Opinion: Media professionals should promote reporting on entrepreneurship
A glance at English language newspapers in South Sudan shows that most of their pages are filled with political commentaries, opinions, “open letters” and “congratulatory messages.” The first few pages carry the “real news,” in most cases dominated with intra and inter-communal clashes, cattle rustling, and displacement due to flooding and hunger, to cite but a few examples.
Generally, as you flip through the pages, you find that readers are first treated to what one would characterize as “sad news” relating to coverage on conflicts and displacement, and, on the other hand, they find their conscience immediately “twisted” with political opinions of writers whose pieces usually display anguish, ridicule, vendetta, incitement, flatter, etc. in the subsequent pages. Sometimes, there are articles that make readers’ faces really beam with happiness because they represent “good news” to them, such as the appointment of new office bearers hailing from their region or ethnic group.
Let’s get it right. It is acceptably imperative for journalists of print and broadcast media houses to report on all important political and social events as well as on natural and man-made disasters affecting people and their livelihoods. Readers, listeners and viewers have a right to be informed on the important happenings around them. After all, media professionals have a “social contract,” a tacit agreement if you like, that compels them to inform, educate and entertain the public. Through opinion pieces and commentaries, readers are able to pick some educative bits that can help transform their lives. Some readers can easily pick up the skill of writing and presenting their arguments in a persuasive and convincing manner. Entertainment stories, on the other hand, help improve the psychosocial wellbeing of readers, besides offering them an opportunity to acquire important moral values that enable them to relate and coexist peacefully among themselves.
Ordinarily, it should be pointed out at the outset, newspaper readers have varied interests. While some of them have a passionate interest in reading about political news articles and opinions, others are only inclined to sports, cartoons and crossword puzzles. Interestingly, a few readers only buy newspapers to find out what their favourite horoscope “commands” them to do or how they should behave! While some people are interested in reading stories on health, diet and crime, others are passionate readers of stories about business and technological advancements. These few examples can help draw our attention to the need for print media houses to cover a variety of topics to meet the ever-growing and changing demand/taste of their readers. It is like having a balanced diet for the human body.
So, what is the problem? Generally, our newspapers have not more than sixteen pages. The pages are all allocated for national or local news, editorials, opinions and commentaries, adverts, regional or international news and sports. Most of the news is either “given” to the media houses by the assigned spokespersons of the different government and military departments or it is simply and purely “lifted from” a news website which many readers also have access to. Many readers usually gloss over such stories, which they find somewhat “stale.” There are usually a few stories that result from a journalist’s investigative efforts! In other words, many news stories covered in the daily papers usually do not conform to the dictum that “If a dog bites a man it is not news, but if a man bites a dog it is.”
The print media have less coverage, if any, of efforts and activities capable of spurring economic growth and development through entrepreneurship development across South Sudan. Most often than not, journalists dwell on coverage of political events, making readers think that that is what only matters to them and to the nation at large. After all, journalists usually instinctively or deliberately set the agenda for what they think is the most important news or information for the public to know. That is why avid readers of newspapers or news websites usually talk about more or less the same issues whenever they meet at tea places, restaurants or in their social clubs. Everyone makes sure they go through the topical stories of the day in order to have what to say, lest they appear as uniformed!
That’s why, for instance, someone will ensure they read almost all the important articles of the day in the news websites if they can have access. They will even stretch their efforts to the limit to ensure they have enough internet bundles to enable them to access such important news items via their laptops or smartphones… This is a commendable effort. It is good to be regularly informed by following the current affairs in and around one’s country.
There appears to be a sharp contrast between the print media sector in South Sudan and that in the East African region, especially in Uganda. Granted, newspapers there also used to dedicate much of their coverage to political activities for long, but there is now a big shift towards covering stories that promote economic growth through the promotion of an entrepreneurial spirit among the citizens. Actually, more and more pages of the leading English dailies such as Daily Monitor and New Vision are devoted to coverage on poultry, fish farming, fruit farming, beekeeping, piggery and bricklaying, just to mention but a few examples. There, newspapers usually abound with stories of civil servants who quit their professions in order to start a new life in fields such as poultry farming, fruit farming or dairy cattle keeping. The idea here is not to encourage people to abandon their professions but to ensure that they become productive to themselves and to the nation at large through engagement in entrepreneurship activities.
It’s also possible to devote a few pages of the daily papers for the coverage of these important sectors as a means of promoting entrepreneurship across South Sudan. Editors–In–Chief of the different newspapers such as Juba Monitor, The Dawn and Citizen can assign reporters tasks of identifying individuals who have ventured in these areas and report about them. Such articles can enable readers to know what happens around the country, besides being inspired to engage in promoting their livelihoods through investing their efforts in gainful economic activities. There are individuals involved in serious crop and fruit farming activities in South Sudan, but yet not many people know them! How about women crushing rocks into small stones for building houses? All these are important efforts that have to be reported in order to stimulate entrepreneurship development across South Sudan. Readers would be delighted to know how stone crushing, for instance, has lifted a woman or group of individuals out of poverty. Media houses can also occasionally use stories of such efforts from other countries in the region such as Uganda and Kenya.
By promoting entrepreneurship development among South Sudanese citizens, the media will also be indirectly contributing their efforts towards promoting the attainment of long-lasting and durable peace in the country. The conflicts that usually dominate the news coverage in our daily newspapers are generally a direct consequence of lack of gainful economic activities that the people are - or can be - engaged in. When you do not have any meaningful livelihood activities with which to sustain your living, you can easily be tempted to take by force what does not legally belong to you. Idle persons can also be easily manipulated by politicians and criminals to cause havoc in society.
It is time media professionals set a new agenda of promoting entrepreneurship in South Sudan. Through the different media houses to which they are attached, journalists have to ensure important efforts capable of spurring economic growth and development are captured in the news. In so doing, many readers will likely get inspired to engage themselves and their community members in income-generating activities instead of overreliance on the government and non-governmental organizations for their survival.
Alfred Geri is a veteran journalist and an educationist. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in ‘opinion’ articles published by Radio Tamazuj are solely those of the writer. The veracity of any claims made are the responsibility of the author, not Radio Tamazuj.