What you need to know:
There is a renewed sense of commitment from Kenyan media to understand their audiences and serve them better.
There is a genuine hunger for knowledge from Kenyan journalists who are scrambling to absorb every piece of information.
It has been a wonderful year and a half for media in Kenya. Beginning September last year, we have witnessed a series of new, fresh and bold products originating from local newsrooms in a deliberate effort to keep up with the digital disruption.
Specifically, 2021 has been a year of new beginnings for Kenyan media. A new dawn for the media. A period of awakening. A rebirth and a coming of age for an industry whose best years are ahead of it.
What we are witnessing right now is a watershed moment, a time in history that many of us will remember for decades to come. This is, without a doubt, a renaissance period for Kenyan media.
From launching a powerful pan-African digital platform with East Africa’s first news paywall, to the rebirth of the national broadcaster, to the recent debut of a converged newsroom, the creation of integrated digital platforms and the launch of new vernacular TV stations, never in the history of Kenyan media has there been so much investment and drive to succeed.
There is a renewed sense of commitment from Kenyan media to understand their audiences and serve them better. There is a genuine hunger for knowledge from Kenyan journalists who are scrambling to absorb every piece of information in what is now commonly referred to as ‘retooling and reskilling’.
There is more openness to new and unconventional ideas that promise to move the needle, particularly from traditionally rigid quarters and many doors that were tightly shut are now open to new perspectives. There is a lot more flexibility, a lot more room for experimentation and higher tolerance for failure – as long as you ‘fail forward’ – apologies for using a cliché phrase.
Journalists, in a quest to prepare for the digital future, are taking the initiative to learn the media business. They are signing up for business, technology and leadership trainings and academic programmes to debunk the myth that journalists cannot run successful media businesses.
Journalists who ideally would never have bothered with ‘the numbers’ are now taking keen interest in investor briefings and financial reports in a bid to understand the financial side of the business. The proverbial ‘Chinese Wall’ that separated the church and state – the editorial from commercial side of the business – has come crumbling down faster than a Kenyan political coalition.
Journalists are now best pals with their colleagues in commercial, with whom they traditionally did not see eye to eye, except for a somber mutual nod in chance meetings at the lifts. There is notable investment in talent, drawn from diverse backgrounds like business, tech and law to bring a much-needed diversity in the newsrooms. Speaking of diversity, equity and inclusion, there is deliberate effort to promote women and young folk, a giant step in the right direction.
All this, compounded with the multibillion-shilling investments in building digital brands, restructuring newsrooms and investing in talent, make for a new dawn for Kenyan media. The future is indeed bright for Kenyan media.
The writer is the Director, Innovation Centre, at Aga Khan University; [email protected]