It was clearly a mistake. But should the blame have been entirely apportioned to an individual, or was it the company's news gathering and verification process that had failed, and hence the need for the responsibility to be borne collectively?
It became increasingly clear that my neck was squarely being put on the chopping board, going by the contents of the suspension letter handed to me, later that day. And up to this day, Bob Marley's words keep coming to mind, when I think of this incident.
Would you let the system make you kill your Brotherman?... No Dread No!
Unfortunately for me, it appeared like I was destined for sacrifice at the alter of betrayal, perhaps predictably, deserted by my colleagues, who very much precipitated my predicament.
Rather than prolong the pain from the apparent denial of fairness or justice, and the mental anguish of seeing personal professional principles I believe in, looking like they were non-existent to my senior colleagues, I resigned.
Yes. The erroneous information was sent out at about 7.30am that Saturday, retracted after about 30 minutes and an apology commendably published, suspension letter issued to me at around 3pm, before I tendered my resignation the very same afternoon.
After this dramatic exit from a company I had worked for, for nearly a decade, I opted to move on and close that horrid chapter in my career. Thankfully soon after, another opportunity elsewhere, came my way.
This episode did generate some rapid and at times rabid discussions, especially on social media platforms and the blogosphere. But I opted to keep my peace, and just watched from the sideline.
But now comes some discussions at a level that I simply cannot ignore, given the inaccuracies being propagated. My experience has now, it appears, become a case study of 'How not to practice bad online journalism.'
In it's latest edition, a magazine published by the Media Council of Kenya, uses my example in two articles, (pardon the bad grammar), and even mentions me by name.
This presents a clear and present danger to my professional reputation as a journalist, on account of the misrepresentation of some of the facts espoused in the said articles, and more, so because the magazine is being distributed to the media fraternity in the country, from by and large, the local industry regulator.
The contradictions in the articles in question are glaring. One speaks highly of the need to captured all sides of a story, but 'conveniently' failed to seek my comment on the matter.
Moreover, there's this fixation with insisting I was sacked, which by omission or commission, suggests the company did the right thing by getting rid of an incompetent journalist, (me?)
As earlier pointed out. The information I pushed out was provided by somebody senior to me at the company. Furthermore, another senior editor did corroborate the details shortly afterwards. So, when did it become a professional crime to follow the lead of one's superiors at work?
If that information had been passed to me from somebody junior to me in the newsroom, I can guarantee that I instinctively would have cross-checked its veracity, with multiple sources and/or by counter-checking with my seniors.
Innocent but costly assumption
My assumption was that before the person I report to decided to call me, when I was asleep in my house, he had done the necessary background check and taken this sensitive information through the due diligence.
To make matters worse, I have reasons to believe that my seniors had already been made aware that the former Cabinet minister in question was then still alive, by the following morning. But none of them thought it wise to call me, to at least negate the discussion we had had the previous night.
Still, I took personal responsibility on account of having been the last gate-keeper. However, I strongly believed in this instance, there was a very necessary need to view my actions as a failure of the company's internal system, not as an indication of individual irresponsibility.
Had all these arguments been captured in The Media Observer articles, I think it would have made the content not only fair to me, but also more engaging, in terms of exposing the weaknesses of news gathering, processing and dissemination, in Kenyan newsrooms.