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Do not parrot press statements, write the news

The king came to town. Opposition leader Raila Odinga joined the party, a state dinner at State House, ostensibly hobnobbing there with his arch-rival President William Ruto.

The press smelled a story. How did The Star write it?

They penned a few lines of the news, then ran out of words and started parroting what was, clearly, a canned press statement.

The October 31 story, titled, “Raila joins leaders at State House for banquet” by Manny Anyango started out with the traditional Ws in news writing.

What happened? “ODM leader Raila Odinga on Tuesday joined other high-profile leaders at a State banquet organised in honour of King Charles III and Queen Camilla.”

Where? “The banquet was held at State House, Nairobi.”

When? “On Tuesday”.

Who? “ODM leader Raila Odinga…. accompanied by National Assembly minority leader Opiyo Wandayi.”

Other notable characters in the story? Yes. King Charles III, Queen Camilla, President Ruto’s Cabinet Secretaries and senior politicians (many of whom were seen engaging the ODM leader, the story noted for impact), and Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa.

Why was Raila making news? “This is the first time Raila is seen at State House after the 2022 elections which he lost to Ruto.”

Then, after 132 words in eight paragraphs, the news fizzled out. But the writer kept writing. Or, as we said, parroting evidently canned things.

The King and Queen Camilla arrived in Kenya on …” Not King Charles, but the King.

Their Majesties’ visit …” Their who? Journalistic writing does not care for homage.

The visit is the first official visit by Their Majesties to an African nation.” Who wants to bet that this line did not come from some official attachment from the British High Commission in Nairobi?

The rest of the story continued with similar glossy, no-news, lines typically penned by public relations officers who write for a salary at embassies.

The visit is aimed at celebrating the warm relations. Strong and dynamic partnership continues to be forged, blah, blah, blah.

And it concluded with a classic diplomatic mumbo jumbo: “The King will take time during the visit to deepen his understanding of the wrongs suffered in this period by the people of Kenya.”

What would a savvier reporter do? Just write the news. Then stop.

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