Incompetence or Carelessness?
Ethiopia has made marked strides in all developmental sectors including in the areas of disseminating information. Both Walta Information Center (WIC) and Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) deserve acknowledgement for partaking in this enormously important task. Yet, it is essential for any institution to make continued performance based formal and informal assessments so that it continues delivering its services effectively.
I am among the many Ethiopians who are taken aback by some of the obvious lack of quality of deliverance often exhibited by WIC and ENA. We are in an era of modernity in which the use of technology makes easy to tell a story faster and accurate; and that convenience gives enough opportunity for scrupulous audiences to note mistakes or sub average services.
On this information matrix, Walta and ENA are some times doing disservice to the very people they were supposed to serve; and to the good efforts of the institution they represent for. Some people have been critical of this shoddy performance and are questioning if that could be a well orchestrated work of few who dislike the good image of Ethiopia, disgruntled individuals who are eager to gain political scores by maligning the institution or simply lack of focus in quality deliverance. Well, it must be - at least - the mistake of those in the office for failing to fulfill their responsibility. Making mistake is part of human nature but presenting similar news with five million number differences is a major information flaw; and failing to acknowledge and correct the mistake in time is even worst: stupidity.
I would point out to two specific examples of this very issue. The first one happened about a week a go while the respected PM Meles Zenawi was being interviewed in Makelle city by two male journalists. Clearly, interviewing a head of state is an excellent opportunity not only to the media outlet or the audience but also to the person/s asking the questions. Here we see the PM availing himself for the interview dressed professionally ready to take questions.
It was not unintentional encounter but much anticipated, well planned interview. Meeting a head of state by it self is a mere occurrence. By that, it was an opportunity for the ministry and the journalists because they have gotten the chance to directly ask the leader of the country. Yet, the appearance of the people asking the questions was unprofessional by that out of protocol. Both were in shirts, one in jeans [I believe] and the second one with out a tie. Although both raised many relevant questions, they were needlessly moving their hands (excessive hand gesture) while trying to explain their questions to the leader of the country. It is common for journalists to choose their questions, refine and rehearse prior to the actual interview in order to get the best out of their guest. The setting of the interview, how ever, did not follow the standing protocol of professional journalism. We would get warning letters or even being asked to return home if some of us go to work in jeans.
The second example was when the Ethiopian New Agency (ENA) reported the news that 28 million Ethiopians have been registered to partake in the coming election (http://www.ena.gov.et/EnglishNews/2010/Feb/20Feb10/106929.htm). Understandably it is major national news worth of writing. Since the news was written in English, it is more likely people from around the world would access the link and read the information. Yet, the same news agency put the number at 33 million; with 5 million differences
(http://www.ena.gov.et/EnglishNews/2010/Feb/20Feb10/106910.htm). What is even worst is that they do not ask for an apology to the pubic and take corrective actions in time. It is like a joke!
There are also some deficiencies in the quality of news casting deliverance. I always wander why most of the news casters hold multiple large papers forcing their audiences to hear unpleasant paper sounds instead of using other means so that they could glance at their talking lines in bold and present it directly. I mean there is a huge difference between telling news on radio/television and reading aloud a story.
Those flaws are not limited to the dressing (appearance) or the news castings, but also to the general quality of the audio recording, scene footage/ recording, and editing sound systems. There was for instance a recent special program involving university students presented by Walta (Tigrigna language). The female speaker was using two microphones but most of the speeches and comments were lost because of excessive echo. The recording of the ceremony was also very poor.
The concerned office should take practical actions by providing needed materials, demanding excellence and accountability. There should always be a strict standard protocol to follow because not only that people are always watching but also deserve quality services. They project the office they work for, and are on the eyes of the public.
Ethiopia is a developing country with meager material resources and shortage of skilled human capital but this particular issue can be fast improved utilizing existing media equipment with meaningful workshops to staff members, adequate managerial supervisions and personal accountability. One should compare and contrast other developing countries’ media (including online) service deliverances to see the areas that need improvement.
In most instances, we see online news is continuously upgraded to include the latest information, comments and suggestions of the readers are acknowledged and well taken.
One last point: Do you know what one gets after writing at the ENA’s comment box? THANK YOU! Your comments saved successfully!