Serious print journalism in the Gambia died a long time ago. Print media failed to keep up with social media; such that what one read in print had already debuted on social media and national television on the previous night.
Every newspaper has a set of journalists and regular columnists pushing parochial agendas, without the prerequisite objectivity. There was a time I believed in everything I read in the local print media. Many years later; however, I don’t even believe the headline story. I treat every newspaper article with skepticism. In modern new Gambia, any sensational content is because of two things; a brown envelope (bribe) and/or government propaganda or a combination of the two.
Journalists today do not research or verify facts. Most articles have screaming headlines but are thin on facts. Business media is even worse. There is rarely an investigative story about a company or a business executive. All bad corporate news is filtered at the behest of a bribe. Business journalism or economic journalism has a symbiotic relationship with the corporate world. In exchange for advertising revenue, all business media must do is to regurgitate corporate press releases.
The last time I read a serious piece of investigative business journalism was a long time ago. The story was about a vicious battle for SLOK Air (an airline) between Governor Kalu of Nigeria and the Gambia government that was apprehensive of the airline’s worthiness. It was written by Pa Kemo Jarju (PK) and Sana Camara of the independent newspaper. A good piece of writing is difficult to forget.
Some publications promote con men who are aptly branded millionaires, scumbags who own companies that do not even exist in the register of companies. Another area of expertise is the promotion and praise of fraudulent real estate projects. The simple real estate property scandals are a real example how journalists aid and abet fraud. These realtors purported to offer housing on a “rent-as-you-buy” basis, zero deposit down, at zero interest for 25 years. These real estate business owners had no completed residential real estate project in the country.
Yet, journalists from the print and electronic media kept on writing about how the real estate company was facilitating home ownership of ordinary Gambians. A simple question would have lifted the veil on the scam. “How was Simple Homes going to finance the houses at zero interest? Who is this that was giving them free money?
The media is dead quiet with the “behind-the-scenes” details. Gambian journalists have the tendency to build fake biographic profiles of individuals for various motives. This is especially so for people who want to pass off as successful businessmen. This is done in case a potential customer performed a Google search about a particular individual, so that the search results will yield an article about that individual in the mainstream media, which increases credibility and draws in the client.
With a few thousand Dalasis notes and a few rounds of food at pubs, some journalists will help you create a fake profile in the media. You do not need to look very far to know what the man does for a living!
Then you have online versions of mainstream publications that have literally turned themselves into digital tabloids. It seems the online version of print media is in competition with sensational blogs for readership. The online version of the print media is the real digital kitchen sink, including fake news and stories not worth the news title. Furthermore, the writing is half-baked, hurriedly written, and poorly revised. The online news is an effort to attract eyeballs quickly, for advertising revenue, at the expense of credibility and quality.
Our newsrooms are overflowing with compromised journalists and agents of the state. Refer to the shabbily assembled headline stories every week to understand this industry. The writer of these stories is first and foremost, for convenience, “faceless” and the articles are an assembly of insinuations.
In the Gambia, state agents shape screaming stories, while complicit media houses simply publish them. Many stories in both print and electronic media are occasionally the handiwork of state agents and shoddy politicians. Our Newspapers are “afra” wrappers.