Serengeti Advisers Media

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Posts Tagged ‘The Guardian

In the spirit of openness…

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The Tanzania Standard Newspapers (TSN), publishers of Daily News and Habari Leo and their sister publications, Sunday News and Habari Leo Jumapili, has today announced the names of its new incoming board of directors which will be chaired by a former civil servant, Mr. William Mukama.

One wonders whether other media houses will let us know who makes up their board of directors. Will IPP Media, home of The Guardian and Nipashe? Will Mwananchi Communications, owners of The Citizen and Mwananchi? How about Media Solutions, publishers of This Day and Kulikoni?

All these organisations love to harp on about how we need more openness from our government institutions. Well, may be they need to practice a little more transparency themselves.

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?

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March 3, 2010 at 13:27


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When is a political party not a political party? When it is a pressure group. In The African (website under construction) today, John Tendwa says the party is a ‘hoax’ and has not been registered. Also today in Mwananchi  CCJ’s secretary general Renatus Muabhi is quoted as saying that the party does not aspire to public office but would rather concentrate on bringing certain important issues to light and into the political debate. So which one is it folks, are you or are you not a political party?

A front page story in today’s Rai – ‘Tanzania si salama [Tanzania is unsafe], could be the first decent investigative piece of the year.  A brief but nonetheless chilling expose of how easy it is to acquire a driving license for any sort of vehicle without taking a driving test, this story explains the chaos of the roads in Tanzania and maybe gives clues as to why our highways are often scenes of deathly carnage.

Who is Mohamed Raza and why must we listen to what he has to say on Zanzibar issues? On the front page of The Guardian today, Mr. Raza, always referred to as a ‘Prominent Businessman,’ was once an adviser on sports issues to former Zanzibar President Salmin Amour. Known for his garish attire and well publicized sports kits donations, there is little else to know about this media hungry commentator who seems to have a knack of getting the press to print his views on Zanzibari issues, despite having never held elective office. Or is there something more to him than meets the eye?

There is something very sinister about the grim photographs emerging from the Haiti disaster. Nearly a fortnight after the tragedy, international press organizations such as Reuters, continue to push out images of dead bodies, bloodied children and hoards of black desperate faces in scrums for food, medicine and anything else that their foreign saviors are sending them. During the ill fated excursion to Iraq, GW Bush went to great lengths to ensure that photos of dead marines did not suffice in the global media. The conventional wisdom at the time suggested this was in order to prevent a domestic backlash to an unpopular war. But perhaps the move had more to do with preserving the dignity of the dead. This is a lesson that is unfortunately rarely applied when it comes to those with a darker complexion.

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January 28, 2010 at 16:36

Annals of Shoddy Journalism

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Regular readers of Serengeti’s Media Report will remember a Yellow Couch piece in the March issue of last year about how some newspapers have the tendency to rely exclusively on anonymous sources in their news stories. As the piece argued at the time, anonymity, with few exceptions, is overused and has become a way for sources to disseminate information and their versions of the truth without being accountable for what they say. Far worse it can turn journalists into active participants in the spread of misleading and at times biased stories. You can read the rest of the Yellow Couch here.

A perfect illustration of this pathology appeared today on the front page of The Guardian. In a stunning piece of spin masquerading as journalism, the paper published a story that quoted ‘experts’ who think that the Bank of Tanzania (BoT) was right to spend Tshs 2.5bn/ to build new residences for it’s top two executives. Here are cited sources as they appear in the article:

‘leading economists and prominent industrialists’, ‘Dar es Salaam-based economic consultant’, ‘a retired banker who…has known incumbent BoT governor…“extremely well for decades”, ‘several prominent businesspersons dealing in import and export trade’, ‘a prominent business analyst’, ‘a BoT inside source’, ‘ a senior official of the central bank’, ‘a renowned political scientist’.

None of these sources are named nor is it explained to readers how they came to be ‘leading’, ‘prominent’, or ‘renowned’. Not a single sentence in the whole piece quoted an alternate perspective, allowing the opinions of these ‘leading’, ‘prominent’ and ‘renowned’ shadowy figures to enter the public sphere unchallenged. Furthermore, because of their anonymity readers are unable to ascertain the sources’ motives and why they decided to hide their identities. On top of that the story itself is not bylined. Readers have to contend themselves with the vague, ‘By Guardian Team’ (This in itself should be interrogated. Who makes up this Guardian team, especially since, according to news reports, most of the ‘junior reporters’ working for The Guardian Newspapers Ltd. are on suspension?) below the headline, ‘Experts:why furore over BoT chief’s residence?’

This is not journalism. It is propaganda. It is shameful and it should stop.

UPDATE: In its editorial today, The Guardian continues to push the spin advanced by the anonymous sources in the above story. Regurgitating almost verbatim the arguments put forward by its ‘leading’, ‘prominent’,  and ‘renowned’ sources, the paper has essentially become a parrot for their views. This is propaganda journalism at its most shameless. The intriguing question is, why is The Guardian engaging in such biased and shallow reporting in defense of this BoT decision?

UPDATE II: If you are curious on the subject of anonymous sources and how they should be used in journalism take a look at these guidelines from The New York Times and The Washington Post.

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January 19, 2010 at 17:42