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What’s the difference between pedestrian witness and news reporter?

By Kodi Barth

You are standing by the road, haggling with a maize-roaster, a wide-eyed magician of a guy who can keep multitasking between 11 tasks.

They got skills, those maize people. The charcoal must keep burning. So with one hand he must keep fanning it. Six maize cobs must roast at just the right hue, moisture and taste, never hardening or blackening.

With the other hand, your guy is taking money and giving change. Sporadically, he pauses both to deftly break a hot cob into two for the next buyer.

He scans the crowd forming around for potential petty thieves. Or bullies. Or law enforcement – maize roasting is not allowed here.

While all of this is going on, you are frowning at the size of your maize that you just got sold.

You paid 20 bob. But your piece is less than a third of the original cob. You are being cheated. You are sure of it.

This charlatan is going to cheat you even on the next thing you need, pilipili to rub onto the cob to fire up the flavour of a good roasted maize, like only pilipili can, says a member of the committee in your head.

You are going through this when you spot the crowd all turning toward a spectacle in the road.

Rolling downhill, in slow motion, is a flatbed trailer as long as a football field, with what looks like the Titanic on top of it.

The luggage is wrapped in 10,000 meters of plastic, so you don’t know exactly what it is.

This picture happened for real on the roads recently.

For over 20 days a trailer hauling what looked like the Titanic crawled from Mombasa, through Nairobi, toward the western border with Uganda.

The Star wrote about it.

“Mammoth cargo from Mombasa finally enters Uganda”, said the March 1 story heading.

Mammoth cargo? What was it?

Anybody reading this story by Pertetua Etyang must have wanted to know what this thing was.

Well, the story didn’t say.

The Star even published a photo of it, showing a large water vessel. But the caption, too, was useless. It repeated, “Mammoth cargo in Malaba heading to Uganda on March 1, 2024”.

What, then, was the difference between the news reporter and a bloke buying maize on the roadside?

Nothing. No difference.

What should a news reporter do? The reporter’s business is to dig.  Find out what was rolling down the road. Or just don’t write this story.

When media is ignorant, it had better shut up. Otherwise, it will misinform the public. Or worse, perpetuate ignorance.

Eti mammoth cargo. What mammoth cargo?

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