women do not meet everyday, so proper planning is required. They could be suspicious of an outsider with a camera, and they may not think that what they are doing is revolutionary, worthy of telling.

The story is costly to produce, it will take the time of the reporter and the cameraman, traveling and after so long there may only be one story to show for it. But it is worth all this.

The contrast is the usual fare that we are accustomed to. Today it is this politician accusing the other politician of this or that. The following day is the next politician answering their opponent.

This journalism excites the supporters of the politicians, generates active copy and colorful pictures, but seldom contributes to improving the general welfare of the population.

This is not to say that politics cannot be reported from a development perspective.

Indeed, there is nothing wrong with political reporting. The challenge is how we report on politics in Kenya.

It is usually politician A accusing politician B of something and subsequently politician B responding back to politician A and the game continues. 

Yet journalism, playing its watchdog role, can interrogate these accusations, place them in context and make a difference in society.

Indeed, if development journalism framework was to be put into play, few politicians would want to be the subjects of reporting for such reporting would easily expose them.

If we needed journalism that interrogates the importance of events unfolding in society, then it is now with the political seasons intensifying.

For example, rather than tell us that the former commissioner of prisons was relieved of his duties, journalism should investigate where culpability lay and if the actions taken were sufficient.

Development journalism is simply the next level of journalism. —The writer is dean, School of Communication, Daystar University

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