Kenyan Print media and National cohesion: a comparative study of the Daily Nation and the Standard Newspapers
National cohesion underscores need to rebuild relationships. Subtly acknowledged, conflicts erode cohesion and leaves indelible memories for the affected. In the melee the social fabric of the nation is destroyed. Rebuilding such relationships in communities traumatized, displaced and lost loved ones is a process. It is a process that cannot be rushed nor prescribed a timeframe. Establishment of durable peace is critical, yet most difficult to achieve. It begins at an individual level and finally between communities. To take root, mutual trust and a sense of community has to be cultivated through dialoguing. Media offers such a platform where such conversations take place. The mission of the media should be to inform the audience with clarity and objectivity. It is prudent to reiterate, sufficiently utilized, print media reaching critical mass, can significantly mobilize public opinion. Media can help bring a nation's diverse people together in a collective experience after conflicts. As an agent protector of human rights, promoters of democracy and moderator of conflict, media can also become instruments of negative message and propaganda. Disintegration among communities is blamed on political competition, social economic disparities as a result of marginalization, endemic corruption and impunity among the custodians of civility. Media a great relating tool has come under scrutiny, often accused of fueling hate, negative ethnicity and inciting communities. The same media is an important instrument of conflict resolution, a stakeholder that can help wield communities into a single integrated system by constantly implanting strong sense of nationalism, promote social peace and encourage social solidarity among members of the society. Media are custodians of society's memory. They have a role in transforming society towards a collective memory and enhancing reconciliation. Journalists should look for common good, question inaccurate statements and avoid malicious language. The media should seek to confirm official accounts, level official deceit; and correct errors of omission. This academic paper examined the extend of coverage by print media on the crusade of national cohesion. The consequence however, news is a perishable commodity. Information becomes stale more rapidly than ever, unless freshened up regularly. The appetite for current stories means an issue like cohesion drops swiftly out of the news cycle. It is also true, frequent focus by media on issues confers them status and legitimacy. Reportage should be accurate, impartial and in the interest of the public. A comparative analysis of the Standard and Daily Nation, leading dailies with wide distribution network and readership, provided much needed data for analysis and recommendations therein in this project. The study adopted a descriptive research design. Content analysis, a technique for data gathering was instrumental to systematically and objectively choose issues that were at core of research. Purpose sampling was employed to identify the most critical editions that had relevant characteristics suited for analysis. The findings provide a stark illustration of media's failure to prioritize cohesion. The newspapers did not accord prominence to deserving cohesion stories. All cues on agenda setting were either unavailable and in circumstances, where used, were significantly inadequate to cause opinion formation among the public. However, editors and reporters in general showed will to encourage discourse pertaining to national cohesion and considering the number of stories they generated. Recommendations for this important research include; need to facilitate dialogue for individuals and communities, media to ensure they minimize destructive debates and violence, government should create opportunities to alleviate conflict resulting from competition for scarce resources and finally ensuring justice prevails by bringing to account all the perpetrators of hate and negative ethnicity.
University of Nairobi, Kenya