Media pundits: What you need to know as ‘Nation’ news consumer

A panel of pundits comprising FKF Transition Committee member Caesar Handa, Bernard Ndong and Elias Makori.

A panel of pundits comprising Football Kenya Federation (FKF) Transition Committee member Caesar Handa, NTV's Head of Sports Bernard Ndong and Nation Media Group's Managing Editor (Sports) Elias Makori before the inaugural edition of SportOn! TV sports show on September 19, 2022.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Pundits are also called “analysts” or, with less reverence, “talking heads”. Although the term is used to describe a person who is an expert in a field, not all are experts.
  • All they need to do is classify themselves as knowledgeable or learned. You may find some of their pronouncements misleading or wrong.
  • Pundits, with a few exceptions, are not opinion journalists, or columnists, who are expected to base their opinions on facts.

What is a media pundit? It’s a person often called upon by the media to give information or opinions on a topic for public consumption.

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines a pundit as “a person who knows a lot about a particular subject, or someone who gives opinions in a way that sounds intelligent or wise”.

There is no shortage of political pundits in Kenyan journalism. They tend to increase during elections.

You see them giving their views on NTV shows “AM Live” and “With All Due Respect”.

Occasionally, they appear on NTV Tonight and NTV Weekend Edition news bulletins. You also read their views in Nation news stories.

Familiar names include Dismas Mokua, Mark Bichachi, Javas Bigambo, Barrack Muluka, Prof Edward Kisiangani, Herman Manyora and Prof Macharia Munene. This short list is not in order of merit.

Some of the pundits appear once in a while or are fly-by-nights. And there are many types of pundits, depending on their subject matter.

The most employed are the political ones. But there are also sports and football pundits.

Pundits are also called “analysts” or, with less reverence, “talking heads”. Although the term is used to describe a person who is an expert in a field, not all are experts.

All they need to do is classify themselves as knowledgeable or learned. You may find some of their pronouncements misleading or wrong.

Pundits, with a few exceptions, are not opinion journalists, or columnists, who are expected to base their opinions on facts.

They are not held to the same verification and accountability. They can say things not grounded in evidence or data.

They can say whatever they believe in or want to propagate.

Pontificate

Indeed, pundits often pontificate. That, according to Cambridge Dictionary, is “to speak or write and give your opinion about something as if you knew everything about it and as if only your opinion was correct”. Below are two examples of punditry:

“Number one (reason why Raila lost the presidential elections). Raila has got this stellar record of running as an anti-establishment candidate in his entire life, from the day he joined politics. For the first four runs he was running against the system but this time round he was running as the establishment candidate. That means he was not employing his normal politics, you know, calling out on corruption and blaming everything on the state. He went to the ballot carrying all the Jubilee liabilities on his back.” (Dismas Mokua, NTV AM Live, September 21, 2022.)

“I am advising those who are telling Ruto to soldier on. Soldier on to where? The roadblock is too thorough. There is no route for Ruto in 2022. It has been blocked.” (Herman Manyora, NTV AM Live, March 9, 2020).

Punditry in journalism is not a full-time job. In America, pundits, also known as contributors, are freelancers who are put on a retainer.

In Kenya, most pundits are not paid and are just too glad to be called upon or invited to give their opinion.

Most pundits, however, benefit in their other pursuits from the publicity they get as pundits—depending, of course on how good they are.

Are pundits valuable to news consumers? You’ll find that knowledgeable or good pundits can add value to the news.

They can expand and explain issues, and give dimension and new perspectives. They also have entertainment value.

They can bring the reader or viewer satisfaction when their views confirm their own.

And when they express views that offend their views or beliefs, they can be irritating, even unsettling.

And when pundits get nothing right or their predictions turn out to be wrong, we tend to write them off.

We then hope NTV or the Nation newspapers will stop calling them for their views.

For all the reasons above, we as news consumers tend to have our favourite or hated pundits.

When that happens, we should let NTV or Nation know. We are, after all, the consumers of the journalism punditry.

***

Where’s the neutrality in reporting politics?

What I refer to your article “Live coverage: Why barring local TV stations was unfair and illegal”(Daily Nation, September 16, 2022). What exactly does bias in reporting mean? If a political party owns a media house, would it be compelled by the law to give equal coverage to all political parties?

I believe media neutrality in coverage of politics is more of a business than a professional decision.

And this neutrality is not necessarily a good thing, from many points of view. NMG so far tries its hardest to be objective and neutral.

But this is also a business decision, based on the fact that the owner has no “direct” political interests but, most importantly, the fact that the media would not want to antagonise any part of the audience—for business reasons.

The downside to this is when the media tries to be good to everyone; it becomes extremely conservative and sometimes boring. This is the reason why Nation is sometimes such a dull media.

— Daniel Njaga

* * *

Readers expect much from ‘Weekly Review’

The reintroduction of The Weekly Review in the Sunday Nation on September 4, 2022, was a moment to behold.

Although I was not born when the first generation of The Weekly Review was conceived, my dad, an ardent reader of this publication, kept a record of them all, which I discreetly inherited when I came of age. And I have quite a heap of them.

With this inheritance came the passion for reading.

The interplay between fearless, accurate reportage and top-notch language command from emerging political commentators of the time kept me hovering around these magazines to the last copy.

Given the shrunken media space at the time, The Weekly Review remained just about the only option for the adults to catch up on reliable information about the happenings of the time.

Kwendo Opanga, Lucy Oriang’, Mutegi Njau, Macharia Gaitho et al. Having these former reporters, now seasoned in both age and command of facts, comes with a load of expectations from us readers. They evoke nostalgic emotions.

It is our hope that the second generation of The Weekly Review will meet, if not exceed, the expectations of readers.

— Robert Osichiro Johnston, Kwale

The Public Editor is an independent news ombudsman who handles readers’ complaints on editorial matters including accuracy and journalistic standards. Email: [email protected] Call or text 0721989264.


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