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What’s happening to editorial rigour? Two stories that cried out for better judgement

The press was guilty last week of trumpeting two dubious stories that were punctuated by their stark lack of verification and poor editorial rigour.

The first was that, in the wake of the Ministry of Education’s releasing the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education results, the parents of one girl rewarded her with a Sh6 million Toyota Prado.

“Musician Dola Kabarry gifts daughter a Sh.6m Prado for scoring 413 marks in KCPE,” a Citizen Digital headline said. The highest mark in the examination is 500.

The story was complete with a picture lifted from a Facebook account of one Connie Kabbary, showing a girl and an unidentified adult male on the driver’s seat, and captioned: “Image of Sherryl Kabari posing with her Toyota Land Cruiser.”

According to the story, repeated by K24 Digital and online media outlets, musician Kevin Omondi Migot, stage name Dola Kabarry, and his wife were simply keeping a promise to their daughter that if she scored over 400 marks they would gift her with “a big car” and a Samsung phone of her choice.

This story stunk. Does a kid who just competed Standard Eight need a vehicle? For what? To where will she drive it? Wait, how old is she? Does she have a driver’s licence? Who will be fuelling the car and paying for service and insurance?

The second surprising story ran in The Standard. “Kakamega man earns “Sh10,000 daily making jaggery from traditional methods,” the heading said.

The story, syndicated on the Standard’s Facebook page, was complete with the picture of an elderly man dotting a floppy hat, seated on a low wooden stool – the kind women in the village use at a three-stone fireplace – and feeding fresh cane into a rickety sugarcane crusher, with a bull tied to a wooden plank that seemed to provide the required energy by circling the crusher.

“Looks like he earns 200/-”, one Facebook user commented promptly.

But the story by Bernard Lusigi insisted that the 70-year-old man from Imamune village in Ikolomani sub-county has been raking money for 10 years.

Readers were told that after the sugarcane industry in Kakamega started wobbling, the old man turned to this “tedious traditional method to make ends meet.”

First, raking Sh10,000 a day is not making ends meet. That’s a steal.

But, really, by a show of hands, how many people think this story is realistic? Sh10,000 daily from making jaggery? Wait, what does daily mean? Five days a week? Seven? Let’s take lower figure, five. It would mean the old man earns Sh50,000 weekly, Sh200,000 monthly. C’mon man!

By not asking basic questions about what’s practical, reporters on these two stories showed staggering naivety. And their media houses showed deplorable lack of news judgement for running stories with unverified, exaggerated claims.

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