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You know how to write a feature? It’s a story, not a speech

Taita Taveta youth venture into leather value addition (Star, March 28, p.14). Dry feature headline using dead words that spark zero emotion (“venture”, “value addition”).

Intro? Promotion of leather value addition is key in positioning Kenya as a leading producer and exporter of quality leather products as the country seeks to attain Vision 2030. For a feature, this little speech says nothing specific of interest. The focus of this story is youths making money from leather, not “positioning Kenya”, “exporter of quality leather products”, “Vision 2030”, blah, blah. Zero emotion. To put emotion in writing, let your reader see, feel, smell, and taste or even touch what you are talking about. Show, don’t tell.

Next: The demand for leather and leather products globally is growing faster than supply. That is telling, not showing. Urgh, and where is the story promised in the headline about Taita Taveta youth?

The leather and leather products sector offers an important opportunity for industrialisation and job creation under the government’s Bottom Up Economic Transformation Agenda (Beta). Surely, writers, there is a difference between a newspaper feature and a speech delivered by Industry CS Rebecca Miano at KICC.

Para 8: In the heart of Mwatate, nestled at the foot of Chawia hills, Mathew Mghendi braces [braves] the strong scorching midday sun as he carries some of the tanned hides from the tannery to the workshop. Now, this is where the feature starts. You can see the foot of Chawia hills, feel the scorching midday sun on your skin, touch the tanned hides. Journalism is about people and what abstract ideas like “positioning Kenya”, “Vision 2030” or “Bottom Up” mean in their lives.

The government is working on a model of reintroducing low-priced but safe and affordable alcoholic drinks as one of the ways of eradicating illicit brews in the market (People Daily, March 26, p.2). Doesn’t “low-priced” mean “affordable”? Why repeat?

Heavy downpours often spell doom across the country with rampant flooding and its catastrophic consequences (Nation editorial, March 27, p.19). The adjective “heavy” is unnecessary because “downpour” alone means heavy rainfall.

Plan to hike rent sends shock waves amongst civil servants (Star, March 27, p.7). Next page: Shock as Auditor General flags Sh5 billion expenditure in Nakuru. Public servants shock as state mulls rent hike (People Daily, March 27, p.2). Yet no one is quoted in these stories expressing “shock”.

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