Sometime last month a Dar es Salaam-based communications company invited senior journalists and media managers to a half-day “interactive media training seminar”.
The invitation held the promise of a splendid opportunity for those able to attend as, after all, there is hardly any chance of one really graduating into a truly accomplished media practitioner without drawing from the wisdom, experience and expertise of veterans in the field. And these are usually the very ones standing as facilitators at such seminars, symposiums, workshops, etc.
This time around, all the four facilitators would be “renowned media management experts” – a Nairobi-based company chief executive officer who would talk on personal and corporate branding, two university dons also based in Nairobi (one a media management expert) and a media studies lecturer from the University of Dar es Salaam.
That was doubtless a formidable outfit and there was every reason to expect it to deliver to satisfaction on the organisers’ promise of a seminar meant to kick-start the media re-branding and image restoration process in Tanzania and equip the participants with effective communication and managerial skills.
The event was also meant to enable the participants to devise strategies that would enable the Tanzanian media in “to win back the lost bonding with the public and other stakeholders such as the government, parliament, judiciary and investors”.
But if that was by any credible measure a plus for the seminar, it was also ironically its undoing – and this chiefly because of the major flaws in the assumptions by those who mooted the idea of organising the event.
They correctly noted that the Tanzanian have made big strides since the re-introduction of multiparty politics in 1992 although there were still grappling with challenges such as lack of training facilities and shortage of trained staff.
But the organisers then became overly rash by declaring: “As a result, the nation has been subjected to unprofessional and unethical reporting as well as media practice. Thus media credibility has over the years suffered serious dent in its image.”
They added, again a bit too presumptuously, that the seminar would enable participants to reflect on the best way forward and ensure “re-branding and restoration of the media’s image in Tanzania”.
Granted, it will be quite some time before the Tanzanian media can operate in the most conducive of conditions all wish prevailed. It is however worse than a distortion suggesting that they are operating in conditions mimicking hell and have lost public trust. Those who know Tanzania well enough know this.
The picture painted about the status of the Tanzanian media ought to be dismissed as a gross misrepresentation of the facts on the ground.
While we should warmly welcome constructive criticism, we must tell all those doubting our sense of direction and our resolve to develop in dignity that we are the ones wearing the shoes and know best where and how they pinch most.
We shouldn’t get derailed; our media and agencies such as the Media Council of Tanzania and the Tanzania Editors Forum are still very young but they are vibrant and are doing our nation proud. Let’s resolve to further support them for our nation’s good instead of frustrating them.