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, 15 February 2019

OF THUMPING, THUMBS UP AND A RAPID RESPONSE EDITORIAL UNIT

A Rapid Response Editorial Unit would be a welcome addition to newsrooms, to be always ready for deployment, especially during a live TV news broadcast. The job description will mainly involve swiftly correcting mistakes that find their way to the on air content. Erroneous TV graphics should not just attract a thumping, but a thumbs up for a quick recovery.


Before a budget line is availed for the rapid response editorial unit, all that is needed is a high sense of alertness for the news production crew, as illustrated above.

How long did it take to amend the typos?

Less than a minute!

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, parrots and parakeets...it is very much possible to transcend editorial embarrassments, and get a thumbs up, instead of a thumping from media critics.

Friday, 8 February 2019

TV GRAPHICS: TO ERR AND TO AMEND ERRORS IS HUMAN

To err is human. But so is to amend errors. This is what minders of on air TV graphics should constantly be reminded. And this courtesy should be extended to other personnel involved in the production of a news broadcast. Sometimes the mistake is so glaring, yet the editorial crew is just staring at a visual aid cue.



In the sport story above, the fixtures for that particular weekend's club football in Kenya, are straight-forward and easy to follow.

But the lower third tag blatantly renames one of the teams involved.

In the newsroom, the habit of doing a spell-check for all scripts is greatly encouraged.

Ironically though, such a highly desirable standard operating procedure could perhaps have yielded the graphical blunder.

It's strange though, that Mathare Utd could transform into Mother United, but Vihiga Utd cannot become Vicar United!


Friday, 1 February 2019

TV NEWS AESTHETICS AND A FACE ON THE KNEES

Television is a visual medium. The eyes are fully engaged, while the ears take in the audio component of the content. Besides the science of how a broadcast is perceived, there are also artistic elements in the presentation that enrich the viewing experience. But any major deviation from what the natural expectation is, can be problematic. Like a face on the knees.


The studio set designer above, probably thought everything checked out, in positioning the news presenter on the side, to allow for a large video wall space, for contextualising the specific news about to go on air.

And looked at with the naked eye in the studio, the set-up probably meets all the required standards.

However, graphically inserting another video of the translator, and positioning it on the bigger image captured by the camera, could bring in some unintended consequences.

Here, the viewer is being asked to accept that it's natural to have a news presenter standing, with the sign language interpreter fixed somewhere on her knee region, and her legs appearing to be joined with the upper body of the interpreter.

These kind of visual distractions undermine a viewer's focus on the substance of the news content.

It's not easy on the eye and it's hard to mentally process the creative miscue.


Thursday, 24 January 2019

MISLED PRESIDENT, MISLEADING VIEWERS AND AN AWKWARD APOLOGY

It's normal for TV news mistakes to happen and find their way to a viewer. But it is far from normal to make it look like its near-impossible to make corrections. It makes a mockery of journalism for a media outlet to have a story about the president possibly being misled, while at the same time misleading the viewers.


The mix-up above is therefore downright perplexing

Some news sources or analysts, it is expected, should be a little familiar in newsrooms, and news circles at large.

The bigger tragedy though, is the apparent helplessness of the news editor/producer/director and allied TV gallery personnel.


The moment the error was spotted, something ought to have been done, instead of letting the same mistake go on air repeatedly

The CG team could have switched the name tags while the story was being aired, or keyed in new but correct identities of the speakers.

And if the names were embedded in the video clip, then the story could have been faded out, and an apology issued, with a promise to re-air the cleaned-up version.


But no...the minders of this particular news broadcast...opted to have the story run it's dirty course

Then it was left for the news presenter to offer possibly one of the most awkward apology, since the invention of the Daguerreotype camera.

It was something like: ...'The advocate is actually the economist and the economist in that story was the advocate...'

I don't advocate for name-calling, please be economical with your insults!





Friday, 18 January 2019

LIVE EVENTS, JUDGEMENTAL AUDIENCE AND DEMORALISING REPORTERS

Understand the key facts. Narrow down the angles of the presentation. Then when the cue comes, remain calm, look straight at the camera and talk the viewer through the salient points of the news story. Everything is supposed to come alive, when you go live.  But that is often not the case in the life of a broadcast journalist. In the middle of a live event, the audience should not demoralise reporters by being too judgemental.


The intention is to be professional but the outcome may sometimes not profess broadcast brilliance.

This is especially so, when caught up in a tension-packed event like a terror attack.

The basic tenets of questioning an interviewee can hibernate to the remotest corners of the psychic plane, and what comes out can dangerously border on blatant violations of ethical standards.


Even fort the most experienced, the path to a clean and professional presentation is littered with so many potentially debilitating elements.

It could be a very firm realisation that English is not your first language, and this added pressure could make it even harder for one's brain to seamlessly translate thoughts coming through in mother tongue, bearing in mind that the tape is rolling and the feed is also live on air.

The loss of composure could translate into a seemingly uncontrollable flow of sweat, with the eyes fixated at the camera lens, and the neck tie feeling like an ever-tightening noose, in full public glare.

Relaying live pictures of security operations seeking to rescue lives from imminent peril is frowned upon.


And so should live streaming of destructive social media criticism that ends up demoralising reporters trying their best to keep the public informed, and much more, despite the evident danger.


Friday, 11 January 2019

MEDIA COMPETITION AND MEDIOCRE TACTICS

A creative TV commercial has a rather surprising ending. It captures all the leading football teams in the English Premier League, except one obvious one. This mirrors a past trend with Kenyan media outlets, that deliberately refrained from giving direct competitors any publicity. It seems we could be back in those dark ages of media competition and mediocre tactics.


The selection of a particularly awful picture of a popular news anchor appearing in a rival media platform is quite telling.

Is there an untold story behind the quality of the image, and the editorial decision to publish it?

It seems like a deliberate attempt to remove some of the shine from a representative of the competition.


And this is perhaps the reasoning behind the advert by a bank associated with the title sponsor of the EPL.

The decision to leave out any reference to the team currently leading the same football league, could be based on the fact that it happens to have a rival bank as a shirt sponsor.


If a picture is worth a thousand words...this one may need a thousand apologies!



Thursday, 3 January 2019

FROM BLANK CHEQUE ASPIRATION TO BLANK SCREEN PERSPIRATION

In the seemingly over-supply of TV channels in Kenya, a broadcast outlet has to go many extra miles to attract and retain viewership, and possibly make some profit while at it. Branding is an essential element in this strategy, after taking care of basic elements like great content. Expecting the audience to identify a channel from a blank screen is not the way to a blank cheque.


A news broadcast is a key pillar in drawing in viewers to a station, despite the fact that practically all the competing channels offer almost identical news coverage.

But this means a station has to put more effort in fending off the competition, which can as well start from the look and feel of the initial on air news ident board.

In years gone by, corporate entities used to pay a tidy sum to have their logos or products displayed alongside the countdown clock for the news, because this was one of the 'primest' of broadcast prime time.

Sadly, advertisers appear to have realised not so many people nowadays tune-in for prime time TV news in Kenya.

And this could perhaps explains the drab, dull, dreary and depressing news board idents, like the one highlighted above.

If you can't promote external products before the news for a fee, why not promote your own content for free?

Oh...wait....what content?