Thursday, 26 May 2011

‘Expert Analyses’

Well my typical day begins at 4am with  an almost ritualistic skim through youtube and news sites like Kenya for internet postings of the previous day’s headline because from the remote niche on planet earth that I exist, am not privileged to receive real time Kenyan news. However my dawn-time routine today treated me to a rather startling revelation that has occupied my mind for a better part of the day and is the reason I squeezed in some time to do this post. 

What stunned me is the way it’s almost become standard practice today that media houses accompany ‘important’ news items with ‘expert opinion’ or 'commentaries' or 'analyst views' of questionable credibility. It’s the way today news bulletins are full of unfounded analyst reviews and wild claims about the future that frequently go unquestioned. Pundits and analysts alike make erroneous claims and tenuous predictions and seldom get called on.  Whether it’s a nuclear mishap in Japan, the ICC proceedings, EU bailout plans for Portugal and Ireland, state brutality in Syria, some celebrity scandal or a rogue politician on the streets of Nairobi, media houses run amok like headless chicken seeking expert opinion for whatever reason I still fail to fathom.

I don’t claim even implicitly that it is wrong to enrich news items with informative expert expositions, analyses or even predictions, but if no one is going to take time to scrutinise the aptitude of these experts to give constructive counsel on matters of significant gravity like the demeanour of government officers or the constitution or the volatile political climate in our country and if no one is prepared to spare time to track the coherence of such assertions, then I’d rather  our media stuck to reporting and recounting events as they happen and let the public  munch and synthesise for themselves. Some of those interviews come across as though they are just ornamental aesthetics purposed to paint the image of a matured industry yet content and objectives of their employment are inadequately considered.  

Research has shown that persons exposed to newscasters, commentators, analysts or whatever name you choose to call them increase their knowledge of what is reported when it is factual. However, it also cautions that an analyst’s position or prediction fundamentally alters the opinions of the audience in the direction of the prediction and where erroneous predictions or insufficiently thought through discourse is transmitted to the public; the outcome shouldn’t be too hard to imagine. A study conducted to establish the impact of post presidential debate analysis in the USA on public assessment of the winner or loser in 2004 concluded that such analyses profoundly altered the judgement of the public at least in the short run. The manner in which the analyses were presented, the conduct of the commentators and the content of their discourse all functioned either to buttress presuppositions or sway opinions altogether.

So I sat there pensively in front of my laptop wondering just how much twaddle and claptrap has been peddled around by Kenyan media in the name of ‘expert opinions’.  How much does the public trust and believe them and how far-reaching are the impacts of such commentaries on public opinion and civic attitude? Who questions the objectivity of such analyses? Who critiques the contents of their discourse? Who takes responsibility for the plethora of misleading assertions served to the public by such ‘experts’?

Well, I might be wrong, or may be am just overreacting. Is there anyone out there with a congruent opinion as I?

One thing that development experience has taught me is never to open my mouth making wild claims without proof. So I sought to share with you just a tad bit what I mean when I talk of erroneous assertions and analyses. I randomly chose one Mutahi Ngunyi, political scientist, consultant, columnist name it (may be because he’s one of the most vocal and sought after political analysts in Kenya today). It’s amazing what a skim through the past can reveal. While he has made some predictions that have come to pass, some of his judgements are equally flawed and deficient of basis.

Skim through these links to see just how incoherent one man’s opinion on similar and interrelated issues can be so inconsistent over time yet seemingly ignored or simply unnoticed by the same media houses or journalists who run to him day after another.  - scroll to 03:23 - scroll to 00:28 - scroll to 01:38  – scroll this down to 01:26 – 2:34  – scroll this to 00:50  scroll to 00:38


1 comment:

  1. quite true and most especially the media people should try as much as possible to tell people that some of the so called "expert annalysis" is based on one's opinion. and again given the uncertainty that sorrounds kenya's political scenes they should not advance the experts opinions with such surety as thy are doing now.