If you grew up before the advent of the social media and Smartphone age, you surely must have experienced an hour or two or even more a day, of radio death announcements over local FMs.
CBS was (and still is) the most renowned station for this trend –after news bulletins most especially.
There were limited avenues through which messages were passed on back in the day. There was no Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and YouTube for you to quickly and easily reach out thus death announcements were channeled through radio.
Old folks would even pay more attention to the death announcements section than the news section to avoid missing the untimely news of the passing on of a dearly beloved.
You were to hold your silence until after the death announcement to spare yourself from a spanking.
Remember this was an era in which people never skipped burial ceremonies. Burial was as important as a wedding reception then. Ironically, people skip burials in this era yet they get notifications through more than a handful of avenues – SMS, email, Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and even print media through the obituaries section.
Fast-forward, we are in 2015, radios are still around but the function of the death announcer is losing it.
The popularity of the death announcements hour has only remained firm amongst old folks in the countryside or with individuals yet to acquire phones through which the passing on of a relation can be announced via a phone call or text message.
The emergence of the Smartphone has indirectly kicked out one of the few Ugandan innovations in Ugandan media.
Today, when someone meets their death, you will not miss getting notified –whether you want or not. Firstly, those earliest to learn of the misfortune will rush to Facebook to announce to the world that they have lost so-and-so.
The concerned recipients of the post then take the announcement a notch higher, forwarding a Whatsapp image about the death to all their Whatsapp contacts and also changing their status to, “Gone too soon, see you when we meet again” or simply putting RIP.
Those are the cold ones who didn’t hold the deceased in high regard but have no choice other than acknowledging his or her death.
The SMS-ers do not allot time to generating a heartrending obituary, they simply ask, “Have you heard, so-and-so has died.”
But those are not the only insensitive death announcers we have; there is the group that announces the death even before the death has occurred.
I cannot remember how many times Nelson Mandela (RIP) was killed by this lot before he even died. Michael Jackson (RIP) too.
These have made a niche in killing innocent patients. The moment they get news that someone is in a terrible condition in hospital, they take the honors.
They finish him/her off with a “Breaking News” announcement. This is common amongst Facebook users.
The worst of the new breed of announcers who use social media to break the “sad news” is the one who attaches an image of the deceased portraying how he/she (the deceased) met their creator.
I do not want to remind you of that AK-47 (RIP) image that circulated across social media when the young man passed on. Or that of a bald headed Ruth Nankabirwa (RIP) as she battled cancer.[related_posts]
This breed of death announcer is ill-bred. He/she has no respect for the deceased and the grieving family. Their intention is simply to pass on the message. No sugar-coating. They see no reason in lacing grief with warmth.
With all these new players in the death announcement trade and the popularity of the avenues used by the new players –social media, the function of the radio death announcer will not survive any longer.