Media’s obsession with breaking news leaves Kenyans the poorer

Monday June 17 2019

Journalists pass along Kenyatta Avenue in

Journalists pass along Kenyatta Avenue in Nakuru town in a procession to mark the World Press Freedom Day on May 3, 2019. PHOTO | JOHN NJOROGE. 

JOSEPH ODONGO
By JOSEPH ODONGO
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Many news stories covered by the Kenyan media, I must admit, are newsworthy. They are close to us, impact our lives and are generally of human interest. The role of the media in keeping the people informed, educated and entertained cannot be gainsaid. But our media have a special liking for controversy – an overdose of politics, conflict, and anything dramatic.

Over the years, the Kenyan media has ranked among the most trusted institution. But even as it basks in this glory, there is a big room for improvement.

Our journalists appear to be in a hurry to file their next piece, in line with the classical newsroom creed of one being only as good as his or her next story. But good students of journalism know that news story coverage isn’t just an event; some have elements and characteristics of an episode within a series, and a seamless flow through to conclusion is key to telling a complete story.

BREAKING NEWS

I can pick off the top of my head about fifteen human interest media stories published in the last twelve months, whose current statuses are blurry.

A few years back, we were treated to the Kenya-Uganda Migingo row, a story in whose wake threatened a diplomatic standoff. Since then, we have only had patches of information of what became of the scramble for that piece of rock.

Then came the prominent and controversial deaths of Jacob Juma, George Muchai, the former Kabete Member of Parliament whose life was heinously nipped in the wee hours of the morning along Kenyatta Avenue, and Chris Musando. Their stories ended with investigations and a few individuals’ arraignment in court. We hardly hear of convictions or anything else in the litigation process.

We all remember Mugo Wa Wairimu, the rogue doctor who allegedly sedated and violated his patients, all captured on camera. He was arrested and arraigned in court only to be nabbed again later operating a chain of clinics in one of the populous Eastland estates. Had the media bothered to follow up on the trails of the initial case, the public would have been aware and most likely he would not have secured easy release.

You definitely know of Sharon and Mellon, recently scientifically confirmed as identical twins following an intriguing story involving a purported swapping at birth in a Kakamega Hospital. In a tale that gripped the nation for days, every media house angled for a piece of the teenagers just to be part of the history. There was little depth in media reports. Now that the DNA results are finally out, I can only hope the media will be more analytical. The media cannot just break news!

The other day guns were lost in Bungoma, after police officers allegedly left the station unmanned and went to watch football at a local joint. Again there has been an eerie silence. Were the guns recovered?

How about Aror and Kimwarer dams’ scandal? How far are the investigations? We seem good at jumping from one corruption case to another.

And the Building Bridges Initiative is currently doing rounds in counties. Don’t Kenyans deserve to be updated on the progress?

Then the season’s premier, the fake gold scandal – a choreographed and systematic syndicate that allegedly had the blessing of people in power. The media has moved, with Kenyans in tow.

EXPOSING SCAM

Our media’s investigative pieces are top notch. Kenyan media are reputed to file some of the best undercover stories, exposing serious scams both within the political class and other echelons of society. But that is the far the stories go. The public seldom gets to know of what follows – the impact of such exposés.

We are a nation of breaking news, a hotbed of scoops and beat stories where the media have us hooked to a maze ‘hot topics’. It is therefore not accurate to brand Kenyans as a lot that quickly forgets and moves on. The media is complicit as it has fashioned its audience this way.

The author is a media and communications consultant based in Nairobi.

Twitter: @makodongo2

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