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Real exclusives that add value to the news and public information

Friday May 29 2020
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President Uhuru Kenyatta speaks about recent developments in the country, during an exclusive interview with Nation Media Group Editorial Director Mutuma Mathiu at State House in Nairobi on May 26, 2020. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By PETER MWAURA

Wednesday’s Daily Nation promised readers an exclusive interview with President Uhuru Kenyatta to be published the following day.

Only part of the interview was published on Thursday and readers were looking forward to today’s paper for “the big read”.

To scoop the competition, as Nation Editorial Director Mutuma Mathiu did, and get an exclusive interview with the Head of State is a rare and major achievement for any journalist or news organisation. It’s worthy of institutional pride and journalistic bragging.

An exclusive news interview with President Kenyatta in these days of Codic-19 pandemic, UhuRuto fallout, pending BBI and an uncertain political future provides an excellent opportunity to provide new, original, exciting and important information to explain events.

While exclusive stories vary in their importance, this one is in a class of its own because of the timing and the centrality of the interviewee in the greater scheme of things.

Exclusives, also called scoops, are part of the journalistic tradition in the relentless media competition to be first with the news, and news organisations like to pitch an exclusive story when they get one.

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However, although they pitch them alike, exclusive stories vary in news value, originality, significance and reader excitement.

Recent exclusives

This is well illustrated by recent exclusive stories published in the Nation. They include “Exclusive insight of Covid-19 treatment unit” (May 17, 2020), “FKF granted more time to pay Amrouche” (March 23, 2020), “Moi's body transferred to Lee Funeral Home”( February 4, 2020), “CCTV footage shows vehicle believed to be John Mutinda’s plunging into Likoni channel” (December 9, 2019), “Jowie exclusive: My life in jail” (November 24, 2019), and “I'm not the stowaway who fell from London skies” (November 21, 2019).

Whatever their relative importance, exclusive news stories confer prestige on news organisations and the journalists covering them.

There is pride in the “I-got-it-before-you-did” feeling, particularly if the story turns out to be really newsworthy and significant. Exclusives also drive excellence in journalism.

Paul Waldman, an editor, delineates exclusives into two categories — “real” and “ephemeral”. A real exclusive is a story that wouldn’t have been revealed but for the reporter’s digging or enterprise.

An ephemeral exclusive is a story that would have been made public anyway. Even though a journalist can brag about an ephemeral exclusive, he cannot claim to have really made a genuine contribution to public information and knowledge.

Waldman also points out that readers don’t really care whether you got an exclusive. What they care about is whether they get better informed.

All the same, we must give credit to journalists and news organisations that bring us exclusive stories obtained through enterprise, persistence and planning.

For that’s what it normally takes. If they get a story before the competition does, they should rightly brag about it.

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