The news was a hot ticket item anywhere in the world including Kenya, and many television stations earned a place within their market based on how they presented it to the public. Nowadays, the news is not enough. You need discussions to make the story interesting, informative and entertaining. Kenya has many discussion platforms offered by various media houses. Some focus on business, most concentrate on politics, others on relationships and a few on feel-good topics such as inspirational stories. Encouraging healthy discussions on these shows is important because they influence the quality and shape of the discourse that goes on among the common folk. Unfortunately, the level of debate on these platforms is mediocre except a few. Here are the exceptions.
- Monday Special by Janet Mbugua on Citizen Mondays at 9.30pm
Monday Special is a show that focuses on everyday issues through the voice of the ordinary person. You will always find someone who is not a celebrity, politician or expert on the show. This person is there to speak about the issue as they face it. The professionals will think about people as opposed to thinking in theoretical abstracts because someone facing the issue in question is before them.
Janet moderates the show maturely giving an opportunity to each speaker while limiting her personal views on the matter. She acts with decorum encouraging her panel to do the same, and she does not pursue biased angles. People complained about her salary at Citizen but honestly, I think she is worth every penny.
Other women on TV should emulate her style including Michelle Morgan and Kamene Goro who are good at their job and on the rise, but seem to place a bit of unhealthy emphasis on their looks. Victoria Rubadiri could also learn a few things from her when it comes to selecting a panel. Victoria seems to choose her friends limiting the perspectives on issues addressed on her platform to just a few people from a given social strata. However, Victoria’s show is young. It is growing bigger and more informative by the day. I am optimistic when it comes to her.
- Check Point by Yvonne Okwara on KTN News Sunday at 9.30pm
Yvonne Okwara-Matole is my hero. She usually starts with definitions of the issue in question followed up by a few statistics. She would even delve into a few possible perspectives before the discussion starts. Her methodical style reminds me of research projects while I was in university. She went to school and benefited from years of learning. She clearly understands the topics and multiple angles surrounding them. She knows which questions to ask, and she asks them respectfully. She always gives her panelists a chance to respond even when one of them tries to overshadow the others.
Moreover, she is not afraid of tackling emotive and divisive topics e.g. gay rights. She also has a sense of international issues especially within the US, and she does not mind talking about them within a Kenyan context e.g. the capital punishment. Also important to note is her personality. She occasionally makes fun of her co-host and seems to enjoy talking to her guests regardless of their interests or affiliations. Yvonne also has personal opinions mostly liberal on many of the topics, but she does not stifle dissenting voices.
Everyone needs to learn from Yvonne. Conduct research before you start the show. Many journalists just go on air believing that they can ‘go with the flow.’ Anne Kiguta could benefit from Yvonne’s style more than anyone else could. She remains uninformed on many issues discussed on her show. She hears things when a guest says something else. Larry Madowo’s recent interview the police spokesperson after NTV aired ‘Serve and suffer’ shows proper research is necessary before going on air. Jeff Koinange and Sophia Wanuna should see how someone with an opinion could still allow dissenting opinions to speak without interruption.
- Bold Conversations by Mwendie Mbugua on KBC Channel 1 Wednesday at 7.30pm
You probably do not know the show because it has a terrible social media strategy, and it is on KBC Channel1. The host of the show Mwendie Mbugua is soft-spoken, humble and open-minded. She seems more intent on hearing what others have to say about a topic and not her saying it for them or saying what she thinks. She voices her opinion subtly and politely without sacrificing her assertiveness when she feels the need to do so. She probes for answers and new perspectives from her panelists. Her co-host, Gerald Owino, always plays it cool trying to act like a voice of reason when things get heated. Idah Njage, another co-host, is the one who gives realist perspectives on issues.
The show starts with small dramatizations, which provides context for the audience in addition to providing revenue to the actors and Avidex. The most interesting aspect of the show is it responds directly to letters from its audience assuming that what the show says is true. Doing so allows for a continuous inflow of pertinent topics, tough questions that many would not discuss or think someone could ask. The panelists tackle the issues well based on their understanding and mutual respect for each other’s opinions. In fact, they give more expert advice to their audience than the experts on the show do. I regularly question many of their experts since they give wanting guidance at times. However, the structure of the show as it is experts included is perfect. They just need to call in better experts.
Jeff Koinange and Larry Madowo could learn a bit from this show. Theatricals are informative if properly structured. The two should substitute their fire extinguishers, comedians and hearty jokes with enlightening dramatizations or they can keep them, but make them more educative. Substance on these two shows seriously lacks when it counts. They only conduct great interviews when interviewing musicians, magicians, and comedians. Jeff becomes Uhuru’s spokesperson when it comes to politics. Larry has a tendency of repeating the same questions using synonyms when conducting critical interviews. His intention, in such cases, seems geared towards getting the guest to admit to something or to sensationalize the interview.
More exceptions exist e.g. the Other Kenya by John Allan Namu and Talk Central by Eric Njoka, but I want to talk about them in another article focusing on the male talk show hosts. I would also like to add something more about Yvonne and Victoria. I believe the two are actively pursuing a change in our society albeit differently. We need that kind of fire in our country. Other female anchors including Betty Kyallo seem okay with things are they are though a change would still be preferable to them. Anne Kiguta seems fine either way. Terryanne Chebet appears unsure of who she should fight and how, but she does look sincere. Kirigo Ng’arua may have issues. Is anyone talking to her? Perhaps someone should. Joy Doreen Biira is humble, she always has facts, and she develops realistic arguments. I have placed Janet at the top because she gives the ordinary person a voice directly. I will also speak more on that when it comes to discussing Press Pass in the next article. This article is just opinion. No one should take it seriously. The intention here is to highlight the good without ignoring the bad. A raised level of discussion simple enough for everyone to understand would benefit the country, but how can we reach a higher state than we are now if we do not accept that we need to go higher.