Veteran journalist Edem Djokotoe has remained on the case of local journalists for being locked up to mediocre coverage of news given the manner they handled the fall of Robert Mugabe’s story that is on the Zambian doorstep.
Djokotoe was particularly riled that national broadcaster ZNBC had to tap into international networks like Aljazeera for the story when they could have told it first-hand.
The media trainer cum consultant has shown his impatience with mediocrity demanding more from the statement obsessed local scribes.
BELOW IS HIS FULL POST:
In 2012, the Kenyan journalist, Tom Mboya and his cameraman, Evanson Nyaga, won the CNN African Journalist of the Year award. Their entry, selected from 1,799 others from 42 countries, was a most remarkable piece of journalism. A story about a long-forgotten and little-known tribe of Kikuyus deep in the heart of Gujarat country in India.
To get the story, both men, working for Citizen TV in Nairobi, flew to India and then travelled hundreds of kilometres by road to find the tribe living on the fringes of society, despised and considered lower than the lowest caste. The British took members of the tribe there to work as cheap labour decades earlier when they had a colonial presence in Kenya, used them and abandoned them.
End of Empire and India’s own independence did little to transform the fortunes of these people.
In spite of the years that had passed, they still spoke Gikuyu and maintained some of the traditions of their motherland in song and dance.
Mboya and Nyaga’s story also won the award for Best Television Feature. The judges were almost unanimous in agreeing that the two men had invested effort and passion into their work, going way beyond the call of duty to tell a story that had gone untold for many years. Having watched the report and seen what kind of logistical challenges it must have posed, I am inclined to agree with the judges.
But most importantly, it proves that when you invest in a good story, the results will inevitably show.
Why am I dredging all this up five years after the fact? For a number of reasons but I will stick to one. Apart from the fact that the awards ceremony in question was held at the Government Complex in Lusaka and was co-hosted by ZNBC’s own Franklin Tembo Jr, it helps me prove a point I made on this very wall earlier this week—that news is an expensive business, that you won’t know the facts until you spend money to get boots on the ground, even if it means climbing mountains and crossing rivers. That’s how you get to give people a sense of what is going on, which is what news should be.
Two days before the awards ceremony, ZNBC had hosted a breakfast for the judges, some contestants and a selected number of guests at Protea Hotel, Cairo Road. I was privileged to be among the guests, having been invited because I had just finished conducting a month of training for the Corporation’s TV news reporters, looking at ways in which they could make reporting more incisive and more responsive to public interest.
During the breakfast, ZNBC Director-General at the time, Chibamba Kanyama, challenged the local journalists in attendance to do the kind of stories that won awards and brought glory to Zambian journalism.
Of course, Mr. Kanyama has since moved on, but the Corporation is still there—and this week, finds itself in the eye of a professional storm because it did not respond editorially to what will go down as one of the biggest stories of the decade.
The ousting of Robert Mugabe from the helms of state in neighbouring Zimbabwe after 37 years in charge.
Instead it settled for reporting the story by remote control, monitoring what the major international networks were saying about a story that was happening under 500 kilometres away in Harare.
No matter what kind of spin anybody puts on what did not happen and why, there is no excuse for not sending a news crew to Harare. And for that Posterity will remain eternally harsh in its indictment.