Prayers or news: What do readers want from media?

Friday January 17 2020

 

By Odoobo C. Bichachi

Daily Monitor online, notably its social media pages [Facebook], have lately shown a religious side to its content. Every morning, the online editors post a prayer on the newspaper’s Facebook page.

On Monday January 6 for instance, the following prayer was posted: “Walk beside me as I endure the challenges of today. Give me the strength I need to challenge the week ahead. Send your guardian angels to guard over me as you lead me into my divine purpose. In the name of Jesus Christ I pray, Amen!”
Prayer is a good thing anytime anywhere but with so many places of worship, pastors and reverends, what does the online team hope to achieve by these posts? According to the online editor Job Bwire, this content is primarily intended to promote the social media pages and improve interactivity with audiences. He adds that these are the most liked, most commented on and most shared!
This particular prayer post had 403 likes, 163 comments and 14 shares. Another posted two days later on Wednesday January 8 had 1,100 likes, 452 comments and 36 shares. Yet another on Friday January 10 had 1,200 likes, 564 comments and 58 shares! Most of the comments are one word, “Amen!”

Not everyone is happy, though Mwanje Enock Favour says, “Make this prayer open so members from every denomination can say ‘Amen’.”

Another reader who is unimpressed is Edna Ninsiima who posted screen shots of Daily Monitor and New Vision day’s prayer posts: “What’s going on lately? Are these paid ads? Have the accounts become personal? And what does this mean for the Muslim and atheist readers, for example?” She adds in Luganda (translated): “I have many questions, but understand that we want news, not prayers and verses because we have Bibles and we use them. God bless you!”

Matters of faith and religion are very sensitive subjects the world over. Religion can excite and infuriate almost in equal measure. Should Monitor Online therefore be walking into this minefield? I decided to check on what the NMG Editorial Policy Guideline says on the matter.

It states: “The Group’s outlets stand for racial, ethnic, religious and communal harmony and political/party tolerance as well as other forms of pluralism: They aim to help audiences of all races, faiths and nations to see events in perspective, and to understand their interrelationships.”

Advertisement

The key issue here is inclusivity, tolerance and balancing of interests of all readers/viewers that come to the platform.

Monitor Online’s social media editor, Clare Muhindo, said they are alive to this. “It is difficult to wade through social media noise and capture the audience’s attention... one of the ways to do that is by posting things that the audiences relate with in order to increase engagement. The Bible verses, Koran verses, motivational quotes, etc are one way of doing that.

We are in a country where majority of the people believe in religion and prayer. So we are tapping into that audience that we have for long neglected in order to grow our pages. Once that audience is with us, then they are encouraged to read the other things that we have on our pages,” she notes.

Indeed on Friday January 10, the following was tweeted to cater for Muslim audiences: “Men and women, the promise of God is true. Do not be deceived by the life of this world; and do not let Satan trick you about God. Satan is your enemy, so treat him as such. He lures his followers to become heirs of hell.” – Koran, Fatir, Surah 35:5-6.

On Saturday January 4, the following was tweeted to cater for the Seventh Day Adventist believers: “The Adventist Church today celebrates the day of prayer and fasting. On this day, they encourage us to engage in a fast, whether it is from food, technology and social media, or from anything that distracts you from being in communion with Jesus.”

The question some will ask is why Koran verses are posted mainly on Friday, Adventist prayers are posted on Saturday while general Christian prayers (presumably for Catholics, Protestant, Pentecostals, Baptists, etc) are posted every day, not on Sunday; their primary day of worship.
Shouldn’t Muslims have Koran verses shared everyday too?
Well, that’s how complicated it can become, especially should the Hindu, Budhists and others also demand that they be included. So far so good. The challenge is how to avoid compartmentalising audiences along religious lines and continue carrying readers like Edna Ninsiima who come to the Daily Monitor online platforms to read news and features, then return to their beds to read their Bible or Koran, or go to church and mosque to pray?

Send your feedback/complaints to public-editor@ug.nationmedia.com
or call/text on +256 776 500725