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Inaccurate reporting weakens trust in journalism

By Gabriel Melonyie

The ethical debate about whether the end justifies the means in media reporting is complex. While capturing attention through sensationalism can increase consumption, it may compromise accuracy and fairness. Striking a balance is crucial for responsible journalism as journalists should not broadcast a story that falls short of factual accuracy and fairness.

The Kenyan media was inconsistent on the information disseminated about the ages of slain socialite Starlet Wahu and John Matara, her accused murderer as different media stations reported differently on their ages. Citizen Digital reported the two as being 24 and 30, NTV 26 and 34, K24 24 and 30, The Star 26 and 30, and NRG 24 and 30. This raised questions as to the true ages of the two and the credibility of the news sources.

The credibility of a news story is significantly impacted when journalists do not use factual data. Accuracy and truthfulness are fundamental to maintaining trust with the audience. Misreporting or using inaccurate information can undermine the credibility of both the journalist and the media house. This was a good example of the aggressive and competitive nature of the media industry as most media houses were observed to have reported the story intending to capture public interest on the matter at the cost of accuracy.

Journalists typically gather information about crimes from official sources such as police reports, press releases, family, and court documents. In this case, the relevant source for information was the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, who had stated that the ages of the two were 26 and 34, contrary to what most media houses had reported. NTV accurately reported the ages as per the DCI records.

Rushed reporting may lead to insufficient fact-checking or reliance on unverified information. Journalists and media houses should prioritise accuracy despite time constraints to maintain journalistic integrity. In a story that would soon reveal a new trend of Airbnb killings, the media should have disseminated credible information on all aspects.

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