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Tuesday, 20 September 2011


How many people have died? That's a very common query put to sources or reporters by news editors, whenever a tragic incident occurs. And the number of those killed religiously becomes the most important element in the subsequent story. Isn't this morbid fascination with deaths by Kenyan media out of line?

Most unfortunately, the past few days have been full of tragic news in this country, ranging from loss of lives in a fire tragedy, to deaths from consumption of illicit brews, multiple road accidents and even a collapsed building that was still under construction.

Whereas it is the role of the media to report such occurrences, I just find the manner in which this noble duty is being carried out to be very wanting, because of what almost amounts to an obsession with giving tragic news a hyper treatment.

And such reportage is very often made worse by the seemingly inability of the local press to get facts right, before splashing the number of those killed in this or that tragedy. It's therefore not surprising for one  media outlet to quote one figure of the fatalities, while another states totally different numbers, about the same news story.

The lesson from America I'm suggesting, comes from the way the air race exhibition crash in Nevada was reported. That piece of horrifying breaking news first only indicated there were 'mass casualties,' and a couple of deaths.

Lessons for Kenyan media from America

Compare that with how news of the Sinai fire tragedy in Nairobi was initially clogged with all manner of confused estimations of the number of those who had perished.

Apart from spreading panic and possibly exacerbating the trauma of those affected or their relatives, let alone the gory images that were carelessly being screened on TV and later published in the papers, such news coverage depicts a media with very dubious ethical standards and warped sense of patriotism.

It's almost as if the local media prefers to nonchalantly give as much gory details as possible in a sickening misconception that this will deliver higher ratings/ readership or circulation figures.

What about the damaging perception about our country that such mishandled tragic news can potentially create in the global arena? How can this boost investor confidence? How about credit ratings for the country?

And it really makes no sense to always be quick to condemn the western media about their overtly negative coverage of news from Africa and then continue in the same vein, when telling our own stories.


Anonymous said...

thats right because it also adds fear to the affected

mugi said...

thats right because it also adds fear to the affected

Anonymous said...

The Difference between the US and Kenya is that in Kenya we love tragic news and if its nothing tragic we are quick to dismiss the news the media only tells you and shows you what you want

Anonymous said...

Gachiri you talk like the only sane jounalist, the rest who gave us the sinai story I don;t know where to classify them. it was a horrible piece of reporting. Sometimes I wonder which awards some of them are reaching. Good advice but I wonder if it will fall to some good ears

elikana said...

It is high time many revised on the role of the media and a reporter at large. I guess they skipped that lesson. Good job Gachiri.

jeffings said...

What do u guys mean? let the truth be told let the images be shown, if we dont show these images be sure that these things would be 100x what we are having now, to some extend people who would have otherwise been victims in different accidents avoide going to such danger zones when they occur,if Sachangwan was not screened ama sure the number of pple who would have died in Sinai would have been much higher

Anonymous said...

Surely....and here the news people try as much as possible to ape western accents in total futility

Romeo golf said...

Let the true be told ,Thanks Gachiri for that.Hope there will be a change for our media reporters