On Corrupt Journalists and Media Houses!

Young Aspirants at a workshop

It’s that time of the year again; general elections are around the corner. Whether you are listening to news, watching news or even reading the newspapers, it is evident that there is so much about political news that being reported from all the 47 counties of my beloved Kenya.

Monetary Targets

While this is happening, I gather that some journalists have set very strict monetary targets that have to be met before this campaign period comes to an end.  But, how are they doing this? It is very sad and makes me sick knowing that journalists are now making it clear that they are not covering stories without being paid up front.

Then I ask myself, why are they demanding money to cover stories? Honestly, if a journalist leaves the newsroom under the editor’s instructions from a given media house, my assumption is that this journalist has salary at the end of the month. In most cases, the transport to and from the function is also catered for.

Aspirants discuss how to deal with the media

 Therefore, their mandate is simply to go to the field, cover the story and immediately rush back to the office and file the story. But what is happening in Kenya, journalists actually camp at the end of a function and wait, wait and wait to be paid before they head back to their offices. I am informed that some actually make it very clear that this specific story will not go on air if they are not paid. Now, I don’t get it very clear, is this supposed to be a tip or are we as Kenyans paying journalists to cover stories?

I will start by saying this, if any of you pays a journalist to have their stories covered, you are doing so out of ignorance and stupidity. A month back I was attending a workshop with some of the Kenyan aspirants and the media discussion got out of hand. What I heard was extremely disappointing. “The Kenyan media is so corrupt and expensive. The journalists ask for money and yet they never air our stories,” remarked an aspirant, who has definitely been lied to before.

Arnold Maliba explains how the media works

Many of them narrated their sad stories on how they have had to deal with journalists. “Some of us will never get any media coverage even if we have newsworthy stories. Only the rich and the affluent will get the prime time coverage because they are able to pay for that,” retorted another one.

When it got heated, the aspirants actually mentioned some of the journalists who have asked for money to cover specific stories and to say the least, it was very shameful and I stopped respecting some of those journalists. They went ahead to say so and so from this particular media house. One of the female aspirants narrated how she had to pay two breakfast presenters before she got an interview with them. It was at this time that I got really agitated and actually had to stand up and asked her, “Where was this? How did you get these presenters? What was the agreement between you and them? At what time did you pay them?”

I had to defend the journalists

Presenters Misbehaving

“I was introduced to them by a mutual friend and I told them that I would like to be interviewed on air and they told me that I had to pay a given fee, and that I had to pay this before the interview, which I did and then I was given an appointment.” She narrated. Sad as it was, this is among the biggest radio station in Kenya; I lack respect for these two presenters.

It is very sad that as journalists we have become very unprofessional and we embrace pauper tendencies. From the editors all the way down to the field reporters. I attended a function last week and again I watched some of these journalists hang around waiting to be paid. This is not a tip, is it?. While we sat down to discuss about it, I was reprimanded for behaving as if I don’t know that this cheap behavior has been in existence forever. “It is very evident that most reporters  have been living out of such habits. They actually demand a given fee for every story they air or publish. Many are living out of this cash they make by exploiting politicians in the name of giving them coverage.” Remarked a friend.

Aspirants discuss about Kenyan Journalism

Reputation and Integrity is Key

 Talking to other media consultants, they agree that this kind of behavior has been happening and it is time we put a stop into this. So I ask, is it possible to stop this? “Yes, it is possible. Many people don’t bother knowing how the media works, they imagine you have to pay to have your story covered. Many stories have been dropped because the journalists were not paid as they covered the stories and it does not just happen in Kenya, it secretly happens in many parts of this world” said Jean Kamau, a media consultant in Nairobi.

Years back, my communication lecturer at Daystar University Mrs.  Nyaga, taught us on media ethics and warned us against this. “Freebies, brown envelopes, free gifts and quick money will compromise your integrity as a journalist.” She said. For me I keep saying this, journalism is a calling, do it because you love to do it and do it well but don’t see it as a means to get rich quick by exploiting innocent Kenyans. As a journalist guard your integrity, your reputation, if at all you want to maintain a clean and a professional identity when your name is mentioned. As for those seeking publicity, care to ask and understand how the media works. Know your media contacts; know when to call the media to cover your functions. Not all events are newsworthy so do not fall prey of being conned into paying so as to get media coverage when all you need is just communication by word of month.

Journalists interview MP Charity Ngilu

Know the key elements into a good story. Journalists are guided by news values as they go out to cover a story. Some of these values include timeliness (being the first with the story) human interest (such as Nyeri women biting their husbands), proximity, “consequences” of an event and prominence. Therefore, package your press releases such that they attract media coverage, most of these journalist have a pay check at the end of the month.

The surest way to remain a winner is win once and then not play anymore!” Ashleigh Brilliant

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16 thoughts on “On Corrupt Journalists and Media Houses!

  1. they ate a lot of money from Matiba back in 1992 when we had the first multiparty general elections

  2. Patience, this unprofessional conduct by most journalists doesn’t need patience.You have said it all and I hope they are listening.

  3. Have read this article and have to say that there might be some truth from wahat you purport. But what am concern is that this article does not explain explain why journalist engage into this acts.With this, am not trying to condone the practice, but what am trying to do here is to make you see things from a wider lens.

    I will make it easier for you, in Kenya there are various categories of media practitioners, those from the main stream and those from the local mostly located at the up country.
    Journalist from the main stream media houses such as Nation, The Standard, Radio Africa and Royal Media are the lucky lot since their companies are established and have financial muscles that can cater for all its staff in the country.

    However, amid this companies there are group of journalists known as correspondents who are paid according to the number of articles submitted either for broadcast or print.

    Majority of them have no retainer and yet the amount paid per story is quite unbelievable .The small story refereed to as a filler is paid ksh 200 while the biggest news item is paid between ksh 1000 to ksh 1500.
    How is such a journalist expected to survive under such scenario while putting into consideration the raw fact that not all stories submitted to the editor are broadcast or used as for the newspaper!

    Sometime they are told to go far and wide all in pursuit of stories without transport or even lunch that’s why majority of them end up seeking the help of the host of the events.
    So before you judge the journalists harshly, find out the root cause of their problems of why they behaving this way.!
    What needs to be done is to establish a body that will oversee the welfare of all journalists so as to ensure that they are well paid in this calling and a noble profession irrespective of which media houses they are in.Re -do the research.

    1. Lesiew, I like the way you may want to look at this story.I used various examples in my post and even mentioned some of those asking for money were presenters on air, did you get that? Anyway, this is how I look at it. Whether you have a paycheck or not, that does not guarantee you to behave the way these specified journalists do. No, integrity, character and reputation for a journalist is very key. Professionalism should be the guiding yard on how we conduct ourselves, cheap monies will not set the standards especially for those who are passionate about what they do.

  4. Hey Patience, This is how it works…..All of them have their cuts right from the Managing Editor to the journalist who collects the story in the field. And yes, this affects the more established media houses more than the small time ones. I am a Public Relations practitioner and have had several requests to “grease” the chain and the amounts quoted were unbelievable! Marketing and Public Relations Agencies are not making it any easier. Theirs is a business to pay for their articles to be published and aired under the guise of mutual relationships with media. Their clients who include big blue chip companies in Kenya may not be aware as such (but some are). They will happily keep signing checks in millions as long as they are in the news every day. That is on the corporate side……..

    I assume that politics works in the same manner. I have heard of many cases where media practitioners have gone to the extent of blackmailing politicians to pay or have dirty details about them published. So for example given that the ICC cases are heavily dependent on press cuttings as pieces of evidence what credibility is there? What can Kenyans take and believe from what is published and aired? I sometimes watch news with a heavy heart of whether what am watching is true or not.

    On the other hand the angle that Lesiew is bringing is very important. Yet the Media Council, Editors Guild, Kenya Union of Journalists and other media related bodies have not taken any serious steps to ensure that the credibility of their content is authenticated. These bodies have to wake up and take an active role to ensure that media is cleaned. They must address the root causes of the problems and continuously develop professional standards to be adhered to. If successfully done Kenya could become a living example to others including in the first world. I am saying this because these problems are not unique to Kenya. Recent revelations from the Robert Murdock Media empire in the UK is an example of how far the media can go to institutionalize media vices.

    Kudos Patience for bringing up this touchy issue in a responsive manner. By the way I was also a student of Mrs. Nyaga in Daystar University.

    1. Amanda Koech,

      Thank you for your elaborate response to this blog post. From your explanation and talking to some of the practitioners out there, yes, it is not easy for most people. But then, why does the blame solely go to the journalists and the media houses yet the Media Practitioners and the politicians have hugely played a big part in ensuring that this kind of vices goes on and on? I think we all need to take responsibility in our own small ways and I am sure we can put this to an end.

    2. I wholly agree with you Amanda and something needs to be done as a matter of urgency. Bodies which are tasked with regulating the media should wake up and do their work. Unfortunately there is a twist to the entire coverage of news by the media, in that politicians have taken over ownership of media houses. This is either by virtue of ownership or influencing coverage or both.Something needs to be done.

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