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Research your story beyond ‘he said’

It was a small story tucked away on page 26 on the Star newspaper on Monday, March 18 under the title, “Catholic Church launches anti-family planning campaign in Tharaka.”

“The Catholic Church in Tharaka Nithi has launched a campaign against the county’s successful uptake of family planning services,” the paper reported.

The church is worried about the small number of children attending catechism (classes for baptism) and wants more.

“We have no children to teach catechism in our churches due to the low number of children in your families and we request mothers to continue giving birth,” said Fr Gerald Mugendi of Iruma Parish, who is leading the campaign.

Meru Catholic bishop Salesius Mugambi attended the meeting and said he supports the campaign.

This story would have gone on and on along this line, quoting one speaker after another at the event.

But the writer added some extra information.

“Tharaka Nithi has Kenya’s fifth highest use of contraceptives,” he reported.

“At least 74 per cent of women in the county are on modern family planning methods, above the national average of 58 per cent, latest data from the United Nations Population Fund shows.”

The writer went on to list the top counties in contraceptive use in Kenya.

He did more. “The campaign is likely to stoke controversy at a time Kenya is running one of Africa’s most progressive family planning programmes,” the reporter wrote.

Fr Mugendi said the county would develop economically when the population is high.

“However, research shows countries with high fertility typically face challenges in providing education for children, health care for all and employment opportunities for young workers,” the reporter pointed out.

This is a small story by any standard. A Catholic priest talking against contraceptives or urging parents to multiply, fill the Earth and subdue it is nothing new. They preach that all the time.

But look at how the writer has enriched this story with facts and figures that clearly negate the priest’s claims. He provides the bigger picture through additional research on the subject, thus enabling the reader to make up their mind about what the priest is saying.

This is commendable journalism!

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