Friday, December 16, 2016

The online press must also transition

Sidi Sanneh 
Like many things in life, the online press was born out of necessity.  In the case of the Gambian diaspora online press, it was built from the ashes of one of Africa's most brutal regimes - an authoritarianism that created a wave of humanity in search of peace and freedom from persecution outside of The Gambia.

This fact explains why almost every online media facility (radio and website) is owned and operated by first generation Gambian immigrants, refugees or political exiles.

All, or most, of the online press have one objective in common, and that is to remove the dictatorship of Yaya Jammeh by providing a platform to political dissidents and activists to advance their individual and collective agenda.

That objective is about to be fulfilled with the defeat at the polls of one of Africa's most notorious dictators - a fete worthy of a place in the history books as one of the rear occasions when a full-blown sitting dictator was unseated democratically and peacefully, through the ballot box.

The slow disappearance of Jammeh from the lives of Gambians will necessarily force the proprietors of these online media outlets to adopt a new business and programming model that will focus more on a mixture of hard and factual (and not faux) news and entertainment with some educational programming geared towards building and maintaining democratic institutions.

It can no longer be a sustainable or a tolerable proposition to focus exclusively on bashing the new Coalition government of Adama Barrow that will be trying to dig the country out of the hole dug by Jammeh for its nearly 2 million inhabitants.  The appetite for incessant criticism of the new government trying to find its footing will not find a willing and viable online audience to sustain such radio programming.

Gambians will, therefore, be looking for programming that will provide the intellectual content and impetus to help find solutions to a myriad of problems created, in the public policy space, by the 22-year dictatorship of Yaya Jammeh.

Of course, the new business model will not preclude investigative reporting designed to keep any government, including the Barrow government honest and as corruption-free as realistically feasible but will encourage the generation of ideas that will provide solutions.

To be relevant, the online press must also transition just like the government of Adama Barrow is transitioning into a new and promising era.  The online media must therefore, retool, refit and, if necessary, relocate to the new era in Gambian politics.  Business as usual will no longer be enough to pay the bills.