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His Excellency the President today visited the loo and other stories

Great men are a great source of news, but only when they do or fail to do great things, like start wars, win wars, end wars; or when they make great blunders like sleep with the maid or lie to a child, etcetera.

Now, back in the day when Kenya was a one-party state the President had the final say on all matters: News was the President, and the President was news.

So 7am news would be: The President will today tour Kaptut to inspect development projects. On his way, the president will make stop overs at Kainuk and Kasogon where he will address wananchi….

9am news would be: The President has arrived at Kaptut. On his arrival, the President was welcomed by the area Provincial Commissioner mister Aldibrontichronohonthologos and the chairman of the local cattle dip, Mister Hontothologos.

1pm news would be: The President today ate lunch at the Provincial Commissioner’s dining room. The President ate boiled maize and washed it down with a calabash of mursik. The President expressed his satisfaction by belching loudly.

7pm news would be: The President has completed a successful tour of Kaptut. During the tour, the President laid a foundation stone for the local cattle deep.

9pm news would be: The President is about to go to bed at State House after a tiring tour of Kaptut. During his sleep, the President is expected to have good revelations for the benefit of Kenyans.

11pm news would be a whispered:  Shhhhhhhhh! The President is dreaming.

Any editor who failed to put the President on top of the news would easily have end up in a forcible tour of the dark dungeons of Nyayo House. Some who went in never came out, or if they did could not sire children thereafter because certain parts of their anatomy had been squeezed in a very ungentle manner.

Now, thanks to democracy – the fore-runner of yesteryears’ demoncracy – editors do not have to start all news items with ‘His excellency the President….”

Thanks to a national document called a Constitution that protects press freedom, no editor fears getting a call from the House on the Hill for forgetting to report that the President’s Friesian cow is about to calf.

But there’s something that must worry many who know and experienced firsthand the mediascape in Kenya’s dark days: The return of “His excellency the President today attended church service at Moi High School Kabarak…”stories of the 1980s and 90s.

So we have “President visited Koilel farm in Uasin Gishu..”, “President attended church service in Karen”; “… speaking when he attended church service, President said blah, blah, blah.”

Why are we going back there? Why is the President suddenly becoming news and news becoming President?

No, we are not saying here that the President ought not t get coverage in our media. We are saying that we are doing a disservice to the Presidency when we do not report the bigger picture of what he says or does; when we report where he went to church; where he had lunch, where he went after the church service…when we keep regurgitating phrases like “..he said, he reiterated, he called for….”

We hold no brief for the Presidency, but we humbly submit that the President would be gladder if we reported more on how his projects and policies are changing the lives of Kenyans than what he said in church.

We suspect that some of these stories are copy-pasted from some fellows who sit somewhere in a corner at the House on the Hill, who either have no idea about the basics of media ethics or think they can eat from their story and still have it the next day.

This is fine, but like someone once said, even rigging requires intelligence – so it is with ‘rigging a story,’ it requires more than copy-pasting poorly written, journalistic mumbo-jumbo from the House on the Hill.

And it is not just the President here: The spin masters on the Opposition side have also found ways of sneaking in their own headlines like, “Why Raila went to the UK.”


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