On May 3, David Chegerichman saw on the Nation Facebook page the image of the newspaper, which carried the headline “China’s loss is America’s sweet gain”. But when he bought the paper in Eldoret, it had a different headline: “Buzeki: I’m leaving Ruto Camp”.
He was baffled. Why are there two different versions of the Nation on the same day, he wondered. Actually, there was a third version, with the headline “Ruto rivals plot 2022 poll alliance”, which was not available in Eldoret.
And if he had keenly checked the paper he bought, he would also have noticed that it had three stars (***). The front page he saw on Facebook had one star and the one with the Ruto headline had six.
All Nation newspapers have stars, ranging from one to six, printed below the masthead on the right. They indicate the different editions; the number of stars denotes where the edition is distributed. Six stars denote the Coast, one star Nairobi. The Coast edition is the first to be printed and distributed while the Nairobi one is the last.
But there is more to the stars than just the order of printing and distribution. They indicate localisation of the news. The lead stories on the front-page and County News section are selected to suit the interests of the readers where the editions are distributed.
On Tuesday, for example, the headline on the Coast edition was “Gold: How Saudi royal was conned of Sh250m”. The County News headline news was about an armed gang in Mombasa (“Machete gang’s reign of terror: Teens stoke of fear across the land”.
For the Western edition (five stars), the headline was “Raila unveils big plans for Kisumu”. The County News headline news was about a petition to dissolve the board of the Lake Victoria North Water Development Agency (“New water board in trouble as petitioner wants directors out”).
The idea of localised editions is grounded on the belief that readers are more interested in news that is nearer and closer to their hearts. Proximity (nearness in space, time or relationship) determines reader interest in news.
For instance, the crash of the Ethiopian Airlines shortly after take-off from Addis Ababa on March 10, which killed 32 Kenyans, was of more interest to Kenyans than the Aeroflot plane that made an emergency landing in Moscow and burst into flames on May 5 killing 41 people, mostly Russians.
The importance of local, or localised news, is evident from the popularity of vernacular broadcast stations. Truly, all news is fundamentally local.