The 'Daily Nation' reporting of the Pandora Papers was well below par

The 'Daily Nation' reporting of the Pandora Papers was well below par

The Daily Nation didn’t report the Pandora Papers story in its Monday edition, as readers expected.

Photo credit: AFP

The reaction of readers is not always a good guide of what’s amiss because readers can also get it wrong. But in this case they can’t be faulted. In the media business the views of consumers are what counts.

Of the comments readers have made about the Pandora Papers that I know of about half are about the failure of the Daily Nation to report the story on time, fully and without fear or favour. I’ll quote the only mild and gracious comment I could find. It’s from Paul Mucheru who says: “Story poorly covered by our own Nation newspaper.”

I agree with Mucheru and other readers who say the print Daily Nation performed well below par. Its sister broadcast media outlet NTV did much better, though it also failed to report the story when it was released on Sunday and waited for a day. Readers were not told why.

Here are the facts. On Sunday, August 3, the Pandora Papers report was released. A ready-made story was available on the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) website, complete with graphics and pictures.

The papers were shared with media partners including The Guardian, BBC, Le Monde and The Washington Post. More than 600 journalists sifted through the files as part of a massive global investigation. Anybody could have accessed the story on the website, even have it delivered to their mail inbox on request.

According to the UK-based Guardian newspaper, which was part of the investigation team, the Pandora Papers are the biggest ever revelation of the secret deals and hidden assets of some of the world’s richest and most powerful people. Among them are the family of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The Daily Nation didn’t report this information on Monday, August 4, when it could have. Kenyans learned of the report from news organisations such as The Guardian, The Washington Post, Aljazeera and BBC.

The Pandora Papers reveal the inner workings of what’s a shadow of the financial world, providing a rare window into the hidden operations of a global offshore economy that enables some of the world’s richest people to hide their wealth and in some cases pay little or no tax, the Guardian reports.

Kenyatta’s spin on the story

While it’s more important for a newspaper to get it right than to get it first, the Daily Nation performed well below par on both fronts. It didn’t report the Pandora Papers story in its Monday edition, as readers expected. It didn’t analyse or assess the impact of the story

It published the story two days later, on Tuesday, with a not so expressive frontpage headline “Pandora’s box” and a picture President Kenyatta speaking into a couple of microphones. The story was chiefly about Kenyatta’s spin on the story.

The story gave the impression the significance of the story was Kenyatta’s comment on the need for “enhancing the financial transparency and openness that we require in Kenya and around the globe”. The story, however, didn’t say how that could be done.

There was no indication on the front page that Kenyatta was one of the “high-level individuals” linked to “secret offshore accounts and properties.” Readers had to read the story on page 7 to know the Pandora Papers “links the Kenyatta family to 13 offshore companies holding more than Sh3.3 billion”.

The headline on page 7 reads: “Uhuru calls for audit of all secret offshore accounts”, again re-emphasizing Kenyatta’s spin on the story. The story also included more details about other world leaders linked to the secret accounts than about Kenyatta.

The story is nearly 1,000 words long. Only some 290 words — about 30 per cent of the article — are about the Kenyatta secret accounts.

The story miserably failed to localize the story, to document its significance to the people of Kenya. This is in stark contrast to NTV, which localized the story, calling on local experts to analyze the impact of the story on the people of Kenya.

Clearly, the print Nation, failed to meet the expectations of its readers. Apparently, it was exercising an abundance of caution. That was unnecessary. The Nation, which is manned by some of the most talented journalists in the NMG stable, cannot hold a candle to its sister broadcast outlet NTV on this important global story.

The Public Editor is an independent news ombudsman who handles readers’ complaints on editorial matters including accuracy and journalistic standards. Email: Call or text 0721989264.