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Sniff out outlandish stories, do not publish them

“Ruto only found Sh93.7m at the treasury – Senator Cherargei,” said a heading in The Star Saturday, September 17.

By a show of hands, how many believe that story? No other media ran it. Because it smells.

The story by Sharon Mwende said that the Nandi senator alleged this in a statement Saturday 17, and asked Kenyans for patience, because President William Ruto “shall fix this through economic transformation and prayers.”

The story we pegged on a provocative tweet by Senator Cherargei: “The economy is no longer in ICU but death [sic] because H.E Ruto found only Sh93.7M at the treasury, Uhuru went home with everything. State Capture is REAL!”

Kenya’s projected expenditure in the 2022/2023 financial year is Sh3.34 trillion.

So, on scale of one to ten, how credible is this story? Can readers see through it? Oh yes. Rapid comments under the story instantly ridiculed it, showing that readers are not gullible.

Sample these:

Primate: “Did Ruto send this man to announce such a weighty matter? Or did he take upon himself to announce it?”

Domingo: “Kwani treasury iko chini ya mattress huko State House?

Lucas Ralang: “So Kenyan Treasury is a bank with a vault/safe which was opened by KK and only Sh93.7m was found/counted? LOL!”

Stebano: “93.7 million sounds unrealistic. Going by last financial year revenue collections, monthly average is about 169 billion. This means daily average is about 5.5 billion.”

Which brings us to two important lessons for reporters:

One, if something smells, it’s probably not a good idea to run with it. Two, not every word that comes out of a politician’s mouth is worth publishing. Or you’ll be a sucker for every trial balloon, random political utterances with unknown motive.

The fact that no media published Senator Cherargei’s tweet means that others saw it for what it was, an outlandish quip. It was an outlier. And outliers should not be dignified with a news spot.

You know what they say. If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck.

Rule of thumb: do not publish absurdities without independent research or providing context to educate readers.

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