By Media Critic Kenya correspondent
This is a story of how a team at Nation Centre worked under extraordinary circumstances and managed to capture the news of the horrific Saturday night crash in Naivasha in today’s paper; a story of people who stayed in office up to 4 am to make sure the published story was not only told but told accurately.
Most readers in Nairobi must have seen the news splashed on the front page of Sunday Nation and told in detail on page two. No other paper had it and, naturally, copies of the publication flew off newsstands before anyone could say “scoop”.
Perhaps you thought Nation was there waiting for the story. Or that they obtained it like any other story in the paper.
Far from that.
In fact, Sunday’s newspaper was already being printed on Nation Media Group’s plant along Mombasa Road when the news of the macabre accident emerged. At the same time, reports were swirling in the social media about the terrible crash and it was apparent that this was a big story unfolding.
Driven by their journalistic instincts, a team of three senior editors in charge of the paper led by Managing Editor Eric Obino communicated and decided to go back to office to have the story run in Sunday’s paper.
A source at the Twin Towers said the three were back in office a few minutes to midnight.
The first major decision was to stop the printing of the final edition of the Sunday Nation so that the rest of the printed copies could have the story.
To re-design the paper’s front page, there had to be a designer. None was in office then and a vehicle was sent to collect one.
Photo Editor Joan Pereruan was also working on overdrive to ensure images of the crash were delivered to Nairobi as soon as possible. To a newspaper, photos are core in covering such events.
By this time, reporters at Nation Centre had been tasked with gathering as much information as they could.
Nakuru-based journalist Macharia Mwangi rushed to the scene using a motorcycle and filed his story through a phone call in collaboration with Aggrey Mutambo, the reporter on duty.
The 14-paragraph story you saw in the paper, sources say, took several phone calls to police, Red Cross and other credible sources. It also took daring efforts to get as close as possible to the crash scene.
“It was terrible. I saw for myself how vain life can be,” Macharia said of the scene he witnessed.
He left the accident scene around midnight after offering as much details as possible to the Nairobi office.
Reporting about a crash scene sometimes involves counting dead bodies physically and Macharia said he may do with counselling after what he saw.
Other journalists who contributed in building the story are Eric Matara, Macharia’s colleague in Nakuru, and Fred Mukinda. Photographer Suleiman Mbatiah ensured there were shots good enough to run in the newspaper despite the challenge posed by taking photos at night.
“The story and pictures were ready and at around 3:30am, we were ready to roll,” said a senior editor at Nation who was part of the team that put the paper together.
After a long, harrowing night that had been preceded by a day of putting together stories for the December 11 edition of Sunday Nation, the team producing the paper left office around 4 am after ensuring every detail had been taken care of. They drove their weary bodies home as the printing press roared with updated copies while distribution vehicles waited to ferry papers to newsstands as early as possible.
Here at Media Critic Kenya, we applaud the team for pushing the journalism envelope.