Why newspaper editors must watch what they publish

Saturday August 12 2017

Kenyans eager to get a glimpse of newspaper headlines after voting on August 8, 2017. PHOTO | KANYIRI WAHITO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Kenyans eager to get a glimpse of newspaper headlines after voting on August 8, 2017. PHOTO | KANYIRI WAHITO | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

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As an English playwright quips, we “need no ghost” to tell us that to be in place is the same thing as to be present there.

Yet a page 12 headline in a local daily of August 8 alleged that, although certain names were “in the (voters’) register”, yet they were missing from there.

That is an example of what a celebrated Austrian media critic dismisses as “…the pseudo-facts of newspaper headlines…” For, although — in mankind’s senses — the celestial bodies appear to do it repeatedly, yet, in truth, nothing can be in one place and yet, simultaneously, in another.

If you are not in it, then you are away from it. Tautology just will not do in an esteemed newspaper.

In the context, the construction means that, although you were part and parcel of Kenya’s elections, yet you were not part of the subsequent row over the names allegedly removed from the voters’ register.


Strictly speaking, then, your words cannot amount to information because they contradict and cancel each other out. Just by giving it a multiple of names, you do not multiply the consumer propensity of any of your mental goods. 

In a society notorious for consumer ignorance, such behaviour may impress your many ethico-aesthetically uneducated readers. 

Yet, in your own self-description, it is your social duty to educate your consumers precisely against all such shoddy goods.

As an editor, are you happy to be participating in purveying such socio-mental poisons?

As a newspaper operator, you must effectively answer that perennial question precisely by how you personally treat such potentially lethal mental poisons as arrive at your desk in the form of ethnicism, racism, sectarianism, sexism and historico-scientific ignorance.


If your newspaper is to be increasingly respected nationwide, you must strive to ensure that nothing enters its pages that can be construed as racist, sexist, tribalistic, narrowly sectarian and generally anti-human.

Do you strive to help your owners and managers to ensure that nobody ever uses any panya route to smuggle such mental poisons into your pages? 

The amount of such poisons extant in all our media indicates that either you don’t know what constitutes social poison or you don’t struggle hard enough to prevent its entry into your pages.

You must make it a duty to improve your product in terms of social content, especially of the language in which you couch it.


To allow your quality to go down through shoddiness by the very people you employ as public relations officers — namely, your whole editorial department — is to engage in strange self-contradiction.

Indeed, every editorial employee must function as a PRO by struggling hard to ensure that only accurate information, politely and aesthetically couched, enters your pages to help you function as a daily vendor of healthy socio-mental food.

All newspaper employees must function as positive PROs, namely, by ensuring that only socially useful  material enters your pages to supply, in adequate quantities, the fuel of unity and hard work needed in the production of the nation’s wherewithal.