Writing Crap

I probably overuse the word crap when talking. People who’ve met me can attest to that. However, I believe I am not overusing or even misusing it in the context I have placed it in this article. I will tell you why.

It has been interesting watching blogging grow in Kenya over the last five or so years. To place it in a strictly Kenyan urban context, blogging is the new ‘DJ’ing’. Everyone and their cat has a blog. Just like everyone who had Virtual DJ installed on their entry-level HP laptop was a disc jockey back in college.

The beauty of seeing blogging in Kenya grow is that it has since reached levels where blogs and bloggers have become not just alternative media but also, the go-to media. You only need to read that hit Imperial Bank three-part series by @Owaahh to understand why.

I won’t get into the long-drawn debate of where the line between blogging and journalism is drawn or blurs. What I know is that the end result is the same: bloggers end up informing, educating, entertaining and even influencing policy, just as journalists and traditional media houses have done for hundreds of years now.

When you talk about bloggers in Kenya you are opening a can of worms since law enforcers regard just about anyone with a social media presence (which is basically all of us on the internet, ok, most of us) as a blogger. No, I am not referring to those. My limited definition of bloggers is those who post whatever they have on platforms like this one and others like Blogger, WordPress or self-hosted ones. Those ones.

As may be known to you, I do blog. Heck, I’ve been doing this for longer than I thought I would. Even as we revel in the growth of blogging in the country, we need to take a step back and re-evaluate what we are putting out there. Not in the same sense that some guys in higher places would want (to gag us) but at a very basic level. The writing itself.

I read hundreds of blog posts on any given day. In doing so, once in a while I venture from my fixed reading list to see what other new stuff there is. Once in a while I will find a fantastic blog that I immediately subscribe to. Most times, though, I find crap. Again, I’m not misusing that word, I believe.

I have formed a habit of sharing anything I read and find either interesting, informative or relevant to ongoing discussions on my social media feeds (like this ludicrous one of national values and morals being spearheaded by a film classification board chairman). Once in a while I will get an email or a WhatsApp message requesting me to share particular content since I do so often. I always share the same if it meets my very low threshold of being interesting, informative or relevant. Just that. Yet most of these don’t. Not because they are not interesting or informative or relevant. No. They are just, crap.

Why?

There are some basics. If you are going to write in English then make sure it is proper English. Basic proper English. Nothing complex. Not all of us are Jackson Bikos. Heck, if you are a tech blogger like I am then your work is not telling stories like Magunga does. You just get to your text editor and …

For most bloggers, what’s lacking is basic editing skills. You read a piece by a blogger and you start wondering whether they wrote it while they were half asleep or with a gun pointed at their head. At that time the said blogpost is on something very interesting, something you’re itching to share with your social circles but you just can’t get yourself to do it.

Part of the problem lies in the evolution of local blogs into authoritative news sources. Politics, business, technology, sports… name it. We have Kenyan blogs covering it all. In the process, basic editing skills have been thrown out in the rush to get the clicks, the mad traffic, the 1 million hits per month, the AdSense dollars.

I am not a big fan of Kenya’s print media but I am a big crusader of the freedom (responsible) brought about by blogging platforms. However, while we are at it, quality need not be compromised. In your rush to break news, edit your work, proof read, have someone look at it. For those with proper setups, have an editor who actually looks at things. You visit a rather high profile blog, look at the mistakes made on the articles being posted and you’re left just there wondering if this is the digital media that everyone is saying (correctly) is the future.

New native digital media powerhouses like BuzzFeed and Vox Media have grown by not just understanding the new generation of readers and content consumers but on also getting things out of the door fast (breaking news while traditional media houses take their time) while still not sacrificing whatever it is that will make you read a 700-page book for hours on end daily until you are on the last page.

Blogs and other forms of new media appeal to the younger generation that treasures 150-word news articles and the like but if there’s anything we can learn from print media then it is editing (not gagging) ourselves properly. Most foreign blogs I follow are so good at this. So much that I am left reading the published works and not seeing 12 mistakes in the first paragraph of a blogpost and 20 others elsewhere in the same post. You need not go far. Open your Twitter, check the trending topics (pick any hashtag) and see the links flying around. Pick any from a random blog. Look for me I buy you coffee if you don’t come across any that is, by your standards (not mine), crap.

 

echenze

Emmanuel of all trades. Master of my fate. I specialize in building castles in the air.

 

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