Tag Archives: media sector

Running a hybrid – NGO and media cultures combine

A little while ago, I posted an old op-ed column by Rakesh Rajani, in which he asked “What if NGOs were newspapers?” And I promised to follow it up with some thoughts on our situation here at Daraja, where we are an NGO that runs newspapers, to see how accurate Rakesh’s ideas were. Well, here goes.

Rakesh’s main point was that NGOs are not subject to the strict deadlines that rule newspapers’ work, or to the same kind of pressure that newspapers face to give readers what they want. A reporter who misses a deadline finds that their story isn’t published. A newspaper that comes out late risks missing out on sales and undermining their readers’ trust. And if a newspaper writes about things that don’t interest their readers then that paper won’t get bought again. The nearest equivalent pressures on NGOs have often very little to do with the community – their “beneficiaries” – and more to do with keeping their donors happy.

In other words, NGOs aren’t as strongly accountable to the community as newspapers for doing their work on time or for doing it well. Continue reading

The politics of water supply are coming to the boil

This blog has long argued that the major challenges in the water sector are more political than technical. We have also highlighted the fact that the political nature of the challenges has not been matched by political attention. Water supply was largely ignored in the 2010 election campaigns, for example, not featuring in the major campaign promises of any of the big three parties’ presidential candidates nor gaining much attention in election media coverage (here and here).

Now, four separate developments in the past few weeks point to a change in the politics of water supply in Tanzania. So what are the new developments, and what is the change that they point to? Continue reading

Corruption in literature – some great reads

The great MG Vassanji, author of many of the best East African novels, was in Tanzania recently, and has shared his thoughts on Tanzania in a fascinating piece published in the Canadian magazine Macleans – “Tanzania: land of constant complaints.”

I’m not sure he has it quite right with the headline, since apathy, low expectations and just getting on with things are more my experience. An SNV study, for example, elicited a very different thought from a respondent: “What do we expect from our government? It is like the rain: if it does not rain we try to survive, when it rains we are grateful.” Continue reading

The Tanzanian media has had a bad crisis

The Tanzanian media has had a bad crisis

It seems I wasn’t entirely fair when I recently complained about the inaccuracy of a couple of photos circulating around Tanzania’s social media scene following the tragic MV Spice Islander disaster. The mainstream media has done no better.

First, a brief reminder. The photos below are not of the MV Spice Islander, but rather photos from previous ferry tragedies elsewhere in the world, and yet they were both posted widely on facebook, twitter and various blogs over the weekend of the disaster. For an explanation of where the photos were originally taken, see my earlier post.

Yes, the social media users I highlighted got it wrong, but then so did several mainstream media outlets, many of which have published the first of these photos in print and/or online. Continue reading

#ZanzibarBoatAccident and the Tanzanian media - failure all round?

#ZanzibarBoatAccident and the Tanzanian media – failure all round?

The tragic events taking place in Zanzibar in the early hours of Saturday morning are a national disaster, and three days of mourning have rightly been declared. Our thoughts are with those who lost lives or lost loved ones. May their souls rest in peace.

The disaster raises questions about regulation of maritime transport and accountability, though it is too soon to reach firm conclusions on what went wrong and too soon to see whether people will be held to account.

But we can begin assessing how the media handled the 24 hours after the crisis broke.

Continue reading

Who guards the guards? Scandal and corruption in the UK

For a keen follower of media issues, the past month was a great time to be visiting the UK. In case you missed it, a huge scandal blew up over illegal practices at the News of the World newspaper, which itself turned into a scandal about the amount of influence News International (the paper’s owners) had over the police and senior politicians. The result was what one respected media commentator described as a “revolution“.

I won’t recount the full story here as it is long enough to fill a book (or two), but I will try to cover the key points in brief before thinking about the story’s implications for the Tanzania media. Continue reading

What would "free" distribution mean for Tanzanian newspapers?

What would “free” distribution mean for Tanzanian newspapers?

The (UK) Guardian published an article this week on it’s Global Development website about @Verdade, a weekly newspaper in Mozambique that’s distributed completely free of charge. The same paper has been the focus of articles in Time magazine and Think Africa Press as well. They give away 50,000 copies a week, and estimate their weekly readership to be around 400,000 people, making it the most read newspaper in Mozambique.

I’m not aware of any Tanzanian newspapers that are distributed free of charge. There are plenty of newsletters and the like, some of which are made to look like newspapers, but there’s a big difference between a company, government department or organisation publishing a newsletter to promote its own work and a genuine newspaper trying to be profitable using without charging a cover price. Even Femina, publishers of Fema and Si Mchezo magazines, for which the vast majority of copies are distributed free of charge is not really using a free model as it’s usually understood since it is funded by donors. Nor are they really news magazines. Continue reading