On Tuesday, 19 June, The Standard carried an apology that read as follows: “In yesterday’s issue of The Standard,
we used a close-up photograph of an emotional President Kibaki during the burial of Internal Security Assistant Minister Orwa Ojode in Ndhiwa Constituency, which on hindsight was inappropriate.
“We wish to take this earliest opportunity to sincerely apologise to the President for any embarrassment caused as it was not intended but was only aimed at showing the overwhelming emotion of a grieving nation.”
Now, why would The Standard apologise if the picture was used in good faith to show “the overwhelming emotion of a grieving nation” and not to
embarrass the President of the Republic of Kenya and Commander-in-Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces?
The Standard was being economical with the truth. Pictures of an emotional President Kibaki and many other people have been published many times without anyone demanding an apology, or a media house seeing “on hindsight” any need to apologise for the decision.
The Standard merely attempted to wiggle out of a tight spot it had pushed itself into. The problem with the close- up shot published in the front-page on Monday was that it terribly embarrassed the president and those around him. The shot showed President Kibaki with a running nose, his head bowed probably as he tried to get a hankie in time.
That was not fair or decent on the part of The Standard. It was bad journalism. There was no point in publishing that
picture. What was its news value? It was not a “mistake” a newspaper would realize “on hindsight.”
Placement of content on any media platform is not haphazard. The well- worn practice in journalism is to carry in the front-page those stories and pictures the newspaper considers the most important or interesting.
Radio and TV news bulletins follow this rule of the thumb as well.
It follows, therefore, that news chiefs spend considerable time ‘making up their minds’ about what should go into the front-page (or the top of the bulletin, in case of radio, TV and online publications).
It is inconceivable that a close-up shot of the President of the Republic of Kenya with a running nose could go into the front-page of a national newspaper without the express say-so of the paper’s top gatekeepers.
The Standard violated the dignity of the Head of State. The decision was petty and mischievous. It did not ennoble journalism in the eyes of the public. Why embarrass the president, or anyone at all? Well, has the paper apologised for the other Kenyans who are pictured in emotional state?
If it is true that a picture says more than a thousand words, we must conclude that that particular image says something about The Standard’s commitment to ethical journalism.