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Accuracy means two papers can’t report clashing numbers on same event

By Origa Vera

Sourcing facts is no longer just an art in journalism. It comes with good training. Throw in some good years of practical experience and you have a complete journalist who has a nose for the quality, objective data. The standard is that the amount of information a journalist is able to gather determines the quality of the story published. This is a fact, which has been proved by years of media monitoring and analysis at the Media Council of Kenya.

Of course, journalists must be conscious of laws and regulations governing news gathering in their locality. Laws governing right to privacy, limitations on freedom of expression, like in our Constitution, are critical. Particularly, the Code of Conduct for the Practice of Journalism succinctly defines the boundaries for every journalist operating in the country. It ties us to certain ethical basics that we must conform to. Part of the basic demands under these standards is getting the facts right for our audiences.

So, when you have two national newspapers reporting on the same issue but with different facts, one cannot fail to ask, where did the newspapers get their facts while breaking the news? Who got the facts right?

On January 18, The Standard headline read that, “Battle for governors as 25 back Raila bid”, while Taifa Leo headed: “Magavana 30 waweka ‘’bet’’ yao kwa Raila.’’

These are major inconsistencies in the statistics of the same story. The difference in the statistics leaves more questions than answers. Were the reporters really present at the meeting to come up with the exact number of governors? Should we believe Taifa Leo or The Standard. These are the kinds of questions the consumers surely asked themselves. If the reporters were present, then why the different numbers?  Did they use the wrong sources?

Taifa Leo reported that “wengi wakitarajia hatua hiyo itawasaidia wanaotetea viti vyao kuvihifadhi, huku wanaostaafu na watakaopoteza wakiwa na matumaini kwamba atawakumbuka katika serikali yake iwapo atashinda.’’ This is clearly an opinion based on assumptions. No governor said this, neither did the joint statement read by Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Murithi. It seems the paper shifted from reporting to editorialising.

Reliable sources with factual stories that include exact statistics without assumptions form the backbone of credible reporting. Seemingly, our scribes are forgetting this important bit of journalism. The scribes are not keen on verifying the facts of a story before letting it go. The difference in statistics on the front-page story causes a lot of confusion as the story affects a large number of news consumers. The assumptions too make us question the credibility of the sourcing.

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