In public relations, media relations is very important. Even though journalist and PR practitioners have a strange love and hate relationship, we still have to work together to get the job done. In Dar, the relationship is quite different and public relation practitioners have to bend over backwards to make sure the press covers their clients’ stories.
My first week as an intern I was introduced to a new word a ‘transport fee”. It is little ‘thank you’ (money) given to the journalist from PR specialist for coming to the event. I can imagine my PR lectures shaking their heads and mouthing the word UNETHICAL.But this is how it’s been for years and unfortunately, if you don’t pay you can’t grantee your client media coverage. So where is the line? And isn’t this extortion?
In Tanzania, journalists don’t get paid very much, and by very much I mean not at all. Before when PR specialists called members of the press to cover their clients’ stories the journalists would have to pay for transport with their own money. Transport fee started out as a way to help the press get to the events. However, like most dirty deals it has evolved and now if a PR specialist wants media coverage for their client they need to pay. The good news is generally you can bargain with the journalist about the transport fee, the bad news is it’s still unethical.
So who’s to blame?
In my opinion, to a certain extent, it’s the client. They need to learn to create content that is news worthy. Lilian Matari, another co founder of LAS, explained it’s really hard to get clients to understand that sometimes you can’t guarantee media coverage because their story has no solid news angle. However, it’s still up to the journalist to stop asking for the money and PR specialists to stop offering the money.
There is no point in hiding that things in Dar es Salaam are not always done by the book. This corrupt system has been in play for many years, in many different sectors not only the media. Change however is still possible, recently a local Tanzanian newspaper, Mwananchi, decided to be the voice of change. They have released an article discussing the issue and have discouraged their journalists to no longer accept ‘transport fee’. This a great step in the right direction and will take a lot of support from the journalists, PR specialists and the corporate clients.