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Yes, doctors are on strike, but tell the story neatly, tightly

Good writing comes with good manners. One of them is that you should not abuse the reader with careless writing. Or sputtering.

In the nationwide doctor’s strike coverage, The Standard did both.

It published careless writing. At least one lead story wasted space with a barrage of words crying to be cleaned up.

The heading said, Doctors dare government, vow to go on with strike for the long haul”. The April 13 story by Alexander Chagema had improbabilities. Multiple repetitions passed through the gate. Quotes were overused. Untidy sentences sputtered about. The sum: a muddled story.

In paragraph 2, the doctors at Kakamega “County offices’ locked gates addressed the governor who did not show up.” In other words, the doctors addressed a ghost. Improbable.

Paragraph 2 said that Kakamega County Governor Fernandes Barasa had ordered doctors to report to their workstations “by 8:00 am on Friday”.

A quote in paragraph 3 repeated the same. Don’t echo what you just wrote with a quote saying the same thing, or vice versa.

An acronym, CBA, was mentioned three times in paragraphs 6, 7 and 8 without explaining what it is. It is the Collective Bargaining Agreement signed in 2017, paragraph 9 would say, too late.

Paragraph 10 ended with a notice in brackets to the reader: “See story on Page 24”. Online readers met the same notice. Yeah, somebody forgot to scrub it online.

Paragraphs 12 repeated the doctors’ spokesman saying that governors are good at building hospitals, but not equipping them.

Somebody forgot to end paragraph 13 with a full stop, and to close a quote in paragraph 15.

Paragraph 18 said, “‘the doctors were not happy with the warning from” blah blah blah.

The doctors were not happy? Reporters can read happiness now?

Most glaring, the reporter did not know when to quote and when to paraphrase.

You can’t quote everything. Pick out particularly powerful utterances. Paraphrase the rest.

Quotes provide colour. They paint the picture. They transport the reader to the scene. They inject credibility. But if you overdo it, you kill their power.

Two or three powerful quotes should be good enough. This story had 12 quotes. That’s an overkill. Or, worse, laziness. Tell the story. Do not use quotes as a crutch.

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