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The case involving Migori Governor Okoth Obado in which he was charged with killing Sharon Otieno at Owade area in Rachuonyo sub-county between September 3 to September 4 should  serve as an acid test on how journalists cover criminal justice.

Without any iota of doubt, coverage of the courts fulfills part of the watchdog function of the media.

There is a great deal of public interest in what the courts do,  especially  in criminal cases. It should not, however, come as a surprise when complaints emerge as feedback.

 There have been many instances where  judges and lawyers  complain that apparently  news organizations send journalists out to do stories with ‘little training’ about the complexities of the justice system.

In fact, the other day I saw one of my twitter followers saying that a particular seasoned  journalist  who  was hosting a person of interest of the same nature, seemed to be ‘not qualified’.

Public Interest

As journalists, we are expected to remember that when covering stories of such magnitude, common interest exists everywhere.

It generates a broad range of equivalences which express that there is a common good that involves total society and is distinguished from individual, sectional or regional interests described as common vision, shared vision, shared purpose, common goals, social contract, core value and general welfare.

I have come across authors who equate defining  public interest to defining love.

They argue that love means different things for different persons  under different circumstances  and can be changed overtime. So when capturing  ‘public interest’ to this story, ‘stay woke’.

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Media  

Many myths about  journalism and media have increasingly continued to affect how the public consumes news.

This reflects on the trust levels very negatively  and so be careful. Many may be out there looking for a window to dress you down and brand you ‘githeri’.

A criminal justice story with a highly anticipated outcome such as this one yields far much more than just the attention.

Reporters are often accused of only telling one side of a story at times .

A reporter must pursue getting the other side, but once the attempt is made, s/he can usually go ahead with the side that s/he has. This happens when the people involved in the other side refuse to talk.

Do you recall  the Watergate scandal? If the Nixon Administration could have killed the story by simply refusing to talk, the nation would’ve never known what was happening inside the White House. Think about it…..

Television is the usual culprit. It’s widely known that television reaches the head through the heart, reporters leap to include the family in mourning or the   members of a murder victim in their story.

While their pain may be uncomfortable to watch, the alternative is a cold, sterile story about crime statistics that don’t show the heartbreak that  crime such as cold blood murder has on families.

Most importantly, always know that  whenever reporters sometimes go overboard making the emotional hook the centerpiece of the story,  facts are quickly replaced by the most flowery adjectives that can be found in a thesaurus.

(Leon Lidigu is a student of Journalism at Pacific University, India) 

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