Deciding what suspected graft story to report a judgement call

Wednesday March 18 2020

Imperial Bank depositors demonstrating outside the bank's headquarters in Westlands, Nairobi, on May 31, 2016. The Nation, including it sister paper Business Daily, has published more than 150 stories about Imperial Bank since 2016. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Zoeb Tayebee has written in with a rebuttal to this column last week: “Your piece last Friday, though boastful, made good reading. No doubt, Nation has covered very well matters on corruption. Indeed, Nation has broken a new ground in reporting matters of public interest. I only hope this will have real impact in the corridors of justice,” he said.


“Have you ever thought about the Imperial Bank scandal of Sh40 billion? Nation has taken a back seat in reporting or analysing this case, in which many depositors lost their life savings. Comparatively, NYS and other scams would probably do not total up to Sh40 billion.

“It’s common knowledge that the Imperial Bank heist could not have taken place without involvement of some rogues at the Central Bank, the regulator of banks. Here lies a story that the Nation has chosen to ignore. To the Nation, is this not a matter of public interest?

“It’s mind-boggling that, four years down the line, none of the directors of Imperial Bank have been questioned by DCI, CBK or any other authorities. What’s so special about them? And, what’s so special about the auditors of the Imperial Bank that they have not been questioned for failing to detect the mega fraud? Normally, auditors pick on anything that is unusual in the books. Here lies a story of public interest. The Nation has turned a blind eye or been compromised.”

For the record, the Nation, including it sister paper Business Daily, has published more than 150 stories about Imperial Bank since 2016. They include “How Imperial Bank bosses stole billions from depositors”, “Probe turns to CBK staff linked to collapse of Imperial, Chase banks” and “Public trustee on the spot over Sh75m Imperial Bank deposit”.


What might be in question is the intensity and thoroughness given to the coverage of a particular story. But that depends on factors too many to go into in this space. Suffice it to say that deciding which stories receive more attention is a judgement call for the editor.

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When happy talk is insensitive

When we last talked about it a reader described it as “juvenile, irritating and annoying” (“When chitchat between TV news anchors is not so funny or cute” — Daily Nation, Nov. 2, 2018).

The chitchat, or “happy talk” as it is called in the profession, is permissible on TV. Properly done, it can enliven or uplift a bulletin. But news anchors must remain sober and serious.

We did not contemplate that happy talk can also be non-verbal (and solo) — such as the widely condemned gestures made by NTV Business News anchor Dan Mwangi on Monday.

Mr Mwangi was presenting a graphic simulation of the crash of the Ethiopian Airlines aeroplane, which killed all the 157 people on board, including 32 Kenyans. At the end, where the depiction of the fireball ignited by the crash appeared to engulf the studio, he used his hands apparently to brush off the dark smoke from his forest-green suit. He also used his hands to ‘ward off’ the smoke from his nostrils and eyes.


Kenyans interpreted the gestures as callous, thoughtless and not worthy of a serious NTV anchor. And upon retrospection and introspection, he was sorry.

“Last night, on the NTV news bulletin, I delivered a report seeking to shed some light on how the #Ethiopian AirlinesCrash happened. The report, in its dynamics, rubbed many the wrong way, having come across as insensitive to the grieving bereaved, especially,” he wrote on Twitter.

“I would never intentionally trivialise death, or even injury; it is simply not my person, heart or intention. I acknowledge that, in our skew towards the graphics/simulation, while trying to paint a fairly tangible picture, it came across as something else; the line was crossed, regrettably.”

Dan Mwangi, who normally comes across as a refined TV journalist, has learnt his lesson: News anchors must win the respect of their viewers by acting professional and not making clownish and inappropriate comments or gestures.

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