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You’re a communicator, the first rule is clarity

The first – and possibly the most important – question anyone seeking a reporter’s job should be asked is this: Can you write or speak a simple sentence? Show it.

Two black cows walked down the road. President Uhuru Kenyatta said he would complete his term and go home. A boda boda rider died on the spot when he hit a stationary lorry. Omonto Gete has been appointed the new County Commissioner for Lamu. He takes over from Leo Kiriminoo who has served for three years.

But most copy that lands on a subeditor’s desk is atrocious writing. You are staring at a headline that runs into a lengthy, rambling paragraph. The intro hardly makes sense.

“The governor saying they are beefed up security that two people were deed in the misery circumstance that nobody knows what caused them…”

The entire piece doesn’t tell you the name of the governor, which county, when he or she spoke, at what place or who died. You have to call the reporter, who is probably seated in his favorite pub regaling his buddies with tales of how he is a great journalist.

“The deceased said they killed him on Monday unless thieves robbed her television and took money from the shop…”

Today, your correspondent writes Lawyer, tomorrow it is lower case. In one sentence you see double quotation marks (“), in the next it is single (‘). The subeditor has to decide where commas and full stops should be placed.

The copy says the man killed “her” wife. His name is given as Kamau. Only that.

Your correspondent says KFDC donated 200 bags of maize to a school. You have to call back to find out what those initials stand for.

Reporter says senior principal magistrate Ombogo imprisoned the accused on bail. Copy says JKIA receives about 200,000 passengers a year. Turns out the actual number is 6.5 million.

Some of the correspondents writing such nonsense are university graduates. That means three years of pre-school, eight years of primary education, four years in secondary school and four at university. About 20 years of schooling where English is the medium of instruction.

And that is not all. Some of these guys have been reporting for years.

Do the correspondents read the newspaper they report for? Do they compare the published piece with the copy they filed to see the difference?

It is impossible to be a good reporter if you are not competent in the language in which you transact your business.

It is a shame that you claim credit for a story that is almost entirely re-written for you by a subeditor in the newsroom. That’s a form of corruption and you should be investigated.

Read widely. Work on your writing skills. You are a communicator. Write simply and clearly. Don’t file anything to your editors that does not make sense to you.

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