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If you don’t want to read journalism is the wrong job

Every journalist cringes whenever a colleague falls short in public. The truth is, no one knows everything. Interviews with news sources are not knowledge contests. A reporter is looking for information.

But disaster strikes when the journalist appears not to understand the subject of inquiry. You are not going to find out information about something you don’t fully grasp.

The trick is to research your topic well beforehand. No research is exhaustive. There are always gaps, which are opportunities for future investigation.

But a journalist must have a broad understanding of the subject they seek information about. Or how can one inform their audience?

As reported in last week’s issue of The Observer, Deputy President William Ruto got away with important unanswered questions in his NTV interview with Ken Mijungu because Ken had not properly researched certain issues.

Ruto enjoyed the show and even interviewed Ken, to the utter consternation of media analysts.

On Monday, January 27, The Star newspaper up on Waiyaki Way carried a front-page story titled, “Mutunga: I was not bribed over 2013 Raila case.” Willy Mutunga is the former Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Kenya.

The Star report was a detailed interview of Mutunga’s work not only at the Judiciary but also as a radical intellectual who, among many others, fought the dictatorship of President Daniel arap Moi and paid steep personal costs for his stand.

The Star’s Gordon Osen asked Mutunga: “You have become bold in firing tweets and sentiments that are anti-establishment and oppositionist. Where are you getting with this? Where are you getting this courage? Are we likely to see a bolder you in the coming days calling out political figures for their malfeasance?”

Mutunga: “You are short on history. I have been on Twitter since 2011. Track my tweets and you see a clear trajectory over which I have stated what is on my mind as fairly as I could. My interviews with the media are an important record also. I got my courage a long time ago when I was 10 years old.”

No one who understands Kenya’s unfinished liberation struggle would mistake Mutunga’s place in it. The Observer has met Mutunga, an unapologetic leftist intellectual and activist.

The Star reported that on June 10, 1980, Mutunga was arrested for being a member of an underground resistance movement at the University of Nairobi where he taught law.

Two years later, he was arrested and detained for allegedly taking part in the August 1, 1982 coup attempt against Moi staged by a section of the Kenya Air Force and supported by UoN students and other radicals. After a year in prison, Mutunga fled into exile.

Is this a man who only became courageous with the advent of Twitter?

Something more ominous than lousy reporting is at play in this kind of journalism, namely, the erasure of the Kenya’s revolutionary history. It is not taught in school.

Scribes, Maina wa Kinyatti’s 2014 book titled, “Mwakenya: The Unfinished Revolution” would form an interesting read for those who wish for this kind of enlightenment.

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