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Before you write ‘major win’ or ‘major defeat’ stop, think

Search your recent memory. How long ago did you see a headline or intro like this: “President Ruto suffers major defeat …” Or “Azimio leader Raila Odinga scoops major win…”

Dear scribes, every time you find your fingers typing this across your keyboard, stop. Think. Reconsider. Why? Because the odds are that you will be sensationalising the story.

The Standard did just that recently.

Ruto suffers major blow as court halts sale of parastatals”, said the heading of a December 5 story by Kamau Muthoni.

And the intro doubled down with this “major” angle.

“The High Court in Nairobi yesterday dealt Kenya Kwanza government a major blow by blocking the sale of 11 parastatals”, the piece started.

President Ruto’s administration, faced with ballooning debt payments, had announced intent to sell off some national assets.

High on the chopping board was the iconic Kenyatta International Convention Centre, Nairobi’s world-recognised landmark. The other ten included the National Oil Corporation, which, should Kenya choose to, would be the custodian of the nation’s strategic oil reserves.

Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement went to court to stop the process. And the High Court issued temporary orders in ODM’s favour, pend hearing next February.

Then, came along The Standard’s story, that the President had been dealt a “major blow”.

Thing is, how do you measure “major”? The story didn’t explain, didn’t qualify.

In the absence of measurable facts qualifying this superlative, “major”, it is difficult to convince anyone that this was not the reporter’s opinion. That single word embellished the story.

Yes, the story furnished without drama what happened in the courts.

The applicant, ODM, accused the government of attempting to “sell Kenya’s sovereignty without public participation”, one of the most impactful provisions in the 2010 Constitution.

The courts, convinced that ODM had a case, issued “a conservatory order” for everyone to stop.

Fine. But who said this was a “major” blow to the President?

By failing to show how “major” was not his opinion, the writer sensationalised a perfectly good story from the courts.

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