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No, there are no gods in journalism, newsrooms

By Joseph Maina
Thursday, November 19th, 2020
Journalism. Photo/Courtesy
In summary

Local journalism is inundated with talk of deities. We see journalists and media practitioners clamp deities onto their everyday discourse, from invoking blessings to audiences to praying for health, wealth, good weather and good governance.

The talk about supernatural powers has been suffused into our day-to-day media content, to an extent that an ordinary member of the audience could assume that deities are homogenous to journalism. But are deities part of journalism? 

Well, they are not, and this is why.  We must start from the premise that journalism is a discipline, profession or undertaking that pursues and disseminates facts.  

It is difficult to contemplate a situation where journalism would deviate from this position.

But if there is a school of thought that would justifiably endorse such a position, then it should be advanced and taught in our media schools. 

To put it another way, when a practitioner is not disseminating facts, they are practising something else.

So, is it journalistic to sign off a news bulletin – as happens in our TV news - with typical cliches that invoke the blessings of a supernatural power? “Have a good night, viewers. See you, God willing, tomorrow.”

The question one would ask is what to make out of this remark, which would ordinarily be interpreted as an innocent and well-meant statement of good will.

Who, or what, is the journalist talking about in the statement? Is God a sentient, tangible and relatable being to tools at disposal of a typical newsroom?

Can any of our local media channels demonstrably prove – whether a priori or a posteriori - that an event in the future is pegged on the will of deities, whose identities remain obscure? 

Which facet of our journalism training endorses the delivery of such remark? 

Is this a factual claim? Well, if it isn’t a factual claim, then we must resort to our earlier premise that journalism is pegged on fact (and fact alone).

This inevitably consigns the remark to the dustbins of illogical twaddle.  It would be fallacious to rebut these concerns with a proclamation of our freedom of worship.

That doesn’t suffice, as the argument here doesn’t challenge the right to worship or commit your fancies to whatever you feel like.

Neither does the equally defective retort, popular in offhand Kenyan discourse, “everyone is entitled to his or her opinion” hold any water.

The question pokes holes into flawed practice by persons who ought to know better, violating a fundamental principle of the practice of journalism - that of communicating facts.

We might, for a moment, ignore the patent irony seen when a purported purveyor of facts veers momentarily to sound off a line that doesn’t enjoy the grounding of fact. 

Which newsroom, here or anywhere,  would justify such religious quips in the daily work of a professional?

Does such communication enjoy sanction of media bosses in institutions, or is it the prerogative of individual practitioner?

It is noteworthy that university journalism course incorporates more intellectual courses in logic, epistemology and other philosophical specialisations.

The purpose is to enhance a culture of disciplined and sensible use of one’s intellect in their day-to-day interactions with publics we serve. 

Unless, of course, there exists a media channel that can sufficiently relay the exact form and nature of the deity in question, these kinds of assertions can only be interpreted as the rambling of quacks, and a brazen indictment of quality of journalism schooling and practice in the land. As things stand, there are no gods in the newsroom. — The writer is a journalist —[email protected]