Giving all equal media time and space can at times be misleading

I’ve a hunch Miguna Miguna has received more television — including NTV — exposure than any other candidate fighting for the Nairobi governorship.

He is telegenic, articulate and scholarly.

He also entertains his viewers by describing his opponents as thieves, baboons and whatnots, if you think that counts as a vote getter.

COVERAGE
But he has written to complain he has been blacked out by NMG, especially its print division.

“In your issue of the Sunday Nation of today, April 30, page 20-21, you purported to cover August 8 elections in which you have published images and names of all gubernatorial candidates and a story by the ‘Nation Team’.

“However, like with all your other coverage since the beginning of this election cycle, my name, image and mention are missing,” he said.

DAILY NATION

“I would like to know why your newspaper is refusing to acknowledge my candidature and undermining both my right to receive fair and equal coverage and the rights of Nairobi voters to choose the best candidate for governor based on objective criteria.”

Later, he wrote to complain about another story, ‘University degree has changed my behaviour, says Mike Sonko’ by Aggrey Mutambo published by the Daily Nation on June 12.

UNFAIR

The story is about Mr Sonko’s transformation but it mentions the other contenders, except Miguna.

“You can support the drug peddlers and looters all you want, but it is unethical for the Nation Media Group not to mention my candidature to its readers,” he said.

I agreed it was unfair — though not necessarily unethical — for NMG not to include his name in that story, but suggested it was an oversight.

“When my name has been omitted 99.9 per cent of the time, I believe it is both unethical and a deliberate act,” he argued.

NEWS STORIES

“This was not an isolated incident at all. All you need to do is conduct a quick search for all news stories and op-ed pieces on the Nairobi gubernatorial seat from January 2017 to the present that the Nation Media Group has carried and you will acknowledge my point, if you are going to be scrupulously honest.”

I did a quick search of the news stories. My assistant, Caroline Waswa, dug out 44 stories published in the last six months.

CANDIDATES

Miguna was mentioned in nine, Evans Kidero in 32, and both Peter Kenneth and Mike Sonko in 40 of the stories.

This, the figures show, was not exactly a blackout for Miguna. But he was trailing.

Why? There could be a whole lot of reasons. I will mention only a few I think are most likely.

ENDORSE
One, there is no need to include Miguna in every story unless it is relevant.

For example, there was no reason to mention his name in the story  ‘Signs Uhuru is backing Kenneth for Nairobi governorship anger rivals’ by Justus Wanga published on January 22.

The story is about a “push” by businessmen with roots in central Kenya to have President Uhuru Kenyatta endorse Peter Kenneth.

REPORTAGE

Evans Kidero was mentioned because he is the governor and Mike Sonko because he was opposed to the endorsement.

There was no room for a Miguna mention.

Two, journalists report activities they are aware of. 

PROMINENCE

And, three, news events compete against each other for newspaper space or TV airtime.

Less prominent or newsworthy events are edged out by the more prominent or newsworthy.

Equivalence — the journalistic practice of giving equal space and time for opposing events is not always desirable because it can amount to bending facts or failing to tell the truth.

EQUALITY

The fact that there are four “known persons”— actually there are two other independent candidates cleared by the IEBC, Godfrey Wanyoike and George Mbugua, but ignored by the media — trying to win the Nairobi governorship, does not mean the four must be given equal coverage.

I doubt Miguna is asking for that. But let me be unequivocal.

Giving equal media time and space can in itself be misleading, unprofessional and even cowardly.

Send your complaints to [email protected] Text or call 0721 989 264.

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