Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Do we really have media relations?

There’s an old quote from a man named Wes Nisker that goes something like: “if you don’t like the news, go out and make some of your own”.

Now, whilst Mr. Nisker’s words are perhaps more aimed at inspiring eager minds to go out and do extraordinary things instead of complaining about the ordinariness of the world they read about, he seems to neglect a pretty crucial aspect of how people engage with the news and the media that bring it to them.

Whether it is through listening to the radio whilst in the kitchen, or catching up on the morning paper at breakfast, the public’s engagement with the press is just that: engagement.

We may take it for granted as simply reading or listening to what is going on in the world, but, in essence, it is much, much more than that. It is an active decision to participate in our own cultural climates. Some write to editors, and some call in to shows on the airwaves. Even for those who seemingly appear to have a less active involvement, we engage, we opine, and we oftentimes share how we feel, for instance about the political climate of the country, or how particular presenters on the radio present, even if just to a friend.

The bottom line is: public perceptions matter, more than is often recognized. Our relationships with the media, in each and every form, see the public having a voice. It is a voice that holds the power to shape the media industry; the media, for their part, want to hear what we have to say, good or bad. What is it they say about criticism? Even when it’s bad it’s good?

The sad truth, then, is that while many may recognize these fairly universal truths, most people do not feel they have a platform to voice their opinions, or simply want to but not in a manner that singles them out, hence the popularity of social media polls and surveys.

It is refreshing, then, to see Batswana finally be given a forum in which public perceptions on the media are polled, analyzed and recognized, this in the form of the annual Hotwire PRC media perceptions survey.

It is refreshing to see us go forth and make an active effort to engage with our media industry professionals. In its third consecutive year now, the media survey this year sees these taken up a notch in terms of the recognition and higher level engagement between the public and the media we inadvertently interact with each day. This year’s survey results are being released and celebrated in the form of The Lilac Awards, the first of an annual event aimed at recognizing media houses in Botswana.

With all due respect to Mr. Nisker, then, we need not just go out and make our own news. We need to cultivate the relationships we already have with the media and share our influence, our opinions, and even our appreciations. Surely this is the more productive route?

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