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MEDIASCAPE: How we use DP Ruto to sell weekend newspapers

Can Kenya’s media stay afloat without politics? Or, more specifically, can our weekend papers sell without Deputy President William Ruto (and his ‘allies’) on their headlines?

Here, let us take one case for examination, let us call it: The curious case of reporting Bill Ruto.

We will take only one day: last Sunday to be specific, and narrow it further to only one area: Sunday newspapers.

Now, the Sunday Nation had the Deputy President on its headlines eight times – twice on the front page, including the splash: “Secrets of Uhuru, Ruto crunch talks.” It also had four pictures of Bill.

Now forget about the fact that the secrets promised in the splash ended up being rumours. After quoting the DP’s office saying: No one else knows what President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy discussed in a ‘working lunch’”(working lunch inside the Deputy Bresident’s boardroom? He must have a loaded, well-guarded fridge, working lunch indeed!), the paper went on to quote anonymous characters “close to the people who attended the meeting.”

Now, the only three people who attended the meeting cited in the story are National Assembly Majority Whip Ben Washali, Majority Leader Adan Duale and, appearing in the photo of the President walking out of the Harambee House Annex meeting, Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko.

So much for anonymity – it does not require a rocket scientist or a sorcerer to guess who the Sunday Nation spoke to. To think otherwise is to insult its readers’ intelligence.

Now, in four out of the eight headlines carrying Bill’s name, he appears alongside two key words: corruption (or graft, if you like, another word we ought to ban from our Kenyanised English) and impeachment.

Twice does the Deputy President’s name appear alongside corruption or ‘graft, and twice alongside impeachment.

Now, whatever beef we might have against Bill, we must admit two things: one, that he has a right to fair and balanced reporting and, two, that he is an approachable politician who picks calls, especially when it is about his right of reply. Right?

The bottom line is, that even the devil himself has the right of reply, so has Bill. It only takes one ambulance chaser to get us in trouble with some of our headlines about him, and Bill will smile all the way to the bank, for lack of a better phrase.

The Sunday Standard had two mentions of Bill on its headlines, and one picture, with the first headline appearing in a brief on page 9: “Ruto: I will not engage in war of words with my political rivals.”

Now this does not necessarily mean that Bill did not warrant a bigger story in the Standard. After all, Bill is THE deputy President of the Republic of Kenya, and Journalism 100 notes state that big people make big news.

It could be that the Standard was either too timid to venture deeper in Bill’s stories or it is trying its best to ignore him.

Whichever the case, both the Sunday Nation and Sunday Standard’s audiences out there will notice, or draw their own conclusions.

Which brings us back to the question at the beginning of this week’s Mediascape: would we have a Sunday Nation without Bill Ruto?

Over to you.


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