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Reporters, do not repeat jargon, explain it

The People Daily recently wrote an important story with huge public interest, but buried it in jargon.

Titled, “State puts the brakes on annuity roads plan”, the January 30 story by George Kabaso was about how the Transport ministry dropped a programme that would have funded 2,349km of roads in the next five years.

That’s a lot of roads. And it’s huge news.

But the story kept tossing big words into the room, frustrating readability, and leaving the average reader half clueless on what was going on.

“The State has terminated the Annuity Road Construction programme…” the intro stated.

What is annuity road construction programme? Probably a project title that some technocrats sitting in a hotel room with endless coffee slapped onto a document.

The story did not explain it. Rather, right after throwing this around, the story just said this termination “marks the end of billions of shillings invested in various unsuccessful attempts under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiative.”

The story said that Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen, while terminating the programme, “cited the impracticality of annuity…”

Again, what is annuity? Radio silence.

Then, a quote from Murkomen: “When I assumed office, I pledged to rescue the people of Kenya from the pitfalls of annuity roads…”

Annuity roads? What are those? What do they look like?

This jargon was written six times in the story. Annuity construction programme, impracticality of annuity, pitfalls of annuity roads, delivering a road under annuity and, one more time – just in case you missed the first five – the annuity programme.

Not once did anyone think to explain annuity.

But this was not the only jargon thrown around. One paragraph must have left heads dazed.

About two weeks ago, President William Ruto dropped the Low Volume Seal road construction technology, which uses bitumen-based seals to inexpensively pave road with low vehicular traffic volumes.”

What is “Low Volume Seal road construction technology”? And what is “vehicular traffic volumes”?

Curiously, The Star wrote this story, too, and was guilty of the same omission.

Titled, “Ruto abandons Uhuru’s road construction technology”, the January 15 story by Felix Kipkemoi, which was more enlightening, left “vehicular traffic volumes” unexplained.

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