A Nation article republished by Standard Group’s website has created tension between the two media houses and threatens to boil over into a major legal fight.
On May 9th, Nation online carried a story about Party of National Unity (PNU) planning a delegates’ convention to reaffirm their stand to support the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta, quoting party leader Party leader Peter Munya.
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The following day, the article, written by David Muchui, was republished on the Standard website verbatim, including the name of the author, notwithstanding that Muchui is a contracted correspondent for Nation in Meru and therefore not allowed to write for any other publication.
The editor never bothered to change sections of the article, even mentioning Nation by retaining it in phrases like “…speaking to Nation…” The only thing that changed was the headline.
It is not clear what happened here. First, it would look like the writer is a ‘double-agent’ and sent same article to both media houses. Sources at Nation, however, say this is not the case.
It appears the editor who picked the article from Nation website did not edit it, confident that since it had come from the Nation website, it was clean and read for publication.
This act of a newspaper republishes a rival’s story with both attribution and byline is unheard of in journalism and is treated as an unforgivable sin.
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In fact, in Kenya’s journalism industry there’s an unwritten rule for media houses never to mention each other by name in print or broadcast. If, for instance, Nation were referring to an article by Standard, it will often describe it as “a local daily”.
So, it was surprising that on Wednesday, a Standard editor became so daring as to break this rule. But all appear to point to an act of carelessly republishing content that amounted to blatant plagiarism.
Such transgressions are not taken lightly in journalism, where news is a precious commodity that’s often guarded jealously by editors and the journalists. Nation immediately notified it’s legal department which took on Standard, forcing it to pull down the story.
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Nation Media Group legal officer, Mr Seko Owino, is said to be in talks with Standard Group for possible action to appease the writer and, of course Nation, for the infringement on its copyrighted material.
It’s not yet clear how Standard has explained out the goof, but it has stained its reputation and cast doubt on its gate-keeping for the online.