Journalism Faculty, Graduate student present research in Washington DC

Dr. Dorothy Njoroge,Assistant Professor of Strategic Communication. PHOTO: Courtesy

By Dr. Kioko Ireri

A faculty member and graduate student in the Department of Journalism & Corporate Communication have presented their research work at the International Communication Association (ICA) conference held in Washington DC.

Graduate student (MA Communication Studies) Jimmy Ochieng’ presented a research paper in the political communication division titled “Newspaper Visibility in Non-Election Period: Predictors of Kenyan Women Politicians in News”. He authored the paper with Dr. Kioko Ireri (Associate Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication) and is also the Chair of the Journalism department.

Funded through the 2015-2016 internal research grants, the research explored a four-year visibility (April 9, 2013 to April 9, 2017) of 68 female Kenyan MPs in four English national newspapers - Daily Nation, The Standard, People Daily and The Star. To be specific, the study examined three aspects associated with the four newspaper coverage of women politicians in Kenya. First, the study examined the major characteristics associated with the most covered female politicians. Second, it investigated variables that predicted their visibility in the press. Third, the research examined whether senior female MPs and those holding leadership positions receive significantly more coverage than their other counterparts.

Findings indicate that a typical Kenyan woman politician in newspaper news is affiliated with a major party (88.2%), junior in seniority (76.5%), belongs to a big tribe (58.8%), and holds no parliamentary committee leadership (58.5%). Seniority, commenting on corruption, criticizing government, and commenting on devolution (a news system of governance) predicted their coverage in newspaper news. At the same time, senior MPs and those holding positions of leadership received significantly higher coverage than their other female counterparts.

Quantitative content analysis was employed to collect data from 2,794 news stories, which were selected using six constructed weeks sampling technique.

On the other hand, Dr. Dorothy Njoroge (Assistant Professor of Strategic Communication) presented a paper titled “Exploring Narratives about Female Politicians in Kenya”. The study examined how Kenyan women politicians make sense of messages they receive about their political careers.

Based on in-depth interviews with 14 female politicians, four major themes emerged. The first is “silence is golden” – meaning that women leaders aren’t expected to air opinions but should be silent followers of male counterparts. Second is “female body isn’t suitable for leadership” – where female politicians are mocked by electorate and male colleagues for biological roles such as pregnancy which is translated as “incapacity to lead”. The other theme is “inhospitable political environment” where women politicians experience physical or verbal attacks by male colleagues especially about their morality. Lastly is the “mere decorative role” where women politicians are trivialized as pretty decorations for parliament and flirtatious behaviour from male colleagues.

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