Njoroge Wachai at PostGlobal

Njoroge Wachai

Kenya

Njoroge is a journalist who formerly worked for the Kenya-based People Daily. He was Africa Correspondent for the Science and Development Network (SciDev.net), a UK-based web site highlighting science and technology issues from developing countries. He also freelanced for the Switzerland-based Bulletin of the World Health Organization (WHO). Njoroge was a press fellow at the Wolfson College, University of Cambridge for four months in 2003, where he researched the role of alternative press in the democratization process in Africa. Njoroge currently lives in the U.S. He has studied Journalism and Technical Communication at the graduate level. Close.

Njoroge Wachai

Kenya

Njoroge is a journalist who formerly worked for the Kenya-based People Daily. more »

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Why the Drama over George Obama?

News headlines this week have screamed about George Obama, Barack Obama's half-brother from Nairobi, who was briefly jailed in Kenya on drug-related charges. The BBC News website even featured the story as "breaking news" - even though in my mind, "breaking news" is usually reserved for coups, wars, natural disasters, electoral victories, or financial scandals.

CNN followed suit, running the news item on CNN.com continuously for two days. Other news websites including HuffingtonPost.com, Telegraph.co.uk, Latimes.com and even WashingtonPost.com also followed the story closely. Which prompts me to pose the question: Why?

Why have George Obama's recent drug-related charges attracted such an enthusiastic following in the western media? The last time I checked the website of my home (Kenyan) newspaper, the Daily Nation, there was not a single mention of George Obama. It's not as though Kenyans are pot-puffing people to such an extent that the local media would not treat George's arrest as newsworthy.

The storyline that the western media has been trying to drive, without saying it openly, has been, "George Obama lives in a hovel in Nairobi, smoking pot and getting arrested, while his half-brother, Barack Obama, basks in glory in Washington D.C. Why won't Barack help him?" They're further asking: Hasn't the president, on various occasions - the first time in his speech during the 2004 Democratic National Convention and again on Inauguration Day - extolled the virtue of us being our brothers' and sisters' keepers?

When I first stepped into a journalism class about a decade ago, my instructor told us that the media always seeks to inform, educate and entertain. So, which of these motivations has been driving the recent coverage of George Obama? I would say none. Instead, I would argue that it is the mischief in this episode that the western media is trying to tout as a legitimate news story.

As Obama's presidency begins to take shape, just keep in mind that the president has a large extended family that straddles three continents: Africa, Asia and North America. Brace yourself for more "juicy" reporting on Obama's family members--both immediate and far-removed.

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