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Journalism 101: Tweets should never replace news source’s real voice

Are The Standard and The Star trying to kill original sourcing in news reporting?

In April alone, the two news outlets between them published at least seven news stories sourced 100 per cent from tweets. Period.

The Standard

  • April 20: “Akothee responds to Miguna’s marriage advice on prenup, will”, By Fay Ngina

The reporter sourced the whole story from tweets and Instagram posts by the socialite, Akothee, and lawyer Miguna Miguna. Nobody spoke with anybody.

  • April 20: “DCI says probe into Jeff Mwathi’s death completed”, By Winfrey Owino

This story was based on a single tweet. Everything else was the reporter’s voice. Zero original reporting.

  • April 20: “Neil Wegan appointed new UK High Commissioner to Kenya as Jane Marriott exits”, By Esther Nyambura

This was reporting diplomacy by a tweet. Postings and departures of senior most diplomats were all learned and reported, apparently on the basis of a tweet. No supporting sources or background to hang your hat on.

  • April 18: “Down but not out: Eliud Kipchoge speaks after Boston Marathon loss”, By Esther Nyambura

This was based on two tweets by the marathon legend, one before and the other after the Boston race. The end. Nobody spoke to Kipchoge.

The Standard may be excused for not having a reporter at the Boston marathon finish line. But nobody has the phone number for the world’s crosscountry legend who comes from Nandi Hills? Or his manager’s number?

The Star

  • April 20: “Tame Gachagua or he will destroy you, Ngunyi tells Ruto”, by Manny Anyango

This story idea was from a tweet. All quotes were from tweets. The reporter could have done all reporting from an armchair.

  • April 19: “Ahmednasir breaks Twitter ‘fast’ to differ on Idd holiday date”, By Sharon Mwende

Lawyer Ahmednasir Abdullahi had tweeted: “PLAINLY STUPID. Friday is the 30th day of Ramadan. (Broke my Twitter fast to post this tweet)”

And the reporter wrote: “Senior Counsel Ahmednasir Abdullahi has broken his Twitter fast in protest of the declared Idd-ul-Fitr holiday date.”

Parroting a tweet is not news reporting.

  • April 16: “City mortuary to be renamed Nairobi Funeral Home- Sakaja”, by Laura Shatuma

The iconic City Mortuary is to be renamed and the only sourcing for this is a tweet? It got ridiculous. The blurb said, “In a tweet, Sakaja was inspecting the ongoing modifications at the Mbagathi-road facility.”

The governor was doing what, inspecting things in a tweet? What does that even mean?

Dear reporters, do not be content with tweets as sufficient quotes or, worse, main source, for news stories.

Tweets may provide secondary quotes. They may provide background. But they do not come close to a source’s real voice. Otherwise, original journalism is dead.

Broadcast journalism would be a joke. TV reporters would turn into editors. They would create graphics from tweets, project them onto the screen, do voiceovers, and call that journalism.

Don’t even ask what radio “reporters” would do with a tweet.

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