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Star must invest in good writers and subs, the backbone of journalism

The Star lately is having a field day with reporters who compete to shock readers. Their writing, instead of informing, ironically shifts attention to the writer.

A few sentences into a story and readers start to wonder how little the writers know about their trade.

First, in its roster of reporters Lion Place seems to have folks who are masters of useless information, as well as shocking, in equal measure.

How else would you explain stories with headlines like, “Isaac Mwaura’s mother was accused of being unfaithful” (September 17)? As if that wasn’t enough, the blurb underneath said, “His father disowned him, saying he looked like a pig.”

Or, “Mr Seed is faithful to me, says Nimo Gachuiri” (September 14). Of what value are such stories in a national newspaper?

Then, along came Tracy Mutinda, whom The Star website identifies as Lifestyle and Entertainment Writer. The other weekend Mutinda wet her feet in breaking news. “Two wanted gangsters shot dead, firearm recovered in Embakasi,” said the heading of her September 18 story.

First, the headline writer didn’t help Mutinda. Who told them it’s the “wanted gangsters” who were actually shot dead? What happened to “suspected gangsters” shot dead?

Next, the blurb picked up a shocking narrative from the story and planted it upfront: “The thugs were accosted by detectives as they finalised their plans to stage attack within Embakasi.”

The thugs, huh? Yeah, because police are “intensifying the war against criminal gangs in the city,” Mutinda wrote.

It sounds like a badly written police press statement. Wait, it is. Because Mutinda cites a DCI report. The Director of Criminal Investigations issues statements about crime.

Problem is, instead of investigating, the reporter decided to do a better job for the police spokesperson.

“The thugs, who were initially three, scattered into different directions shooting at the detectives frenziedly,” she wrote.

Did the reporter see this? Nah. She quotes the DCI statement. “Our men responded with precision, fatally wounding two of them on the spot as the third miscreant staged a daring escape into Mukuru kwa Njenga settlements,” DCI said.”

Yeah. What source could be more objective?

Then, Mutinda writes the kicker paragraph: “The thug was lucky to jump into a sewer infested with human waste, his body riddled with gunshot injuries.” For now, we let the “sewer infested with human waste” slide.

The story called the dead subjects, “thugs” 13 times. We’re not making this up.

Ok, we should probably stop piling up on Mutinda. The more important questions should go to her gatekeepers. They slept on the job.

Lion Place, there are dividends in training – and retaining – young reporters. The same goes for their editors. Good writing. That is the job.

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