Mithika Linturi
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Linturi trials, media stories, plus why big words irritate audiences

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Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development Mithika Linturi.

Photo credit: File| Nation Media Group

Readers of the Nation got to know on Sunday that Agriculture CS Mithika Linturi was cleared of any wrongdoing—ahead of the tabling of the report in the National Assembly on Monday by the select committee set up to investigate him.

The story, “Committee saves Linturi’s job in scandal over fake fertiliser”, was published in Nation.Africa on May 12. Written by David Mwere, the story is a major scoop that demonstrates the dominance of NMG in newsgathering. 

A member of the committee spoke to Nation in confidence. But who is the MP? The need for anonymity is obvious, but it would be revealing if the reporter told us whether the MP was Kenya Kwanza or Azimio.

While the Nation scooped the competition on the decision of the select committee, its story on Wednesday explaining why the attempt to impeach Mr Linturi failed is not balanced.

Bribery claims

It is headlined “Behind-the-scenes intrigues to derail Linturi’s ouster bid” (Daily Nation, May 15, 2024). 

On bribery, for example, the remarks by National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula should have accompanied, as a rejoinder, the statement by Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo on the bribery claims and call on the Speaker to halt debate on the report until the claims were investigated. 

The story should also have included the reasons given by Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah as to why the impeachment failed, side by side to the statement, also given on the Floor of the House, by Minority Whip Junet Mohamed on why the impeachment was doomed from the word go.

It is also unfair to report that the National Assembly Clerk’s Office was hostile to the Azimio side and frustrated them by denying them technical support, without giving specifics, leave alone seeking a comment from the Clerk. Sourcing information from only one side when there are two sides to a story makes the story biased. 


One of the shortest statements in the NMG editorial policy is “Accurate journalism needs clear simple language”.

This is a long-standing principle in journalism. Journalists keep their language simple so that readers can understand the information. The principle is colloquially referred to as “KISS”, an acronym for “Keep it simple and stupid”.

The suggestion here is that big words do not make you look more intelligent; on the contrary, it makes you look bad. 

In journalism, effective communication means choosing words that do not confuse, alienate or irritate the audience.

The average reader should be able to quickly and easily understand the content without having to pause to look up unfamiliar words or decipher complex sentences.

Newspaper articles aim to communicate information clearly and concisely, using everyday language that is understandable to the widest possible audience.

By simplifying the language and breaking paragraphs down into smaller, more straightforward sentences, the message can be conveyed more effectively.

Simple sentences

Today, I join readers who have been asking Saturday Nation columnist Eric Ng’eno to use simple words and sentences. This is because readers do not want to pause to figure out what the message is.

Mr Ng’eno, a lawyer and former speech writer for President Uhuru Kenyatta, has a knack for identifying and finding good article ideas.

But his writing is often not accessible and engaging to the average reader because he uses sophisticated and complex language.

The opening paragraph of his latest article illustrates some of the difficulty readers may have in accessing his messages.

Here, it is: “We may be at the point of our sociocultural evolution where the commodities and amenities spawned by exponential scientific and industrial progress have conditioned the majority in our society to an equanimous oblivion to the fateful distinction between the tame and the wild, and between the domesticated and the feral. Many are, therefore, shocked to the point of trauma when dog or the cat, whose tolerance has been tested beyond the boundaries of endurance, suddenly reverts to it primordial default, and bares menacing fangs where usually a fond snout nuzzles amiably or unsheathes ruthless claws, where friendly paws usually give affectionate pats.” (“Don’t mess with feral waters”—Saturday Nation, May 11, 2024).

While using sophisticated vocabulary is not inherently wrong, employing difficult words and overly complex sentences can create barriers for some readers to understand the content. 

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