Who is watching over the watchdog?

The last three months have seen workers go home on furlough or job losses across different companies in various industries across East Africa. This season has also been a defining moment of the tenacity of corporate giants to withstand a global crisis. Business models have been put to test.

Adaptability to change is tipping the scales and the bottom-line is no longer predictable. The numbers tell of a different narrative altogether. A narrative that is determining strategic realignments that embrace tech and innovation pivoting to a COVID world. Brands that have been laggards in embracing tech have had this season create deep fissures between them and their employees.

In recent weeks I have been following closely on the media space in Kenya. Journalists have invested their talents, time and resources in breaking down news content into digestible bites for the Mwananchi (common man). They have unearthed and fleshed bare bone leads to meaty newsworthy features that would leave the target audience mulling over tons of information. They have continued to exude professionalism in their craft.

With some receiving termination notices over text messages, like in the case of Media Max employees, while others like Nation Media Group releasing names that have been synonymous with their brand, is telling of the gravity of the situation. Media has defined the careers of these professionals for decades. With all this happening across the media stations who then is the watchdog of the watchdog? A couple of groups including Kenya Editors Guild have weighed in. They have called on debtors to bail out the media by honouring their advertising contracts and have also called on the government to consider reprieve through a waiver of license fees.

Realising the gravity of the situation, we have some media houses who have offered counselling services as an extended benefit beyond the exit. It might arguably be a considerable benefit given the public pronouncements of the exits of these media celebrities.

The exposure, rubbing shoulders with bigwigs, incessant calls and opportunities that come with publicity, all down the drain and the world is mum all of a sudden. All the moderating engagements that would add a penny are out of the question with the ban of external events. This is a very difficult season for media practitioners in Kenya.

Five years ago, following the shutdown of three mainstream TV channels during the government’s digital migration, media houses re-routed to digital platforms like YouTube. That period defined the place of social media in disbursing news. We started seeing a lot of signposting to social media channels for further engagement. This was on before the migration however the digital migration turbocharged the use of multimedia.

Several journalists started doing live engagements with their new segments by opening up YouTube, Facebook and Instagram channels. Unfortunately, others were glistening in the platforms of their employers. They did not create their own channels or if they did, they did not have an exit strategy, hence some might have been subsumed by the pandemic.

Media disruption is proving that many who have desired the screens can have that by creating their channels on social media. This like any other business would require strategic planning, audience research, needs assessment of your target audience, novelty and quality service. Having this mapped out will give you the drive and consistency.

Across careers, social media channels have given us platforms to influence our segments on different spheres. As you manage your company’s brand how well are you building into the next phase of your career? And for the media brands, this is the time to think about sustainability of the media houses in a digital world. The offering to target advertisers needs to be above board.

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