Citizen journalism comes of age as readers correct professionals

Friday February 19 2016

Francis Njuguna, 85, and his wife Nelly Wanjiku Njuguna, 79, celebrate Valentine's Day at Holy Family Basilica in Nairobi on February 14, 2016. They are always teasing each other. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Francis Njuguna, 85, and his wife, Nellie Wanjiku Njuguna, 79, celebrate Valentine's Day at Holy Family Basilica in Nairobi on February 14, 2016. They are always teasing each other. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Citizen journalists — ordinary readers doing the work of professional journalists — were busy this week correcting and fact-checking professional journalists and columnists.

Barack Obama Senior, the father of the US President, was not a beneficiary of the student airlift initiated by Tom Mboya, contrary to what Ken Okoth, MP for Kibra, said in his article “Wings to Fly helping mould future leaders,” published in the Nation of February 15.

Awino Gilbert pointed out that a reading of Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama and And Then Life Happens by Auma Obama shows that Obama Senior went to the University of Hawaii “on his own steam”. His name was not even in the manifest of the 81 students flown from Kenya on September 9, 1959.

Mbiyu Koinange has no street in Kenya named after him, contrary to what George Kegoro said in his article, “A timely debate on the cultural politics of naming”, published in the Sunday Nation of February 14.

Chris Kiriba pointed out this, among other misstatements in Mr Kegoro’s article.

Koinange Street in Nairobi is named after his father, Koinange wa Mbiyu, a senior chief detained by the colonial government for his role in the nationalist struggle.

Miguna Miguna has never been to Libya, contrary to what John Kamau said in his article “Gaddafi’s unfinished commercial mask that became his face in Kenya,” published in the Sunday Nation of February 7.

Miguna was one of the five student leaders who fled in December 1987. He settled in Canada. “The five of us never travelled to Libya!” he said.

A DN2 story was highlighted on the front page of the Nation of February 17 with the headline: “I will marry for love, not convenience.”

The highlight went on to say: “Steve Oswago, 42, whose wife died two years ago, talks about the joys of raising his four children, and why he has no intention of walking down the isle ever again.”

David Kipkorir was the first to call. “Walking down the isle?” he said in disbelief. “Your sub-editors must go back to school.”


He then referred me to the “Valentine special” story on page 2 of the Nation of February 15 titled “Couple: Secrets to the success of our 57-year-old marriage”.

John Kimani had called earlier about the same story.

“You will note with amazement that Francis Njuguna and his wife Nelly Wanjiku have two sets of age,” said Mr Kimani. “I think such careless editing is intolerable.”

In the story, Mr Kipkorir said, Francis Njuguna is 83 and Nelly Wanjiku is 78, but in the caption under their picture the ages are given as 85 and 79.

I am grateful Mr Kipkorir did not ask me what the correct ages were. He was more concerned that NMG should send its sub-editors back to school, this time to read Math 101.

I had asked Ms Pauline Kairu, who wrote the story, about the variance in age. “I was given dates of birth and I did the math. I am not sure how Evans Habil, the photographer, got his,” she said.

I did not ask Mr Habil how he got his, but Photo Editor Joan Pereruan did. His explanation was that he had asked the couple how old they were and those were the ages he was given.

Interestingly, Taifa Leo carried the same story without the variance in ages.

Since this was a Valentine’s story about love, I did not delve further into the age issue. But the question of errors remains important.

Mr Kipkorir and Mr Kimani were not being fussy or fastidious. The Nation, Mr Kipkorir explained, is a family paper often passed on to school children to learn and improve their language and ability to communicate.

Thursday, an online story, “UN-Habitat boss faces probe for misconduct”, carried a picture with the following caption: “UN-Habitat Executive Director Joan Clos speaks during the County Governors and Urban Development Executive Leadership Conference in Nairobi on November 2, 2016.” That prompted Mary Wahonya to ask: “This is a real shame. Do you edit your publications?

The error was noticed and had been corrected by 11am.

Citizen journalism, I guess, has come of age.

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