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Poor salute to Maj Gen Ahmed: If story is not ready, don’t run it

President William Ruto recently made history by appointing the first woman commander of the Kenya Air Force. That was eye-popping news. But who is this gallant woman, the toughest female soldier in Kenya? Media has a duty to tell her story. The Standard took the first shot – and bungled it.

Major General Fatuma Ahmed: Kenya’s first female Airforce Commander,” said the heading on May 2.

That heading suggested a profile, a portrait in print about a person of interest to the public.

The profile by Betty Njeru started out this way: “Major General Fatuma Gaiti Ahmed continues to reach for the ‘executive’ suite.”  

Continues to do what? First, this opening assumes a continuing story. It assumes the reader knew Ahmed already. Wrong. And what does “executive suite” mean, anyway?

Next, the story said correctly that Ahmed would be “the first woman to be at the helm of any service in the Armed Forces.”

This was the historic part. The reader would be dying to know, who is Fatuma Ahmed? Where is she from? Where was she born?  Where did she go to school? Who are her parents? Does she have siblings? What’s her journey?

It is not a profile until you speak to people who know the subject – her family, teachers, friends, neighbours, colleagues, you get?

Did The Standard answer any of these obvious questions? Nope. Did the writer find anyone to speak about Ahmed? Not a single breathing person.

Yes, the story planted an apt transition way up in paragraph 5: “But who is Major Gen Ahmed?”

The answer was disappointing. “We revisit her decorated career spanning more than three decades.”

That’s not even where to start. A deep dive into her background should take you to her beginnings.

Instead, this background started last year that “she was in 2023 appointed Senior Directing Staff Air.”

The rest was dry chronology fit for Wikipedia. The writer quoted a Ministry of Defence publication.

That Ahmed enlisted in the defence forces in 1983. That she was commissioned to the rank of Second Lieutenant in 1985. That she was posted to the Kenya Air Force in 1999. Blah, blah, blah.

C’mon, man, Google could spit all that out in a flash.

And the profile of Kenya’s first woman commander of the Air Force ended equally dryly, abruptly. That President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2019 promoted her to the coveted rank of Major General.

That was it. Scanty desk research. Zero quote. Zero interview. This was just lazy. It failed to do justice to a huge, historic news.

Folks, this story was not ready. Yes, when the big news breaks, we understand that the pressure to publish something, anything, is huge.

Still, in mainstream media, that something must be stellar journalism. Otherwise, what’s the difference between you and social media?

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