Serengeti Advisers Media

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Posts Tagged ‘Blogging

Old Media Vs New Media, Part 2.

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One thing that you’ll notice while reading this blog is a diversity of views that co-exist under the rubric of Serengeti Advisers. Here you won’t find a homogeneous worldview. Ours is a sensibility defined by a Negative Capability, that is we are able to entertain a multiplicity of views and opinions, even when they are in contradictions with each other. And on the issue of Old Media versus New Media, there has been a lot of heated discussions out here about the role and limitations of both platforms in our Tanzanian context. You’ve read the arguments for Old Media. What follows is a case for New Media:

  • Blogging is more democratic- Journalists now have the alternative of working without having to endure the bureaucracy, whims and sometime incompetence of editors. Here is one example to demonstrate this point. Last year one of the biggest media stories in Dar es Salaam was the resignation of Sakina Datoo from her role as the Editorial Director of The Guardian Newspapers Ltd. However, the story went largely unreported by the mainstream press. But this news did not escape the attention of bloggers. And it is the freedom afforded by the internet that allowed that story to reach readers.
  • ‘Blogs are not held to the same standards of integrity as traditional print media’- Actually, the opposite may be true. In the blogosphere, readers and other bloggers act as fact-checkers and watchdogs. And their reactions to sloppy journalism can be immediate and eviscerating. While newspapers have to wait for letters to the editors to arrive or print a correction the next day (something that rarely happens in Tanzania, if at all), a blogger has to contend with the swift response of his commenters and if a post is half-baked, his/her readers will let him know. So too will other bloggers. Therefore, what determines quality in this situation is not a number of hits, but rather the authority that comes from being respected by your readers and other bloggers who link to your site. 
  • ‘Very few Tanzanians have internet access so it’s pointless to focus our journalism there’- Research suggests that as of June of last year, 520,000 people in this country were at some level connected to the internet. And this number is growing everyday. If a blogger can manage to attract just 10% of that number to regularly read his/her blog then that would mean a daily circulation figure of 52,000, a number that dwarfes any newspapers’ out there. So the potential is simply immense.
  • ‘Most Tanzanians are too poor to afford computers’- This argument is rather ridicilous. It’s like saying Tanzanians shouldn’t read books because they are expensive. No, people can go to libraries to get the books they can’t afford to buy. Similarly, those who are unable to own computers can visit internet cafés and enjoy the benefits of this wonderful new world of online journalism.
  • ‘Printed material has some longevity’- Really? What about all those trees that had to die so that a newspaper could be published? But anyway, today’s newspapers are tomorrow’s ‘makaratasi ya vitumbua.’ Meanwhile, a blog post once published into the ether is eternally available online for any Google search to discover. Furthermore, something written in Tanzania can be read everywhere, from the urban streets of New York to the rural villages of China, by a simple click of a button. How many Tanzanian newspapers can boast such a claim?

These are just some of the arguments in favor of online journalism and blogging in particular. For more on the subject do read this brilliant essay by the British-American blogger Andrew Sullivan where most of the above points are deputised from. Also this piece by the writer Matthew Klam profiling the pioneers of political blogging in the US is worth a read. This debate is always going to continue here. We would love to hear your thoughts on it too. What do you think?

Written by serengetiadvisersblog

March 3, 2010 at 13:27

Old Media vs New Media, Part 1.

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Last week, the German broadcatser Deutsche Welle in collaboration with DED/InWent and the Goethe Institute hosted a panel discussion at the old parliament building, Karimjee Hall, on the challenges facing the media in this election year. One of the panelist was a young blogger by the name of Maggid Mjengwa. At the point where the discussion turned to the performance of new media versus old media, it was clear that there is a division between those who lean heavily towards e-media as their preferred platform, and traditionalists who want to keep the emphasis on newspapers and magazines.

Blogging is all well and good, but traditional print media should be privileged over electronic media in the Tanzanian market for these reasons:

  •  Newspapers and magazines can, due to their independent physical nature as printed material function as shared reading resources. Who hasn’t had a crowd of co-readers hovering over their shoulder when they buy a morning paper to enjoy at the bus stand. You’d have to be a fool to leave your laptop lying around after you’re done reading your blog posts though.
  • Printed material has some longevity: a newspaper, no matter how old, is still a physical entity that can be enjoyed for as long as it is well-preserved. It can travel, end up in different places, and be read, and reread, and sectioned, and passed on. It cannot be deleted at the whim of a server crash or an embarrassed blogger.
  • Print only requires wetware in order to work. Human buys paper, enjoys paper. No need for investment in a computer, an anti-virus program, an internet connection, the services of an IT technician and a copy of Windows XP for when your version of Vista crashes. Officially, not that many of us are living on more than two dollars a day and expecting any of that hard-earned cash to go towards the above-listed items is building castles in the sky.
  • The Internet is a democratic space- anyone can say anything. Blogs are therefore not held to the same standards of integrity as traditional print media. However poor in quality our newspapers are, at least there are more determinants of quality than the number of ‘hits’ that are generated. The fact that we don’t live up to these standards is due to a lack of professionalism on the part of the industry. But that’s another story.
  • The quality of our public education is so low that functional literacy and numeracy is in dire straights. In places where textbooks from the government are scarcer than hen’s teeth, at least there is some access to newspapers. Instant teaching materials!
  • Less than 10% of this country is electrified, and sporadically at that. As for access to the internet? Don’t allow the Blackberry class delude you into thinking this is easily attainable or dependable. If you don’t live in a well-served area (i.e. The City), you are at best subject to the vagaries of TTCL and at worst completely irrelevant. We are all waiting for SeaCom or EASSY to propel us into the 21st century, but in the meantime we can always just buy a newspaper.
This is all to say that discussions around appropriate technologies are more interesting than faddism that is obsessed with what is going on in the West and expects to replicate it here. Print is not on its way out in Tanzania: it has hardly even explored its full potential. The only concession that can be considered is the potential of mobile telephones due to its incredible penetration: put a 3G phone in the hands of every mobile phone user in Tanzania and we might just have an e-media revolution that allows content longer than 300 characters. That would be truly exciting.

Written by serengetiadvisersblog

March 2, 2010 at 10:34