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Citizen’s great judgement when chief pathologist appeared to laugh about death

A man who deals in death for a living was talking. Then, he was laughing. The room was full of journalists armed with mics, pens and notebooks. You could not imagine a tenser scene.

It is distasteful to make light of death, let alone laugh while talking about the dead. Yet, chief government pathologist Dr Johansen Oduor was doing precisely that at a press conference on February 17.

“Dr Oduor shares some light moments away from work”, Citizen TV reporter Emily Chebet said. Then the camera swung onto the pathologist.

“When you look at me, how do I look?” Dr Oduor said, laughing out loud, shoulders rocking, head swinging from side to side. “Like a disturbed person?” More laughter, joined, disturbingly, by his audience, the journalists.

Laughter at death. Tension. How should media report a press conference reeking with such tension? Rub it in? Nope, that would make media complicit in lack of taste.

Citizen TV pulled a brilliant card: Explain it. Some editor back at the studio might have cut the clip while the pathologist was inappropriately laughing. Thankfully, Citizen didn’t do that. They wisely let the clip roll.

This allowed Dr Oduor to explain himself.

“Of course, death is not a very good thing,” he added, switching to an appropriate, sombre tone. “And we are all humans. I don’t think anybody will be happy when you see people dead, yeah?”

Then he injected science. “Actually [pathology is] the reason why there’s advances in medicine, so that people [can] live longer and longer.”

And that saved the day.

The good judgement to let that clip roll past Oduor’s laughter did something magical. It provided context.

And just like that, tension in the room melted away. Allowing in that context sanitised what would have been a staggeringly insensitive and distasteful moment: Chief government pathologist laughing about the dead?

Great judegment, Citizen TV!

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