Idiot Press: The Standard Edition, again.

These buggers aren’t even trying any more, are they?

One fine Friday last month, we woke up to the screaming headline, How Government spent millions on luxury retreat, a front page expose on the 100M price tag of the cabinet retreat in Nanyuki. ‘Eh?’ we asked, aghast, ‘How now?’

But calculations by The Standard, based on actual expenditure incurred by our reporters at the resort after the Government event and interviews of people in the know reveals a different picture. The Ksh100 million figure was derived from costing of the 120 rooms reserved for the government delegation at the resort, fees paid for closing of hotel to other guests, food and accommodation levies, and the cost of plane-hiring and extra services by the hotel. However the figure could be higher if the allowances the officials are entitled to when they work out of station are factored in.

And why, pray tell, did the good people at the Standard group feel the need to investigate?

The Standard’s team inquiry began with the notion that the retreat need not have been in such a respected, expensive and World Class destination in moments of hard times.

Aaaaaawwww… Warms the cockles of my heart, their altruistic nature. Not.

The rest of the article is in a similarly sanctimonious tone, which I would ordinarily quite enjoy (I love it when people talk shit about this government, any government actually…) except that coming from this newspaper it’s a bit, how do you say, hypocritical. They listed the cost of various rooms, and the cost of a meal, and horse-riding, and hiring a set of golf clubs, and a bottle of water… This was some in depth reportage, my people, in depth. They even gave suggestions.

Apart from Sagana State Lodge, Kenya School of Government in Lower Kabete also has conference and boarding facilities regularly used by State officials. It is also the same with State-owned Kenya Multi-Media University, Utalii Hotel, Kenya School of Monetary Studies and Kenyatta International Conference Centre, which however has no boarding facilities.

See? The Standard Group cares about us. Just not enough to fact check their shit, is all.

State House on Friday said the Government spent only Sh8.4 million on the four day retreat by the Executive at the exclusive Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club and not Sh100 million as reported in this newspaper yesterday.

State House sets the record straight on cost of retreat

Yes, they published this a day later, but they weren’t too repentant, were they?

In publishing the story, The Standard was motivated by their journalistic duty to contribute to the current national debate, initiated by the President himself, on the sustainability of public expenditure. It was done in the undisputed knowledge that the resort is one of the most expensive in the world and that the whole Executive had relocated there for four days in hard times.

Additionally, unsuccessful efforts were made to get the Government’s side of the story before going to press.

Using the commercial rates that the hotel ordinarily charges, assuming each senior government official had attended the four-day retreat with at least a body guard and driver as is the common practice, further assuming that each of these public servants were drawing allowances for working out of station, factoring in the cost of fuel for each of the state official’s cars or aviation as the case might have been, and considering that non-members of the Club pay a fee for temporary membership, the bill could have been much more.

Standing by their story, I respect that. Only…

But State House clarified yesterday that all these assumptions were wrong. They said they had a negotiated special rate from the facility, which included full board lodging and conferencing facilities. They further clarified that none of the state officials attending the retreat enjoyed the expensive extras that the hotel offers.

Right. No one enjoyed the extras. And that was water in the KDF paper bags.

This is the thing. The 100M price tag seems a bit outrageous, even for this most jubilant government, and that 8.4M doesn’t sound quite right either, but because the gova showed us a receipt, which the bloody Standard geniuses verified, well…

In light of this clarification and the provided documentary evidence, we take this early opportunity to apologise to the Government for any inconvenience caused.

They threw in the apology at the end, but it was not enough. A day later they stuck another apology, nay retraction, on their front page, from none other than the MD, my man (I jest), Sam Shollei. I can’t find a copy of it on their site, but I saw it, front and centre, it was even in one of those shaded box thingimajigi.

Now while all this was going on, they were busy promoting the hell out of their latest Jicho Pevu ‘investigative report’. The Hounds of…no, wait, that’s a Sherlock Holmes story, sorry. Their latest is the suspiciously plain titled, What really happened at the BALLOT. Unfortunately for us, it was never to be. A day after they ran the 100M story, management was summoned to State House, at least that’s what the rumour mill is saying.

Kenya Today is receiving disturbing information that President Uhuru called the Standard Media Group’s top CEOs and warned of ‘unspecified consequences’ should the media house go ahead to air the story. The sad meeting today morning comes after the Standard run a story pouring cold water on Uhuru’s hyped war on wage bill.

SHOCKING: Uhuru CANCELS Jicho Pevu that was set to reveal how he rigged Raila in 2013

The management of SG were yesterday summoned to State House, Nairobi over the much-awaited exposé as well as a Friday article appearing on the Standard newspaper in which it was alleged that Office of the President (OP) spent over Ksh100 million to hold an exclusive 4-days Cabinet retreat at the luxurious Mt. Kenya Country Club, Nanyuki.

Promptly, the SG carried an apology over the Nanyuki retreat in its Saturday Standard edition, perhaps to safeguard its dwindling commercial fortunes.

Within the high-echelons of power, Jicho Pevu is largely considered a “threat to national security”

KTN cancels Jicho Pevu exposé

So now the government is trying to shut the Standard Group up? But… Why? These negroes can do bad all by themselves, no? Then again, serikali is not the sharpest tool in this shed so… All I’m saying is, buggers who print a front page expose with nothing but a reporter’s dodgy calculations to back up their claims, they don’t need to be silenced, they’re shredding their own credibility every day, and with remarkable ease.

Sample this little gem from two Sundays back, Raphael Ndingi Mwana a’Nzeki personal struggles with old age and fading memory.  Now this article was billed as an exclusive, of course, on their front page, and while the title should have warned me off, this paragraph got my bullshitometer tingling.

At his prime, retired Archbishop Raphael Ndingi Mwana a’Nzeki was a sharp-witted deeply religious priest whose sermons were a thorn in the flesh for the unjust. Those who knew him then say his ability to remember incidents from years back was unrivalled. But currently, behind that small, wiry frame, a different man blankly stares back at the world. His eyes are like a seal holding back painful secrets.

Like a seal holding back whatnow? What the…?  After informing us that the man has been diagnosed with Dementia, this, umm, genius, proceeds to lay it on nice and thick, cloying thick…

This condition makes it nearly impossible to have a long conversation with the retired archbishop. His memories have a set timeline. Questions about events that occurred during more recent periods trigger a long thoughtful pause. His eyes look distant. Failing memory Ndingi valiantly tries to talk about his most challenging period during his priesthood. But once again his memory fails. He stares hard and long at a particular spot on the glass table before him, then begins to ramble again. His narration of his past is in staccato.

How better to show us the gravity of this tragic disease than to parade a sick man in front of us, a sick man we once knew as a not sick man? The comparisons were thrown in, carelessly, down to the pictures of a frail old man alongside the pictures of the vibrant Cardinal we remember. Exclusive, remember, because what can be more important to us than a shameless example of tabloid journalism? That’s right, I called it tabloid. Mindless, (not particularly) sensational swill passed off as a feature on a revered old man.

With a concerned look at the retired archbishop, he [Fr Steven Mbugua] says it often helps to have people who have spent years with Ndingi present during interviews. Whenever they can, they answer for him.

And yet that didn’t give this, and I use this word most reservedly, writer any pause, or his editor, for that matter? This article was the print equivalent of slowing down to stare at a gory car crash, ogling the banged up bodies, fascinated by the blood. This article was nothing but grief porn, and it was most disrespectful. Most. It bothers me how little these journo types value our dignity, us the idiots who serve as fodder for their ‘exclusive’ stories of suspect grammar and idiotic syntax. Ati seal holding back secrets? EH?

Incidentally, a few days before this rubbish, they announced a 13% increase in profits.

“Kenyan media company Standard Group posted a 13 percent rise in pretax profit for 2013 on the back of sharp growth in print and TV advertising revenue. The publisher of Kenya’s oldest and second-largest daily paper, The Standard, and an operator of a radio and TV station, said profit before tax climbed to 300.7 million shillings ($3.48 million) on revenue up a third at 4.82 billion shillings.”

Advertising buoys profit at Kenya’s Standard Group 

On behalf of every right thinking news junkie, may I just ask, who the hell is advertising in their prin…ah yes…now I understand the tabloid shit. Very clever. Or not, depending, their Editorial Director was allegedly fired a couple of days ago, despite his sterling work.  Moving on…

As you can imagine, I approached this weekend’s Standard with trepidation, expecting even more nonsense, now that I’m convinced it’s not deliberate stupidity on their part, it’s deliberate stupidity borne of greed, and laziness, and what appears to be the complete lack of a fact-checker.

Mere coincidence? Mystery of 10 killed in pairs, dumped naked. That was their big page 2 feature in yesterday’s paper. Sounds quite terrifying, no?

The first case reported is of two matatu owners whose bodies were found in a forest. “Relatives who visited the scene upon receiving the news positively identified the bodies. They had deep panga cuts. A third unidentified body lay besides the two.” Remember the killed in pairs bit? So what was the third body then? And there’s no mention of nudity.

The next reported case. “On February 13, two other bodies were found stuffed in nylon bags under a bridge in Narok. This was only a week after four others had been discovered in similar circumstances in Nakuru and Baringo counties.” The article says the men were identified as matatu touts from Kinoo. “It is believed the victims were strangled with ropes before their bodies were stuffed in the bags. Narok police boss Peterson Maelo said the two could have been killed elsewhere and their bodies dumped in the area.” There’s no mention of nudity here either, that I can see, and they were strangled, not hacked.

Then there’s the bar owner and his employee, “found dumped naked by the roadside on the Eldama Ravine–Maji Mazuri Road in Makutano on March 7… A postmortem examination conducted by Rift Valley Provincial Pathologist Titus Ngulungu showed that their skulls and ribs were fractured using a heavy, blunt object. There were signs of struggle.” A naked pair, bludgeoned to death.

And then there is this, “In Nakuru, naked bodies of two men were found dumped at Kibunja Bridge in Molo forest on February 5.” And, “On the same day, the naked bodies of a man and a woman were found at Ngoswet on the Nakuru-Eldama-Ravine Road near Muserechi.” And lastly, “On the morning of February 21, naked bodies of two men were found dumped at Kiganjo area on the Ol Kalou-Njambini road. Both bodies had deep cuts on their heads.

Now you buggers know that I have a thing for conspiracy theories, and I love a good serial killer, but when some half wit journo can’t be bothered to count, or read, or look, then I get a bit upset.

In a period of two months – in February and March – more than five pairs of corpses have been collected on various roads in central Rift. In total, 11 bodies have been collected in various locations, sparking a wave of fear and anxiety in Nakuru, Baringo, Narok and Nyandarua counties. And although the bodies were discovered miles apart, police and relatives of the deceased are in agreement that there existed a pattern in the execution of the devious act, further raising fears that a serial killer gang could be roaming the region. The bodies were all naked and there is consensus that in all the cases, the victims were killed elsewhere.

That was the intro to this little piece of brilliance. 11 bodies? Close, there were 13, and three were not killed in a pair, obviously. A pattern of execution? Panga cuts, strangulation, heavy blunt object…I see what they mean. Sweet Jesus! All naked? Even the pictures accompanying the piece had clothed corpses in them. Pictures, as in visual proof. What the hell? As for the killing elsewhere bit, well, I’m not a killer or anything (yet), but I would think that disposing of a body, so as not to be apprehended by the po-po, requires a bit of subterfuge, thus one tries to dump the body in a remote place, far from where your murderous ass presently is, yes?  But hey, what do I know, apart from my three R’s?

Reading, ‘riting, and fucking ‘rithmetic, not nearly as easy to find in the papers as you’d think.