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Navigating ‘Talk of Town’ gossip column in the ‘Sunday Nation’

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A newspaper fan reads the Opinion section of the ‘Daily Nation’. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The Bible cautions against associating with people who indulge in gossip. However, it’s undeniable that we’re drawn to ‘uvumi’, ‘muchene’, ‘kwotho’, ‘khumonyana’ and suchlike stories.

These are the lifeblood of gossip columns, like “Talk of Town” in the Sunday Nation.

When “Talk of Town” was launched in 2016, readers were invited to contribute to the talk of the town.

Today, the column has become the go-to source of information on corruption, abuse of power, sex scandals and political intrigue that you wouldn’t normally find in regular news.

It also provides context to news stories, making it a valuable resource for readers.

For instance, the latest “Talk of Town” has a story on President William Ruto’s visit to America, titled “(Not) coming to America.”

The story says the US Embassy denied visas to some important officials required to accompany President Ruto. Reason? They were “deemed to have past and present integrity issues”.

Identities of individuals

Headlines such as “Dubai new playground for rich Kenyans”, “Concern as Bishop disappears with cash”, “Lawmaker pushes wife’s hiring as judge” and “Ruto’s CS resorts to working late to avoid his kinsmen” are typical of the gossip column.

The gossip stories offer insights into the personal and professional lives of politicians, civil servants and celebrities, often revealing new information.

However, while the gossip column can be entertaining and informative, it has its drawbacks. It protects the identities of individuals excessively, making some stories vague and difficult to verify. 

For instance, a story about a “stingy politician’s sudden generosity” lacks specific details, making it hard for readers to assess its credibility. Published on May 19, 2024, it says the unnamed influential lawmaker from the Rift Valley became rich overnight and is hopping from bar to bar buying all patrons drinks.

But the reader is not told whether he is a Member of the National Assembly, Senator or MCA or where in the vast Rift Valley he comes from.

Despite these weaknesses, “Talk of Town” serves a vital role. It highlights instances of corruption and unethical behaviour, promoting public accountability.

The column is a testament to the power of gossip, which can be a force for good when used responsibly.


“Talk of Town” was on the spotlight early this month when the National Assembly debated a motion to dismiss Agriculture and Livestock Development CS Mithika Linturi. The motion was brought to the House by Bumula MP Wanami Wamboka.

Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah used a story published in the column on April 14, 2024, to show why the House cannot rely on media reports. He read, word for word, the story which is titled “House team boss on extortion spree"

The story claims that the chairman of a parliamentary committee was demanding bribes from Cabinet secretaries who appear before the committee.

“Those who fail to play ball by parting with cash demands are harassed during their appearance and negative reports are given on their ministries,” it says.

Mr Ichung’wah said: “How do we know who this newspaper column was referring to? Supposing it was

Hon. Wamboka, how fair would it be for us to seek to impeach him based on a gossip column just as he is calling on us to impeach a Cabinet secretary today based on newspaper and media reports? He has completely failed to prove his case.”

The MPs applauded.

Mr Ichung’wah noted that media reports, on which the motion relied, have no evidentiary value.

“We have tremendous respect for our media houses,” he said. “As [the] Fourth Estate they have a duty, as we do, to oversight the Government and the Executive. We must allow our media houses to help us raise issues that are of concern to the people of Kenya, just like we do. 

“However, they cannot be the basis in line with our procedures in this House to adduce evidence before this House. I dare ask if we were to prosecute and impeach Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi on the basis of newspaper articles.”

Standing Order 87(6) states that a Member cannot use media reports as evidence of his claims. So, “Talk of Town” and other media reports cannot be used to prove a claim.

The Speaker, however, may, if he so elects, allow an MP to use media reports “as an authority” for his speeches.

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