The attitude towards news says a lot about our society

I will start by declaring my immense love or even addiction to news consumption. My average day can easily involve hours before a TV screen watching news channels.
Allan Brian Ssenyonga
Allan Brian Ssenyonga

I will start by declaring my immense love or even addiction to news consumption. My average day can easily involve hours before a TV screen watching news channels. Many times when I am riding in a taxi, if I have earphones then it is because I am listening to the BBC, not Rihanna.

I buy newspapers every week as well as news magazines. Every now and then I log onto news websites to keep myself abreast with events happening in this country and far beyond. You could say that I am not the average person and that I am simply a journalist known to keep tabs on things happening and how they are being reported. Well that could true. But it is not the only truth.

I was lucky to grow up with a parent who bought newspapers regularly and followed the news quite keenly. However I was not special in anyway. My mother worked in a bank not a news organisation. Back then, news was a big deal to any adult and the culture was unknowingly passed on to the children.

It was common for example to find that when it was time for news on TV, and food had not yet been served then it would have to be served after. This is because the big people in the house never wanted any distraction as they watched news.

The same applied to news from the radios. One of the easiest ways to earn an instant and thorough beating from a parent in those days was if by some stroke of madness you touched the radial dial and it moved from news to some other channel that was playing music instead.

It was a criminal offence to use the day’s paper to light the charcoal stove before it had been read by the person who bought it. In many cases the buyer of the newspaper would read almost all the stories and so sometimes he/she would take a break but that did not mean they were through with it.

Generally speaking, in those days people were very concerned about what was being reported in the news whether it was on TV, radio or in the newspapers. Information was valued and sought after by almost anyone around and this rubbed off their children as well. 

Fast forward to 2012 and things are not quite the same any more. In the first place what is considered news has changed for many people. For example, I may be interested in watching Al Jazeera to find out what is happening in Syria or Goma. Meanwhile so many other people especially the youth will be trying to find out whether Manchester City is going to buy a striker from a Spanish team.

When in the taxi, little thought is given before a hasty change of the car radio from a BBC news bulletin to a station relaying Kinyarwanda commentary of the game between Chelsea and Liverpool. The children no longer see parents who value news now that football has become the news.

I used to pride myself in knowing the names of ministers and presidents when I was young. Today the young boys are proud of naming the 11 players of Manchester not government ministers.

The people who used to buy newspapers to read and find out what is happening in Congo or Syria are now just interested in looking at the back pages to find out which teams performed well in the weekend football games played in England and Spain.

In such a scenario it is going to be quite difficult to nurture the information based society we aspire for as per the country’s Vision 2020. How do we teach our children to love and seek knowledge that is not trivial like how much Barcelona pays Lionel Messi? The people in the media business also have to think about this. Why should radios spend so much time discussing football as if any of that will build our societies?


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