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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Once a newspaper touches a story, the facts are lost forever, even to the protagonists. ~Norman Mailer

Yes, back in campus, I enrolled to study Information Sciences. I love this course. Later I majored in Publishing and Media Studies. If like me you have a passion for journalism and mass media, then names like Henry Chakava, Noam Chomsky, Roy Peter Clark, Doug Fisher and many of those legends who say things as they are, do not come as a surprise.
If you are Kenyan, then Philip Ochieng, Chaacha Mwita, Oduor Ouma and Barnabas Githiora, shouldn't be so out of your mind. The reason I am mentioning these big names in news business is because their wisdom seem to skip some of the people who consider themselves journalists.
Well, after I wrote the story on MPs new pay hike and the extensive exclusive follow-ups, for the DAILY NATION, there is this journalist who works for the only Kenyan daily tabloid who thought that was his material by right. So, he attempted to get the exclusive from me. I told him "no."
He actually went through my friend who had seen the copy of a confidential report on which I based my reporting, but because of his pea-sized fatuous brain, he could not fathom what was in the document. So he got back to me to take him through and "confirm" if that was indeed the report that I had used.
I got angered. How could he? I told him I didn't know what he was talking about and refused to take him through. This was classified material and such a story was a business gem, since it was guaranteed to raise circulation. I was not going to ruin my party. When the UK Telegraph published the story, circulation rose by 600,000. I was not going to let him ruin my bonus.
So, I refused to give him a copy of the report.
Little did I know that this had angered him so much that the next thing I saw was a smear campaign meant to discredit my story. I get personal when someone attacks my integrity. It is just me.
So, the guy termed the story as propaganda and waited for the Speaker to return from a trip to India. The Speaker returns and as expected, says the highly classified report was secret, and says the report was "speculative." But the guy puts in "fake" in his story and even quotes the Clerk of the National Assembly terming the report as "malicious".
I get my phone and call up House Speaker Kenneth Marende,who denies ever making such a statement and says someone put words into his mouth (perhaps to cover up for some inane and obvious inefficiency). He manufactured the quote "fake" and gave it to the Speaker and gave the Clerk the word "malicious" when the Clerk said he had not even seen the report and would therefore not comment.
The Clerk in fact told me that I must have worked extremely hard to get the copy of the report which is apparently with the Speaker, the Government Printer, a sealed copy with the Clerk and another with the Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Akiwumi. I laughed at that and even promised to send him a copy.
So, what's the truth? I believe my copy is authentic. I also believe that what I wrote was true. But what I hate is a journalist, to thoroughly set out to speculate on a "scoop" he allegedly missed. To tarnish the credibility of hardworkers like me.
So when Norman Mailer put in that quote on facts getting lost when a newspaper touches a story, any story, I don't get surprised. Would you?

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