8, 000 miles away from the White House, a nation is celebrating President-elect Barack Obama's historic election win as a victory for a son of their country. 47-year-old Obama's father was born in Kenya and the celebrations following his win are ongoing from the streets of Nairobi to the village of Kogelo where Obama's grandmother still lives. Reflecting the importance of his victory, President Kibaki has declared a public holiday in Kenya to celebrate. The Kenyan media has reported every twist and turn of this nail-biting campaign, and its newspapers have covered this story on a scale never before seen for a US election.
The Editors Weblog spoke to Ian Fernandes, the head of Nation Media's Digital Division, about how Kenya's leading newspaper, the Daily Nation, followed the campaign, its importance to Kenya and the newspaper's future coverage of the USA.
Fernandes begins by saying that this election has captured the imagination of the entire country: "it has dominated the headlines for the past couple of weeks...the fact that someone who has his roots in Kenya can actually end up becoming the President of the United States." As victory was declared, inhabitants of Kogelo began singing "Jakogelo Yiengo Piny", which translates to "the one from Kogelo shakes the world".
From just a quick glance at the home page of the Daily Nation online edition, it is clear how important this election has been to Kenyans. The front page is dominated by a picture of President elect Barack Obama and his family taking to the stage for his post-victory speech under the headline "Win brings pride to Kenyan diaspora", with a lead article discussing the impact this victory has had on Kenyans across the USA. Feeder articles follow, as do photos of the election night and video footage from the Nation Media Group's NTV channel. Under the toolbar is a link for dedicated coverage, including the campaign, Obama's victory and the reaction in Kenya and the US.
The Daily Nation has an advantage on many news organisations in that it is part of media conglomerate, Nation Media Group, and one of the branches of this modern news organisations is a TV station: footage from the station has been an important edition to the Daily Nation's coverage.
Telling the story from a Kenyan perspective
Fernandes reports that the country and, in particular the village of Kogelo, has been inundated by news teams from across the globe. Expanding on this point, Fernandes says that most of these correspondents are based in London and only arrived in the country after the story had unfolded and thus found it difficult to cover it comprehensively, whereas the Nation's reporters were on the ground from the get go. The Daily Nation felt it was important to tell the story of Obama's campaign and victory from a Kenyan perspective, for example, the video footage section on the web edition not only includes Obama's speeches and footage of American reactions, there is also extensive coverage of the celebrations in Kenya following the result and reactions from Kenyan politicians. The small village of Kogelo in Western Kenya was at the heart of the Daily Nation's coverage and the site features interviews with Obama's grandmother and other members of his family who have had to rapidly get used to the media spotlight.
Increased resources, and now he has won?
During the campaign the Daily Nation had three reporters in the United States. Fernandes explains, "I think in order for us to be relevant - and just like foreign media houses having a presence in Kenya during the election - we decided that we should actually have our journalists in the USA, one following the McCain trail and one following the Obama trail, to know and to tell the story with a Kenyan perspective."
The newly elected US President will continue to be of interest to Kenyan citizens and Fernandes reports that the newspaper is considering maintaining a permanent presence in the US in the form of a full-time reporter or "at least a correspondent". He also confirms that the USA will now garner more attention from the Kenyan media, as citizens will want reports on how the new president is progressing.
Fernandes reports that 50% of the Daily Nations' readership is from the Kenyan diasporas across the USA and Europe. The Daily Nation average 45,000 - 50,000 visits a day but it picked to about 90,000 visits on 4th November. The Daily Nation's coverage of an election thousands of miles away not only managed to cater to the audience at home, but also generated traffic from Kenyans located across the globe who sought a trusted name for the story of how a son of Kenya won the election to run the most powerful country in the world.