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Thursday, 4 February 2016

DEFAULTING EDITORIAL FUNCTIONS AND A MEDIA ERRORS DEFAULT MODE

Editorial functions defaulting. It's tempting to think that by default, Kenyan media outlets deviate from basic journalism principles. And one element that is increasingly becoming common, is a scarcity of elementary reasoning. The nature of errors that frequently litter broadcasts and publications is astounding. 


Viral infections featured in the press, usually are the type that leave a trail of deaths in their wake. Think small pox, rabies, influenza, HIV, or Ebola.

But turning to the now raging Zika virus, just how many people have died, to warrant the tag 'deadly' in the headline above?


The TV news story above, clearly mentions the exact number of housing units that Kenya requires yearly, from no less an authority than the relevant Cabinet Secretary.

But the lower third text indicates a ridiculously low figure of 50,000.

A sports story appearing in a newspaper published on February 3rd 2016, gives the next three matches of an English Premier League team.


But the provided dates are either grossly backdated or fast-forwarded! September?


And still on non-spot on sport stories, the indicated sum involved in global football players' transfers, ridiculously implies the Kenyan shilling is almost as strong as the US dollar. And what exactly is meant by 'Word transfers' in the article's heading?

It's often good, when writers and editors of newspaper articles get to be interpretative, other than just conveying dry news. Somethings however, will forever remain relative, and any value judgement is preposterous.


So, as depicted above, is it possible to determine that grandchildren can be universally said to be, 'beautiful' without the audience even having the benefit of visual aids?

Then the clincher!


Some shockingly missing quotation marks, gives readers little option than to think a very central figure in Christianity was involved in a modern day heinous act, against His followers, somewhere in Kenya's coastal region.

Indeed, these are deeds of defaulting editorial functions, where the Kenyan media appears set to churn out errors by default.







Wednesday, 27 January 2016

HEADLESS STORIES, HEADLINES CONTRADICTING ARTICLES, AND A MISLEADING, LEADING DAILY

Headlines must ideally not over-promise the content of newspaper articles, when enticing readers to partake of the stories. But it does happen, especially when sensationalism is the preferred route to higher circulation figures. A headline, however, must never contradict the facts in the main story. Like it happened, in an increasingly misleading Kenyan leading daily.


The article's headline screams:
'Ours is public, not private land, says Del Monte'
But shortly afterwards, in the article's all important first paragraph, this is what one encounters:


Granted. The author of the newspaper article, and the one who crafted the headline, are not the same, and they probably didn't even meet before the article was published.

But there's good reason to believe there was an intermediary, or two (or three and beyond), in either the role of sub-editor or revise editor, (if not news or managing editor), and perchance, an editorial director.

And yet, glaring mistakes are frequently allowed to infuriate the sensibilities of readers.

So, just how easy is it, to confuse the meanings of private and public property, and more importantly, how easy is it to also confuse and annoy 'erudite' readers?


The 'misleading' leading daily was not done yet, on this unfortunate day for its esteemed consumers.

One of the inside stories alludes to some introductory section of an article being on Page 1.

Funny thing is, up to that point, I could not recall coming across such a story, having started reading the paper from the front page.

The sensible thing was to dart back to the main page of the newspaper, doubting I had missed something.


And guess what? There was no such story!

Seeing that I can't demand a refund, (I was reading the office newspaper), my humble appeal to the newspaper's publishers is to weather external pressures and hold on dearly to its refined editors.

Controversial editorials will come and go, but good editors should nevertheless be celebrated, not intimidated, vilified and crucified.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

WILD TV, STALE SPECTACLE, HOOKED AND HOODWINKED VIEWERS

One of Kenya's national broadcasters has partnered with tourism industry players, to promote the country's wild and natural beauty on TV. Showcasing the stunning scenery on prime time, can inspire the audience to appreciate it, and also market the destinations. But in the first episode, the spectacle was stale by a margin of...15 years! Viewers were hooked but also hoodwinked.



I pity the poor soul, who resolved to tour the highlighted attraction, in the hope of catching a glimpse of the wild animals shown on that TV programme, doing amazing things underwater.

You know, a lot can happen in 15 years... in the hippo calendar.

Hold on. Even for a human being, a lot can happen within one and a half decades.

15 years ago, where were you? I think I was still in Journalism school, harbouring lofty ideas about rescuing the local media scene from the jaws of irrelevancy. But I digress.

Back to the hyped hippie hippos, the camerawork in the documentary was indeed breathtaking, in the league of the legendary stuff from the National Geographic channels.


And I'm sure, as I have earlier hinted, a number of viewers secretly or loudly made a mental note to visit the magnificent Mzima Springs, to experience the natural wonders first-hand.

I did too, until my bubble burst wide open, as I keenly followed the credit roll, at the end of the TV show. One thing stood out:

Copyright MMI.

What! Were viewers being treated to a trip down hippo memory lane?


So, what are the chances of finding the showcased ecosystem intact, 15 years after the shooting of the documentary?

I felt cheated, conned, duped by an unabashed television fraud.

And to think how much energy was used to promote the programme, by both the station's staffers and external stakeholders.

The TV station could have considered dispatching a crew to Mzima Springs, and have links recorded from there, or even delivered live during the show, to make magical Kenya look more realistic than fictional.


That would have been more meaningful and impactful, unlike the social media hashtag frenzy, or the lazy amalgamated real-time online commentaries, while the show was on air, feigning self-adoration and spewing misguided adulation.

I know for a fact that the same broadcasting station has previously done at least one feature on Mzima Springs, not that long ago, and there was nothing that came close to what was screened.


Does that explained the felt need to grab something from international archives and regurgitate it locally, to better bait the viewers (and also the station's apparently mesmerised employees?)

Well, the wild intention is in the right place, but it should deliver interested viewers into a reachable wilderness, one that can still be savoured and treasured.





Thursday, 14 January 2016

TV PRESENTER DOWN: WHEN THE SHOW MUST NOT GO ON

Live TV comes with anxiety, tension, and unforeseen turn of events. However, local broadcast stations need to be alive to the fact that delivering a seamless show is not larger than life. Oh yes, you can take a break and eject an unruly studio guest. But oh no. When a TV presenter is down, the live show must not go on, especially not according to the usual script. 


In what must count as one of the most awkward moment on Kenyan live TV shows, a host hurt himself on air, and was writhing on the floor in pain.

But the co-presenter, (on the misadvice of the director/producer perhaps), set in motion the normal closing sequence of the show.

So, as her colleague was screaming his guts out, she started bidding the viewer goodbye, and at one point even clapped.



CLAPPED!

So what if, God forbid, the injury sustained by the other presenter was very serious?

(I'm not saying ending in death, but well, distantly implying it).

Would there have been any justification to continue with the show normally, if there was a grave (pardon the pun) situation on the set?

I doubt there was a viewer (with a heart), focusing on the presenter winding up the show.

Again. The quest to deliver a perfect live show is not a matter of life and death.

Do keep that point alive, show director/producer/floor manager!


Thursday, 7 January 2016

INFIDELITY THAT BURNS WHEN TRUTH BECOMES TOO HOT TO HANDLE

Winds blowing from a stinging editorial in Kenya's top newspaper, have swirled into a public storm. The publisher is trying hard to convince a sceptical audience that the paper's independence is not in jeopardy. But the reality suggests that even though the truth can be too hot to handle, infidelity against it truly burns.



Angry reactions have followed this attempt to sanitize an unpopular decision, which seem to even rile past and current senior staffers of the same media organization.

I...I am....well...I have this 'evil' feeling some sentiments, like those being expressed above are not entirely sincere.

Call me an over-analyser and give me a breathalyser...I just can't help but wonder about the possibility of the media group on the spot, deploying its 'social media monolith' to tenderize the harsh spotlight.

Rarely can one find strong opposition to a decision, so closely stitched with words like, 'To his credit...' strategically leading to the self-criticism-worshipping quote, and link to the big boss's rejoinder.

....I mean, it just appears too calculated, like the post is also intended to achieve a covert purpose.

What do you think...or can we safely conclude that I'm crazy?

Below are other reactions from a fired up social media space.



Wednesday, 30 December 2015

EXPLETIVES IN A FAMILY PAPER, DIVERSITY AND CELEBRATING MICE

The media's classical role is to inform, educate and entertain. But in the Kenyan situation, it's not surprising to encounter a media that regularly misinforms, confuses and corrupts public morals. So you might come across expletives in a family paper, diversity and celebrating mice!


One can argue that an advertiser is largely responsible for the brief to the newspaper publisher, in terms of form and content (plus the attendant cost).

And some actually present finished material, as opposed to having designers from the newspaper actualising the concept in the brief.

But I strongly want to believe that some editorial control is still wielded by the newspaper, otherwise a lot of offensive content could easily reach the masses.

So, to the average reader out there, coming across the advert in the page above, with the phrase:
"CELEBRATING MICE IN DIVERSITY"
...what would be the intended meaning? Mice are celebrated? It's better to celebrate the mice in diversity? The venue being advertised is the best place to celebrate mice...in diversity?

The confusion is annoying, yet somewhat bearable.

But for a supposed family paper, (or am I mistaken here?) to even contemplate publishing the 'F-word' in all its inglorious suffocation, is crossing the ethical line.

A liberal world view is all good.

And prudes can be a tad slow in keeping with the 'trendy' alignment with moral decadence.

Still, any publication meant for public consumption should uphold certain ethical standards, in tandem with obtaining average decency levels.

After all, even the terms and conditions of use for the publication's website forbids content that is

'... sexist, or demeaning to either sex, abusive, sexually explicit, pornographic, of a disturbing nature...'

Stop the double standards and let your standards stand out!

EDITOR'S NOTE:
Thank you for your continued support. Each visitor to this blog, feedback or any links from it are greatly appreciated. And as we confidently march into the 8th year of regular posts, it's my hope that we'll continue sharing and critiquing media content in a healthy, responsible and progressive manner.
Have a very fulfilling 2016!




Thursday, 17 December 2015

STILLBIRTH SUCCESS: A TV STATION'S PIGGYBACK RIDE ON TWITTER

One million followers. The most engaged media brand on Twitter in the East African region. This particular feat had to be sounded off from the mountain top. But a little historical context of how it all began could offer intriguing insights. And such a success should be measured in terms of your own online real estate, not your brand piggyback riding on another popular platform. 


Fact is, five years ago, Twitter was a very neglected social media platform in this particular channel.

Actually, my main point when called upon to address the big editorial meetings, was the need for the newsroom staff to open Twitter accounts and especially how this would be useful in breaking news scenarios.

Okay. A disclaimer first. I was the pioneer Online Editor of the channel in question, (a disastrous one perhaps?). 

Now that we have that out of the way, I would like to disassociate myself with any impression that I'm writing this out of bitterness, (the bile is just for emphasis).


Very strangely, there was resistance to officially use Twitter on air, from very high places.

I vividly recall the day I was on reporting duties, and I asked the video editor to put my Twitter handle, alongside my name, as he rendered my piece to camera.

In my excitement, I told the boss to watch my story on air, with the hope of being among the first TV journalist in Kenya to have a Twitter handle on air, and eventually turning this into a common practise in the newsroom.

But that was not to be. My then overall boss, in a rare panic mode, ordered me to remove my Twitter handle on the story (hardly five minutes prior to it going on air).

So I always marvel at the way Kenyan broadcasting stations and even mainstream print outlets, nowadays freely display Twitter handles of their institutions and even individual journalists. And there's plenty of hashtag this or that.

Why was this a difficult thing to do five years ago, and yet internationally, this had been an approved trend, even much earlier? Or it's just the usual fear of change? (Or was the problem me taking the credit?).


So now the same TV station feels very proud to have registered a supposed highest number of Twitter followers regionally.

This could as well be a fallacy, because all the accounts in this mega count are not verified. A single follower could be operating several Twitter accounts, using different handles.

But what I find most unusual, is the objective given to the channel's digital team, to get people away from their Internet-enabled mobile phones and directing their attention to the content airing on TV.


I'm of the opinion that the reverse should be the sequence of events: get those watching TV to go online for more related content or latest updates, especially given that most stories airing on local TV have already done the rounds on the Internet.

This mentality, partly explains why many Kenyan media outlets have found it hard to maintain truly dynamic websites, laden with compelling content to sustain the interest of their online communities.

In any case, isn't it a bit foolhardy for a media outlet to boast about how well its brand is doing on another external platform?

It's similar to boasting how one's rented house is magnificent, while at the same time identifying who the landlord is.

Again, your brand's worth as a media outlet on the Internet, should be measured from the performance of your very own online real estate!

23/12/2015
Postscript:

It seems the futility and vanity of mainstream media riding on their external social media presence is still not apparent to everyone.


Behold! Wading through the social media wilderness can lead to the promised land of likes and followers.

But a day will come when it becomes apparent that the online audiences of these local mainstream media have been willingly delivered to global competitors.