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Thursday, 17 February 2011


It was a moving story on the plight of female casual laborers, contracted  to wash clothes in Nairobi households. These women are exposed to risks ranging from sexual assault, battery and the possibility doing harrowing tasks like washing dead bodies. But the same story was the subject of an apparent TV news plagiarism.

The first station to succinctly capture the emotional, physical and psychological trauma of these women, was K24, in its flagship human interest and investigative segment, 'Untold Story,' titled, 'Washed Away.'

The series, in my estimation, has all the hallmarks of a potentially award winning television story, even in international competitions. Why? Because of the simple fact that it is about real people facing real problems and having to deal with real consequences of their poverty-driven vulnerability.

However, the audience rating of K24 is nothing to right home about and chances are, this brilliant story perhaps never got to be viewed by a critical mass. And this is probably what another station, with a better viewership was banking on.

So, after seeing K24 story and being so moved especially by the episodes that had a woman, who was raped and infected with HIV and another, who was forced to wash a corpse, I see a very similar storyline, on this other channel, a couple of days later.

As a rule, a viewer wouldn't be interested in wanting to know details of who had the story first or whether many media houses were chasing the same story. But having already seen the story aired by another channel only makes one to be quick to conclude there is either a lack of originality or a blatant aping of story ideas, when the same story is belatedly aired elsewhere.

To me, this borders on plagiarism and as is the practice in academic circles, the noble thing to do would be to properly cite or professionally acknowledge the original source of a news or feature story. No one after all, has or should have a monopoly of ideas, especially in a news setting.

This way, the second station to pick up a story that has already aired, could find itself compelled not to repeat what is already in the public domain and instead strive to add fresh angles that drive the story forward and meaningfully add to the existing body of knowledge.

It does not matter, like in this case, if the same story of the woman washing a cadaver is picked up by a radio station. A way should still be found to make the necessary attributions. Newspapers after all, regularly cite specific television stations, if an article is based on something that has already aired.


Unknown said...
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Anthony said...

This leaves me doubting most stories aired on local channels. It seems most are stage managed to impress the viewer. Anybody can see the originality in the K24 story; even the emotions can tell. There is no way possible that every lady was forced to wash a corpse at gun point in all stories, not unless those women work in barracks!!!! At least they should have said knife or something else to make it a little different...I feel bad for the original owner of the idea. Thank you Albert for posting this!

Albert Gachiri said...

Good observations Anthony. A culture of giving credit wherever it is due should be inculcated in all newsrooms. There is no shame in acknowledging a competitor's original idea and then following up on the same story.

raiya mmoja said...

Untold stories in K24 is setting the pace,the stories are quite eye opening.Never mises to watch them.

George Kinyua (GK) said...

Well, I think once a certain station picks up a story, that does not give it any patent rights. After all, it could be the subject of another person's unpublicized research. So, whoever airs it first or last doesn't really matter. What matters is whether everyone achieves their goals at the end of the game.

Moses Wakaba said...

yeah, I concur with Gachiri that duplication of a story doesn't have a fresh angle or interpretation but the era of turning only KTN or NTV in whole news hours is long gone. I hopper t as many Kenyans do to all TV stations in a record 30-minute bulletin.

Its inexpensive, adventurous and fun doing so. another thing K24 an edge over you egocentric big TVs is that they replay their items creating more chances for busy and news-thirsty citizen. Introduce packages such that of CNN where features are..............

Anonymous said...

same case. remember the wagalla masacre story on KTN sometimes last year, then Citizen brings it this year. nktutho!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm! I doubt the genuineness of the true victim here; it’s starting to sound like a legendary story passed on from neighbour to neighbour from back in the day. Unfortunately once BBC picks up on this 2 years from now it shall make world headline News. But 1st that actor purportedly to be from the slums, who can also pull an Oscar needs to come forward.

Anonymous said...

their is a lot of plagiarism in print. for example this appeared today ( 17/02/2011) in the standard http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/InsidePage.php?id=2000029386&cid=4

compare with the Wikipedia entry here

their are a lot of similarities........