If you feel a news story does not measure up to expected journalistic standards, bring it to the Journalism Dry Cleaner. Through our collective wisdom, we will strip it of all offensive dirt.

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Friday, 14 June 2019

OF STYLE BOOK AND LOGIC-DEFYING EDITORIAL GUIDELINES

A reputable media house has internal editorial guidelines, to achieving a standardised approach in gathering, processing and publishing or broadcasting content. Such a style book acts as a critical reference point. The rules can be borrowed from established journalistic enterprises, and customised to suit specific requirements. But some editorial decisions defy logic.


In the above live broadcast story tag, there's a rather strange looking word contraction.

There ought to be a sensible way of optimising the use of limited space, because the need to communicate should never-ever be sacrificed.

Shortening of words should thus be done in a way that the audience can still decipher what the full word is.

And, there are certain rules that still need to be observed.

An apostrophe, for example, indicates that letters are missing in between...but the last letter retains the logical sequence of the full word.

The word 'international' can be shortened to: INT'L.

But...what is one to make out of: NT'L?





Saturday, 8 June 2019

FROM MEDIA MONOTONY TO MEDIA MORONITY

The content across Kenyan media outlets can be very monotonous. You tune in to one news channel, and most likely stay there, because if you see one, it's like you've seen all of them. But nothing shouts lazy journalism more than when one publisher regurgitates what another has already put out. That's when media monotony morphs to media moronity.


The story of how Kenyan cars are registered using differentiated number plates makes quite a fascinating reading.

But, does it mean other media outlets should just copy what has already been published?


New angles can be used to add value to the original content, and still make the replicated read relevant.


You get a sense that this was not the intention here, because someone even decided to use the same photograph to illustrate the lifted story.

The take home lesson?

The biggest fan of a Kenyan media house...is a rival media house!

Thursday, 30 May 2019

BILLIONS, A SCREAMING HEADLINE & WHISPERING SUBSTANCE

The term 'billion' has been quoted frequently in reference to misappropriated public funds in Kenya. It's a huge figure that elicits shock, probably until the mentions became one too many. That a billion has now become a common-placed phrase, is, however, no reason for the press to casually bandy it about.


The headline of this article makes that 'magical' reference of billions, to perhaps immediately grab a reader's attention.

But, this reference becomes farcical after going through the content of the story and finding no supportive facts.

A mention is made of a somewhat vague figure of 'more than Sh1.3 billion', which hardly equates to billions.

Either some details were edited out from the original draft of the story, or, it's a classic case of a screaming headline and whispering substance!






Saturday, 25 May 2019

LYING & MEDIA LAYING DIFFERENT VERSIONS OF SAME TRUTH

There ought to be a semblance of factual unity in the information a media outlet is pushing out. And if accounts of the 'truth' are in conflict, then a balance in coverage is essential. However, the media consumer should not be left with different versions of the same truth. Somewhere therein lays some lies.


In the above newspaper publication, the reader is confronted with contradicting interpretations of what is seemingly one policy from the Kenyan government.

One article in the newspaper states that the government will not relent on implementing a supposed ban on the importation of some used care spare parts.

Here, the relevant government agency is said to have started enforcing the ban.

A number of pages, later on in the same newspaper, the very same standards agency is quoted denying its enforcing a new directive seeking to ban importation of car spare parts.

Whether the two articles are differing on whether it's a new or old statute, is besides the point.

And neither is it of much significant consequence here, if the said ban targets all or some car spare parts imports.

The concern here is the failure by the newspaper publishers to provide a common context for these two related articles.

In a reader's mind, this media outlet could be laying different versions of the same truth.

Who do you think is lying?


Saturday, 18 May 2019

EDITORIAL AGILITY, AMBIGUITY AND CONTRADICTING INFORMATION

That opposites attract is true for magnetic poles. But in communication, contradicting information is repulsive. The media risks confusing the audience, if news stories are two-faced in nature, or the meaning is delivered in a double edged manner that doesn't gel. Ambiguity is an enemy of editorial agility.


There ought to be a sense of unity in the message being conveyed, unlike in the opening paragraph of the article above, which seems to be pulling in different directions, sense-wise.

The story states that two international airports in Kenya:
'...have retained a new...'
Let's just pause right there.

Retaining conveys a sense of continuity, or keeping on with something already started.

So, how does one retain something new, after dropping something old?

According to the story, Total Kenya has been dropped from a list of suppliers, so it's incomprehensible to purport to say a new oil dealer has been retained.

Unless editorial rigour is totally dropped!








Friday, 10 May 2019

OF MISSING LOCATION, ENTICING READERS & WONDERFUL DESCRIPTIONS

It's refreshing to see Kenyan newspapers deliberately try to balance hard news content with human interest stories. It is also a welcome break from the routine heavy dose of politics. If, however, the aim is enticing readers to visit interesting places, why publish wonderful descriptions, without location details?


The article above highlights a scenic attraction, which is likely to make one to want to visit the area, after reading and checking out the accompanying images.

But where exactly is Mount Suswa and how does one get there?

And if it could be a familiar location to many Kenyans, how about potential international visitors reading the article?


Indeed, the underlying noble objective of showcasing the country's breathtaking landscape, is rendered almost ineffective by leaving out location details, especially for readers interested.

You don't write about a 'Hidden Gem' then hide the location details!




Saturday, 4 May 2019

REGGAE, RESEARCH AND MEDIA KNOWLEDGE GAPS

To share knowledge, one has to be in the know. Many media outlets try to appear-all-knowing. Then it all falls apart, when the apparent knowledge gaps gets blatantly exposed. And to think that all it could take to make a big difference, is a little reggae-inspired research.


The writer of this article does well in capturing many facets in the evolution of reggae music.

However, there are a few details that would raise credibility concerns, especially among those familiar with this subject matter, like yours truly.

The ban of reggae music in Kenya was much evident after the 1982 coup attempt, and this is linked to the fact that this is the type of music that was being played on air, before the national broadcaster was secured.

It was also widely being mentioned at the time, that this genre of music glorified and promoted the use of proscribed drugs, (of the Jamaican flavour).

Unlike what is reported in the article, reggae made a comeback in the public broadcaster in the later part of the 1980s.

I still remember how refreshing it was to hear from the radio, Burning Spear chanting down Babylon in Mek We Yadd.

And, the Grammy Award for Reggae started a bit earlier than what the article purports.

Again, I should know, because the first recipient was, and still remains my favourite reggae band, Black Uhuru, in 1985, for their phenomenal album, Anthem.

Granted, the press covers a lot of ground to keep its audience informed.

It could be about current affairs, future events or even past occurrences.

Present events could be hard to process correctly and, well, the future can be unpredictable.

But historical facts should not be that hard to relay, if you know where to dig them up from.

That's the beauty of research in journalism. Details from eons ago can easily be woven into modern-day articles, for depth add contextualisation.

For the umpteenth time, the media should not underestimate the capacity of the audience to discern between facts and fictitious accounts.