Katami: The shifting landscape of doping coverage and media’s responsibility in Kenya


As the sports media landscape in Kenya focuses on high-profile anti-doping messages, the Sports Journalists Association of Kenya (SJAK) and the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK) have once again teamed up for their annual “Clean Sport Workshop.”

Now in its fifth edition, the workshop continues to play a pivotal role in shaping the narrative around doping in sports.

This year’s workshop featured insights from Michelle Katami, a seasoned sports journalist with a storied career at BBC, SuperSport, and Radio Africa Group. Katami, who has witnessed the evolution of doping dynamics in sports journalism, shared her thoughts on the challenges and changes she has observed over the years.

“Tackling doping issues back in the day was challenging as one needed to have 100% facts on the table,” Katami recounted. “During the Isaiah Kiplagat regime – there was no ADAK, and AK would just release statements – it was difficult to cover matters of doping.”

Katami elaborated on the hurdles journalists faced in gathering information and sourcing credible leads. “Another challenge then was to try to talk to various sources, try to convince people in the athletics ecosystem to talk about doping and what they know. Following doping leads was key.”

Over time, Katami has come to appreciate the importance of a journalist’s duty of care. “The one thing I have learned over time is ‘duty of care’; to protect athletes whose lives are in danger, try to shape a different narrative; just like we did when Kenya was on the brink of a possible WADA ban.”

She emphasized the need for strong support from media houses in covering doping stories effectively. “When covering doping, you have to have your media house back you up 100% in terms of resources. You need to develop good working rapport with athletes and coaches, do your own analysis on performances. Initially, we would say progression, but athletics is changing.”

Katami also noted the rise in doping cases, particularly among Kenyan athletes, and stressed the importance of accurate terminology in reporting. “You have to acknowledge the fact that the increase in the number of doping cases has been on the rise, more so in stories featuring Kenyan athletes. In doping, the use of the correct terms is of paramount importance. Don’t say banned when an athlete is provisionally suspended.”

Reflecting on her career, Katami highlighted the evolving nature of sports journalism and the ongoing challenges in reporting on doping. Her experience underscores the critical role journalists play in maintaining integrity and transparency in sports.

Michelle Katami, now a freelance multimedia African sports storyteller, continues to contribute to the field through television production, content generation, writing, and media relations. Her insights and experiences serve as a valuable resource for aspiring journalists navigating the complex world of doping coverage in sports.

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