It was a moving story on the plight of female casual laborers, contracted to wash clothes in Nairobi households. These women are exposed to risks ranging from sexual assault, battery and the possibility doing harrowing tasks like washing dead bodies. But the same story was the subject of an apparent TV news plagiarism.
The first station to succinctly capture the emotional, physical and psychological trauma of these women, was K24, in its flagship human interest and investigative segment, 'Untold Story,' titled, 'Washed Away.'
The series, in my estimation, has all the hallmarks of a potentially award winning television story, even in international competitions. Why? Because of the simple fact that it is about real people facing real problems and having to deal with real consequences of their poverty-driven vulnerability.
However, the audience rating of K24 is nothing to right home about and chances are, this brilliant story perhaps never got to be viewed by a critical mass. And this is probably what another station, with a better viewership was banking on.
So, after seeing K24 story and being so moved especially by the episodes that had a woman, who was raped and infected with HIV and another, who was forced to wash a corpse, I see a very similar storyline, on this other channel, a couple of days later.
As a rule, a viewer wouldn't be interested in wanting to know details of who had the story first or whether many media houses were chasing the same story. But having already seen the story aired by another channel only makes one to be quick to conclude there is either a lack of originality or a blatant aping of story ideas, when the same story is belatedly aired elsewhere.
To me, this borders on plagiarism and as is the practice in academic circles, the noble thing to do would be to properly cite or professionally acknowledge the original source of a news or feature story. No one after all, has or should have a monopoly of ideas, especially in a news setting.
This way, the second station to pick up a story that has already aired, could find itself compelled not to repeat what is already in the public domain and instead strive to add fresh angles that drive the story forward and meaningfully add to the existing body of knowledge.
It does not matter, like in this case, if the same story of the woman washing a cadaver is picked up by a radio station. A way should still be found to make the necessary attributions. Newspapers after all, regularly cite specific television stations, if an article is based on something that has already aired.