Since March 1 up to Thursday, the Daily Nation has published 35 Ruto-related front-page news stories.
The headlines have ranged from “Inside ODM plan to impeach Ruto” to “Kibicho to Ruto: Your security starts with you”.
Some of the news stories like “Poll: Ruto pulls fast one on Raila again”, “Why Uhuru is losing grip on Mt Kenya”, and “Rift leaders dare Uhuru to sack Ruto” have depicted the deputy president in some favourable light.
But Khalif Salah Rage, a reader in Garissa County, has complained of “the continued habit of the managing editors misusing the name of the DP William Ruto in their headlines”.
Mr Ruto himself said on April 3 that for newspapers to sell, they must use his name and he now wants dividends!
Mr Rage complains that many times, the headlines paint his name in bad faith and are “probably hurting his political career and personal reputation”.
For him, the story “William Ruto: Portrait of a politician under siege” that appeared on the same day he called to complain was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
What mistake did he do to find himself under siege, Mr Rage asks. I re-read the story and realised Mr Rage is justified to complain.
The story is not what the headline says it is — a portrait. The story is an apparent opportunity for the political nemeses of the DP to punch him, without giving his supporters an equal opportunity to punch back.
A portrait is a representation of someone in words (although a picture or pictures can be included). Thus the headline “William Ruto: Portrait of a politician under siege”, which ran on Tuesday this week, held out the promise of giving the reader a description of the DP as a politician, albeit under siege.
A portrait can be an analysis or a narrative. But when well done, it gives a detailed breakdown of the information available so as to give the reader a full portrayal of the personality.
The words “under siege” in the headline signal to the reader that this is a portrayal of a man who is being severely criticised. But the reader expects to hear how he is faring.
Ethical journalism requires the Nation Team of writers to allow the voices of his supporters into the story. This is fairness and balance.
The story is about 1,000 words long. More than 40 per cent of those words are uttered by nine of the DP’s nemeses — Raila Odinga’s spokesman Dennis Onyango, ODM secretary-general Edwin Sifuna, Amani National Congress secretary-general Barrack Muluka, Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu, Kigumo MP Ruth Mwaniki, Kwale Woman Rep Zuleikha Juma, Dagoretti MP Simba Arati, Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo, and George Gatutu, who is described in the story as “a political observer”
The authors quote all of them verbatim.
In addition, there are indirect quotes — taking up 12.1 per cent of the wordage — from three other antagonists: ODM leader Raila Odinga, Central Organisation of Trade Unions secretary-general Francis Atwoli and Mombasa Governor Hassan Ali Joho publicly declaring that the DP is not fit to hold public office.
Only 13.4 per cent of the words are turned over for the DP’s defence and only his spokesman David Mugonyi is quoted.
I looked at other Ruto headline stories and I found similar shortcomings in some of the stories.
One of the stories published on Thursday — but not on the front page — contains some inaccurate information. “Mt Kenya bishops defy order, plan big rally for Ruto,” the heading said on Page 6 of the Daily Nation.
But I could find no order that was reportedly issued to ban the DP from church activities in Mount Kenya.
The story was probably referring to the plea by Archbishop Jackson ole Sapit of the Anglican Church of Kenya on Tuesday in which he said: "Let us not hype this thing of harambees and guests of honour because that is where, as the church, we go wrong.”
All said, Mr Rage is justified in registering his dissatisfaction with some of the Ruto headlines. Stories can be misleading or biased, without being false.
Send your complaints to [email protected] Call or text 0721989264