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Tell-tale signs that external forces are using media

What are the odds that two national newspapers would tell the same story – which is not breaking news – with near identical detail, on the same day, at the same time?

Both the Daily Nation and the Standard told the story that President William Ruto’s government has turned from bashing policies and projects by his predecessor, Uhuru Kenyatta, to implementing them.

The Standard’s story by Grace Ng’ang’a was titled, “Ruto makes about-turn on Uhuru projects after political rhetoric.”

The Nation’s version by Dominic Omondi was titled, “Ruto flips back to Uhuru footsteps as bitter economic reality sinks in.”

The two stories hit online, above the fold, the same morning, on September 26, 2023.

How did two reporters from different news houses land the same story at the same time?

Look at the similarities:

Standard, paragraph 1: “President William Ruto seems to have devised a way of adopting former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s projects that he criticised during campaigns.”

Nation, paragraph 2: “President Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza administration has been forced to regurgitate a lot of retired Kenyatta’s projects and policies, which they [Kenya Kwanza] opposed while on the campaign trail.”

Standard, paragraph 1: “The Kenya Kwanza government has reintroduced Huduma Namba which has been renamed Maisha Namba.”

Nation, paragraphs 30, 31: “Last week, the government unveiled Maisha Namba […], which […] mirrors Uhuru Kenyatta’s Huduma Namba.”

Standard, paragraph 27: “In August, the government reinstated fuel subsidies in a fresh plan to stabilise fuel prices through the resource accumulated in the Petroleum Development Levy (PDL) Fund.”

Nation, paragraph 19: “Earlier, the government was forced to apply a fuel subsidy – which it insists is fuel stabilization fund […].”

Examples may have been sprinkled differently in the two stories. But the meat was the same.

Was that all a coincidence?

Politics has a way of creeping into governance. And in politics there’s no such thing as coincidence. So, hard-nosed veterans in the news business should ask: How did that happen?

When these things happen, you should hunt down motive. Ask: Who is to gain from this story? Did somebody leak it? Or did somebody plant it?

If somebody leaked it, if it’s true, and if the public has a right to know, it doesn’t matter. You know you’re being used. But tell the story, anyway.

But if somebody planted it, that’s a different ball game.

Planting a story implies zero independent research by reporter. Heck, it even implies the reporter didn’t write it. Cut that story. Go find a fresh story. Or you’ll just have walked all over ethics with wooden shoes.

Sure, we should give both papers the benefit of the doubt, that both stories were honest, original reporting. Still, how do you explain their being posted the same morning?

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