Media Poverty – Must we Remain Like This?

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By: Sheku Putka Kamara

For the purposes of this narration, I am approaching this subject matter on a range of perspectives. First, the fact that most media institutions find it extremely difficult to survive in the very media space and second, the obvious reality that most media practitioners are still underpaid even though Six Hundred Leones (Le 600) is believed to be the minimum wage. To me, the reality that we are still faced with some of these challenges means that we still have a long way to go.

The fundamental roles of the media come with several sacrifices, but if the foundations are lacking, then, that’s just it. Nothing else may matter. Many a time, we expect journalists to be very professional and what have you. However, we tend to pay little or no attention to the conditions of service that are associated to being a newsman in and out of Freetown. How would you expect a needy journalist to be independent? Even common sense would know the answer. Imagine getting $50 or even less from someone or an entity that is to be investigated for some wrongdoings? The dilemma would clearly be visible. Chances are that the very investigator is someone that is not even paid. You see that? This is why it is necessary for media owners and managers to put right modalities in place.

If we agree that you cannot bite the finger that feeds you, we may as well just have to protect the journalists even where it may be morally and ethically incorrect. I will argue that we need better platforms and it has to start with the very governance and administration of the media space. Management is something huge. Even with the machinery, manpower and minutes, there has to be the money. That is what keeps all other essentials going.

If we expect much from journalists, then we also need to provide the enabling environments. This is very crucial for survival, growth and stability. The responsibility of a newsman is to get the facts right, but if the right atmosphere to get those facts is not readily available, the results may be counterproductive. This is why the much-needed attention should be given to this subject matter. Media poverty has a huge toll on media production. Institutions mostly depend on ads and related other economic benefits. Sadly, payment of advertising for most ministries, departments and agencies come almost always late and that is if they decide to honour same at their earliest convenience.

These issues continue to affect the media landscape. It is relevant to address these matters in every respect. In 2016, Rachel Smithley of Concordia University Chicago observed that Oscar Lewis’s definition of poverty states that people are trapped in poverty due to norms and aspirations. The poor cope with their conditions by developing survival techniques, yet these mechanisms only continue to worsen their state of poverty for the generations to come. When asked the question of what causes poverty, some reply with reasons such as structural inequality, lack of resources, political economy, powerlessness, or individual inferiority. Dr. Williams states, “The root causes of poverty are pathological norms and values.” Poverty makes us chronically anxious.

For the media, these inequalities still exist and the sooner they are addressed, the better. I had a few discussions in line with this subject matter and what most colleagues did suggest is that there is a need for some policy review. I think they have a point. First, we may need to get an association of media owners. They are likely to better advocate for better advertising conditions among other things. Second, editors need to begin to work as one. It is interesting to note that there are editors whose names were taken to IMC for example, but that they are not on any payroll. You see? The problem starts from there.

Logically speaking, if you cannot pay the editor, what more should we say about the reporters? The issues seem unending. I will not write a thousand words and over on this narration. Maybe the position is clear and the way forward is also evident for all to see. There is need for more and more media investment. It is also apt to recruit trained and qualified personnel, but maybe most importantly, journalists need some encouraging take homes. It will lessen a whole lot of other vices.

It is my hope that we get to such a position in the shortest possible time. So, ALL of us need to come on board and make this dream a reality.

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