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Citizen Digital, KBC, Capital FM stories on Siaya journalists’ fight lacked foothold

analysis, monitoring

By Dex Mumo

On January 23, 2024, the Media Council of Kenya released a public statement expressing dismay over a public scuffle involving three journalists in Siaya County. The statement, issued by CEO David Omwoyo, condemned the conduct of the journalists and emphasised the need for professionalism and integrity in the media industry.

The statement read in part that “…The Council unequivocally condemns all forms of violence, including those perpetrated by members of the press against their own or on members of the public. Journalists resorting to physical fights and engaging in slander not only jeopardises their professional credibility but also undermine the principles of responsible journalism….”

Note that the MCK release did not have details of the events. The reporters’ task was to pick the release and detail the events that transpired among the journalists in Siaya for their readers.

However, the rush to break news first continues to deny our readers a chance to get comprehensive reports that answer most of their questions. For instance, while the MCK statement condemned the incident and emphasised the need for responsible journalism, reporters from some highly sought-after news channels, specifically Citizen Digital, KBC and Capital FM, decided to republish the MCK statement in a rush without adding any background information or analysing the critical points that the Council statement left out.

By hurrying to ‘break the news’, which was already broken anyway, the scribes failed to address the 5W1H (who, what, when, where, why, and how) of the incident that journalism schools emphasise.

Instead, reading all the reports from these news media, it was evident that there needed to be a significant gap-filling to help the public understand what transpired. These news media missed an opportunity to create in-depth news features their readers were hankering for regarding the scuffle.

Responsible journalism requires going beyond press releases and providing a comprehensive account of incidents, enabling the public to understand and judge situations. Capital FM offered some additional information to readers, shedding light on the incident, but its report still left some gaps.

Contrary to the others, The Star newspaper excelled in its coverage. It provided a more comprehensive account of the scuffle. The Star’s journalist Emmanuel Wanjala included in his article crucial details that quenched readers’ curiosity.

It reported that the scuffle occurred during an event at Karariw Primary School, where local MP Elisha Odhiambo distributed bursary cheques to needy students. Josiah Odanga, a correspondent for The Star, sustained head injuries and was taken to Siaya County Referral Hospital for treatment.

The scuffle allegedly stemmed from a disagreement over the right to cover the event, with Odanga claiming that his colleagues deemed him an “outsider.”

The media’s role is to inform the public through comprehensive coverage of events. Moving forward, media outlets must prioritise thorough reporting and contextualise events to provide their audience with a more meaningful news experience.

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