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Too much editorialising: How not to report Cabinet reshuffle

Media had suggested for months that President William Ruto was contemplating a reshuffle of his Cabinet. Then, on the night of October 4 it happened.

How should media report a Cabinet reshuffle?

A reshuffle means either somebody gets fired – which didn’t happen – or that somebody gets moved, which happened, a lot.

The right thing to do is to tell the public, quickly and dispassionately, who got moved, from where to where. Any other talk can follow.

Ha! They didn’t do that on Kimathi Street.

The Daily Nation’s heading said, “Musalia Mudavadi assigned Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ruto’s first Cabinet reshuffle”.

After announcing that Mudavadi’s portfolio swelled from Prime Cabinet Secretary to include the Foreign Affairs docket, the story by Justus Wanga promptly lost the plot.

“It is worth noting that the head of state has not removed any members of the Executive in the changes, only moved them around,” the story said in paragraph three.

For the next eight paragraphs, the story didn’t say who else was moved. Instead, it indulged in commentary.

It reminded readers how the President last month accused Cabinet Secretaries of being clueless about things in their ministries.

The story suggested this was a clear sign of impending firings.

It editorialised that Mudavadi’s base will be excited, and Deputy President Ragathi Gachagua’s will not – insinuating a power rivalry between the President’s two top lieutenants.

The reporter was not done. Editorialising, instead of news reporting, kept streaming.

“To sack or not to sack is a delicate decision for the President, who is keen to win a second term, especially as most of his CS are politicians who control key regions whose votes he’s keen to retain”, the story said in paragraph eight.

It talked about “saving grace” for “those who are said to have performed dismally”, blah, blah, blah.

Even when the story announced the next transfer, in paragraph nine, the commentary didn’t stop.

“[…] Trade CS Moses Kuria has been moved to Public Service […]. This is likely to be seen by observers as a demotion […] Mr Kuria’s days at the NSSF building were long overdue after he missed two presidential trips to the US”.

The story then narrated Kuria’s troubles for three paragraphs before slipping in his replacement at Trade, Rebecca Miano.

Alice Wahome and Zakaria Njeru’s swapping places at Water and Lands, respectively, came nicely in one paragraph. It was bookended by Peninah Malonza’s replacing Miano at the East African Community, and Aisha Jumwa’s transfer from Civil Service to Gender.

Then, the story returned to self-indulgent stream… how the reshuffle will be seen as Ruto stabilising his Tower of Babel of a ship, yadda, yadda.

Look, in news like this, give readers the score first. Spare them the commentary.

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