Don’t assume we know who you are talking about

Saturday December 15 2018

 John Michuki

The late John Michuki. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

PHILIP OCHIENG
By PHILIP OCHIENG
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The term “Michuki rules” — used by the Nation on November 12 — must have puzzled many readers and visitors, the latter including the official annual visitors to our country from Western Europe, North America and Japan, known as tourists.

Why? Simply because the word “Michuki” belongs neither to English — the official language of our media — nor to any other Euro-North American language — whereas Western Europe and North America are the chief sources of Kenya’s tourists. Official Kenya considers them so important that it names a whole ministry to ensure their comfort, enjoyment and safety.

Though his name no longer appears in Kenya’s newspapers as frequently as it used to do, John Michuki was at that time a Cabinet Minister.

VOCABULARY

But times do change, and often drastically. That is one reason that John Michuki is no longer a member of Kenya’s Cabinet and is now unknown to many Kenyans, especially the younger generation. It is, indeed, the reason that the name Michuki may no longer even ring a bell in the ears of many of Kenya’s own young newspaper readers and even makers.

Most probably, then, the name Michuki will not have kindled any memory or rung any bell in the ears of any of Kenya’s heavily loaded annual visitors from the north (Western Europe) and from the north west (Canada and the United States). That is why even “Michuki” is no longer part of the vocabulary of many of the regular Kenyan media makers and consumers. In other words, most probably, the word “Michuki” is now mysterious and may continue to puzzle newspaper readers — all the way till the coming visitors do depart.

BACKGROUND

That is probably the reason Kenya’s newspaper producers did not even bother to give the reader any explanation concerning not only the visit but also the visitors and why the name “Michuki” might interest them. Indeed, while the visitors are here, nobody will even bother to give the reader a comprehensive background to them and to their visit. Nay, more. Nobody will remember to explain to Kenya’s new newspaper readers — the younger generation — why the precepts in question are called “Michuki rules” and even go on to describe them a tad. Who or what is Michuki? What are the fortunes of the rules that Michuki’s ministry made so famous?

What is Mr Michuki doing now, either for himself or for his country? How is he — an extremely vigorous mind — faring? Yet it is simple. The name John Michuki will interest any media consumer.

LACKADAISICAL

For he was once the Cabinet minister in charge of road transport and was responsible for the introduction of those very rules, rules of extraordinary importance because, until he imposed them, lackadaisical urban road transport systems were daily claiming tens of lives of Kenyans and their visitors. The point, then, is that every time the name of such a personage appears in the news, the media should feel duty-bound to bring back to the memories of the media consumers all the important past and present activities of that personage. To fail to background your story in that way may result merely in puzzling the new media consumers.

Yet, if and when John Michuki bounces back to socio-political prominence, you — the newspaper producers — will rush back to following him all over the place and giving him prominent headlines. In other words, if and when John Michuki resumes a central social office, it will be necessary for you to resume giving him particularly prominent headlines. That is why Kenya’s newspapers should never allow anybody else of Mr Michuki’s kind to disappear almost completely from the pages of your newspapers.

Mr Ochieng is a veteran journalist.

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