No conspiracy theory here; Raila and Trump just make good copy

Friday March 11 2016

Cord leader Raila Odinga (centre) addresses a press conference in Nairobi on December 11, 2015. Raila Odinga, just like Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, is media-savvy and knows when and how to capture the news headlines. It is instructive to look at a politician’s ability to talk to the media before spinning conspiracy theories on why he gets what might appear as excessive coverage. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Cord leader Raila Odinga (centre) addresses reporters in Nairobi on December 11, 2015. Mr Odinga, just like Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, is media-savvy and knows when and how to capture the news headlines. It is instructive to look at a politician’s ability to talk to the media before spinning conspiracy theories on why he gets what might appear as excessive coverage. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By PETER MWAURA
More by this Author

One of the complaints that I receive from time to time is why the Nation Media Group (NMG) gives so much coverage to Cord leader Raila Odinga.

I usually give the standard answer: He is good copy (newsworthy). But some readers do not accept that explanation and I encounter all kinds of conspiracy theories, depending on the news cycle.

No, they say, you give Raila excessive coverage to paint him as one speaking from the high moral ground.

No, so that he remains relevant for 2017. No, to make Uhuru look bad. No, because of corruption, commercial interest, or ethnicity. No, the Daily Nation has become an opposition newspaper.

But those complaints are countered by others who complain that the Daily Nation has become a government newspaper.

Some of them call me on a regular basis to complain about articles they say are anti-Raila.

Why do some politicians get more media coverage than others? The standard answer - because they are good copy - prevails even though some conspiracy theories cannot be ruled out altogether.

For example, some time back the Daily Nation, The Standard, and The Star published on their front pages the same picture of Raila Odinga taking selfies with some university beauties.

As Eric Wamanji, who teaches media studies at Daystar University, suggested, the pictures “were most likely a product of an engineering effort fashionable in newsrooms world over” and that what those pictures told us “is that the news you get, is not necessarily a natural neutral journalistic product but a wheedled good by the moneyed, the elite and the savvy media strategists who are not on the employ of the news media, but have a strong hand in manipulating how your news is produced, packaged and of course, how you perceive reality, which is constructed.”

DONALD TRUMP CASE

But if we look at US presidential candidate Donald Trump, who is getting excessive media coverage - more than any other candidate - we can see how the good-copy standard answer works.

In fact, the Trump dominance of the media parallels that of Raila Odinga.

Trump understands the media and knows how to use it and as a result he has managed to get more media publicity than all the other Republican candidates without having to pay for it.

He says things that grab media attention and he says them without fear or equivocation, and with dramatic effect.

Even when those things look like they can boomerang and hurt him, he still says them.

One of the things he said when he declared his candidature on June 16 last year was that Arizona Senator John McCain, a Vietnam War veteran who was held captive and tortured for more than five years at a prison in North Vietnam, was not a war hero.

“He’s not a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured,” he said.

Trump has gone on to call Mexicans who illegally migrate to the US rapists and murderers.

He has called for a ban on all Muslims entering the US, threatened to expel all illegal immigrants, and build a wall along the Mexican border and make the Mexican government pay for it. 

He has insulted African Americans and women.

MEDIA-SAVVY

Yet his popularity has soared with increasing media attention. He has a loyal following.

He is the front-runner for the Republican Party, though the Republican establishment does not want him to win and would prefer Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, or even Jeb Bush (a brother of former President George Bush) even though they are trailing.

He uses a lot of gestures and says all those catchy things in a way people find entertaining.

Like Raila Odinga, he is media-savvy and knows when and how to capture the news headlines.

His slogan, “Let’s make America great again” is an emotive call (even though America is still great).

It is instructive to look at a politician’s ability to talk to the media before spinning conspiracy theories on why he gets what might appear as excessive coverage. Being good copy might just explain it.

Send your complaints to [email protected] Call 3288000, mobile 0721989264