By Bernard Wainaina
I must start by apologising to my fans on these Facebook pages and my blog for posting this seemingly irrelevant article.
I had planned to post an update article about African Agribusiness leadership and ethics conference in Kigali, Rwanda last week,that I attended,where the role of print and electronic media in promoting Agribusiness in Africa was among the major items under discussion.
Back in Kenya,and exhausted after long travel,I tuned to my local TV station for an update on the current local news.
Two items headlined under Linda Okello court case,and Vera Sidika TV interview caught my attention.
I’m a man,just like the next man,and I have my fair share of vanities as far as the opposite sex is concerned.
Prudes would like to scream “pervert!” at my honest admission of voyeurism that is now gracing our National TV news.
Big “butt” is becoming big news in Kenya!
In recent weeks, Kenyans have been gripped by news of two women’s bottoms.
For one lady, her behind has turned into a human rights issue;she is policewoman. There is nothing she can do about her big butt,other than to hide it in baggy police uniform,so the human rights groups are saying.
For the other, it is an enterprise.
Big money is following her big butt.
It is her business.
And it is thriving,in spite of jaded envy by her fellow womenfolk,to the glee of men!
And for those like me who turn on the TV for serious news, we have become lost – which leads me to
ponder our news values.
But first some background.
Linda Okello is a police woman who has served the Kenya police force for 11 years.
Until April this year, no-one beyond her family, colleagues and circle of friends knew who she was.
But when a national newspaper decided to publish a photo of Linda Okello as she performed her police
duties, everything changed and she became an instant newsmaker in Kenya.
The tight skirt she wore that day, revealing a well-endowed behind, has continued to be the subject of
lively debate in Kenyan media.
Some felt that by choosing to focus on Ms Okello’s skirt, the media itself had turned to trivia.
But when the police unwisely chose to take disciplinary action against the officer, Kenyans(more so,men) came to her defence with a huge outcry especially on social media.
I was among those who felt strongly that the police action was a case of misplaced priorities.
In a country grappling with insecurity, the police have far more pressing issues to deal with than
chasing bulging skirts gracing their female officers bottoms.
Eventually the police backed down.
But Ms Okello has gone ahead and sued the police force.
She wants the court to declare that the disciplinary proceedings that had been started against her allegedly untidy mode of dressing were illegal and intended to embarrass her.
Then there is Vera Sidika, a Kenyan “celebrity” who is famous and controversial on account of her backside.
She was on national television last week where for 20 minutes she was interviewed about her look, skin
lightening, and – well, that big bottom.
When asked why she is in the habit of flaunting her rear, Ms Sidika had a snappy response: “It’s part of
my body, am I meant to cut it off?”
So that has become part of our evening news diet here in Kenya.
And even for a God-fearing faithful man like myself, who is determined to discipline where my eyes look –
an act that is itself a herculean test – the failure rate is very high.
That is partly because even the very process of delivering the news to the viewer has been hijacked by vanity.
Some of our female news anchors worry more about what and how much they show of themselves than
the news content they deliver.
It does not help that these days the newsreader has been liberated from the desk and is now free to wander around the studio set displaying her wares as it were.
Some now call it “catwalk news”.
I’d rather call it “butt-show news”.
Sadly then, our news values have sunk to the very bottom-catch the tone of this cliche and underline “bottom”.
I became even more disheartened while attending an African Agribusiness leadership and ethics conference in Kigali, Rwanda last week, when I learnt that these
practices are alive and kicking in other parts of the continent.
The media editors attending our meeting decried the fact that today many of the young broadcasters are
attracted to the profession, not by calling or by a desire to tell the stories of society’s struggles for a
better or just world.
Rather the ambition is quick and easy money, fame and its by-products,like free “butt-shows” on live TV news.
My own catwalk approach to news anchoring was nipped in the bud early in my journalism career as a member of journalism club during my High School and College days.
I remember the day I sat at the students canteen soliciting feedback about my performance shortly
after starting to read a simulated TV news on the Kenyan Broadcasting Corporation during an educational tour to their studios.
“How did I look on the “News”?, I asked a colleague.
Even before my friend could answer, an elderly editor who was quietly listening to our conversation as he
navigated his way round his plate of rice and matumbo (tripe) jumped in.
“Young man, it’s not about how you look – it’s about what you’re reading and whether the audience can
understand and follow,” he said.
This basic lesson in mass communication has never left me even after giving up ‘Journalism’ for a Science Course in College.
After a 20-year career at the Agribusiness Sector, 10 of them as a
as an Agribusiness Consultant, today I spend much of my time helping
to shape African Farmers of the future and desperately steering them away from poverty to
the professional run that is Agribusiness.
I teach community media-based presentation on a part-time basis at
my former University and my first question to each new class is always: “What motivated you to
pursue Agricultural journalism?”
If the answer is “to tell stories, or reflect people’s lives” then my heart jumps with joy.
But when the response is “because I have the looks or I want to be famous”, then my heart sinks.
It means that in a few years I will switch on my television only for my attention to be grabbed by big
bums instead of focussed news that enlighten and educate our citizens.
“The African Story as told by Africans”.©African News Digest®