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.




Thursday, 27 August 2015


If a TV station uses material from a secondary source, it's good professional practise to give on air credit, even when use of the material does not come with a 'must courtesy' clause. Unauthorised usage can attract a lawsuit. But care should be taken not to give undue credit, for clips from YouTube.

Most broadcasting houses have subscribed to various news agencies or wire service, because it's more cost-effective to source, especially video footage from them, than deploying crews to gather the same material from far-flung areas.

Local TV channels have also increasingly been getting their material from YouTube, due to the abundance, availability and ease of accessing desired footage.

But what if the video is uploaded to YouTube from a primary source, with or without authorisation, and then a TV channel downloads the same material and uses it in its broadcast. Who should be credited?

Is it the primary source, in this case 'Sky Sport' or YouTube?

It seems pretty naive for this channel to 'Courtesy YouTube' for the clip.

And 'Sky Sport' retains the right to make matters ugly for the TV station, if broadcasting rights have been infringed.

Friday, 21 August 2015


Two eyes. One brain. Eye-brain coordination is a useful element, when polishing news stories before publication. The eyes spot the error and the brain makes the correction. But a scatterbrain editor might miss out on obvious signals from the eyes. And the result could be an editorial aberration.

Execution and manipulation of English can be a challenge. But for those to whom impeccable language skills are a key professional requirement, more is expected.

And at times, what's needed, is eye-brain coordination, (known as attention to details).

The 'mini sub-headline' above states:
60 million litres of water from Mzima Springs IS wasted daily.
Notice the sub-editing embarrassment that follows.

And do try to ignore the painful repetition of the same facts, at such close proximity.

The first paragraph reads:
At least 60 million litres of treated water from Mzima Springs in Taita Taveta ARE wasted daily yet county residents do not have access to clean water.
So what prompted the change from IS to ARE?

In other words, do you say '60 million litres of water is wasted' or '60 million litres of water are wasted'?

I guess the editor thought the best response to that question is to be noncommittal and use both, which amounts to being a...... let's say it together.....SCATTERBRAIN!

Thursday, 13 August 2015


The Kenyan media yearns to associate itself with issues based politics. The intention is to steer coverage of politics and national discourse away from personalities. But the same media finds it hard to consistently stick to issues based coverage. It's no wonder the Ugandan sugar import issue is being mainly covered from the point of view of politicians. 

Granted, politicians are meant to carry the views of those they represent, because ultimately, the power is meant to reside with the people.

And their will must be expressed, even if it means bringing to the fore opposing views from the political divide.

But a responsible media must never abdicate it's agenda setting role.

In the controversy surrounding the importation of Ugandan sugar into Kenya, I for example, would have wished the Kenyan media to have their own main story, independently researched, as the lead.

The input of industry experts, sugar factories representatives and importantly, sugar-cane farmers, could have been sought.

And then a related story, anchored by what the government and opposition members are saying, would be the secondary focus, (and they can attack one another ad infinitum).

Admittedly, such an editorial approach, though high in public interest, could be low on commercial interest, a.k.a. newspaper sales.

Below are some of the initial reactions from social media, on the Kenya-Uganda sugar deal.

Thursday, 6 August 2015


Talk is cheap. And Kenyan TV talk shows are close to cheapening engagement with target and non-intended audiences. Formats are getting increasingly unimaginative and too draining to sustain the already straining viewer attention. When was a decree issued for news presenters to have their own shows?

It's all good to be versatile and capable of discharging multiple roles in a broadcast station. It does make you look useful to the Human Resources honchos, and could expand your legions of 'adoring' fans.

And hopefully, interviewing skills can get some much needed polishing.

But a TV talk show will need much more than your presence or your name dominating its title, for it to resonate with the viewers and remain relevant past the first season.

- A solid creative team with liquid ideas is very necessary. Topics might be finite but not delivery styles.

- It won't hurt to have the backing of an experienced production crew.

- It will stink to lift programme formats from both local and international channels, with cosmetic customisation.

- A programme will sink if nobody thinks about product differentiation, in this era of market segmentation and audience fragmentation.

Copy that news presenters cum talk show hosts.

Thursday, 30 July 2015


What or who exactly is the government? Has it got three arms? Yes. Does it exercise power on behalf of the people being governed? Maybe. Is it a person? No! So its strange that a Kenyan mainstream newspaper would confidently publish a story suggesting a Nominated MP can be equated to 'the government' or that he speaks as government.

It's widely believed that the said politician can wield influence by virtue of being the Chairman of the party that sponsored the sitting President.

But he wasn't elected by the people to parliament. You guessed it...he is a nominated Member of Parliament.

Is that enough to earn executive powers to represent the government, and its three arms?

Apparently so, if this particular story is to be cited as an authority on matters central governance.

From the article's headline, one gets the impression the story is anchored on the views of one person.

And indeed it is.

Right from the crucially important first paragraph is where things start to go wrong.

The Intro, ably supported by the second paragraph, partly states that:

 'The Government has come out to strongly defend its institutions and agencies...'

But it's not clear yet, how this ties to the name indicated in the headline.

It's made to appear as if there was a central entity that had the capacity to speak as government, much in the same light as the president talks of 'my government' in his speeches.

But as more details get revealed, the lofty expectation of an authoritative voice being quoted, comes crashing down to the level of a Nominated Member of Parliament.

He so happened to have spoken to the paper, 'after a series of meeting' if you can understand what that means.

So maybe the nominated legislator was delivering an agreed upon government position. But from the way the article is crafted, it seem like:
Either by design or editorial default, the story content is delivering way more than its lightweight headline.
And just who is the 'Johnston Sakaja' being referred to in the article, and could he be related to Johnson Sakaja?

Wednesday, 22 July 2015


Kenya is preparing to host a very important visitor. US president Barack Obama is coming home. And the local media is seizing this moment to churn out copious stories, disguised as providing extensive coverage. Not surprisingly, editorial lapses continue to amuse and astonish, as gatekeeping deficiency demons torment the audience.

Every angle is being explored, and every exploration is being angled, for the media to feel it has exhaustively covered this historic visit.

But the pressure of seizing the moment can lead to unintended editorial embarrassments, especially if the focus is on sideshows, and not the substance of the US president's visit.

So, a story is told of how elderly women are trying very hard to learn Engish, pardon me, English...now wait for the clincher:

'...to be able to communicate with President Obama'

At what point will this happen, during the visit of the US president?

Even if Obama makes a dramatic unscheduled visit to his ancestral home of Kogelo, in western Kenya, will the same grannies be guaranteed to be at a tobacco sniff distance, to converse with the most powerful leader on the planet?

Granted, Kogelo has been receiving a lot of foreign tourists, after one of its sons began occupying the White House.

Naturally then, that would have been a better way of highlighting the need for local grannies to learn Engish...sorry...English.

Hey, members of the press, there's an old rat, (last sighted near Burma market), which lost all its whiskers, while foraging at the then Cameo Cinema, that now has an uncanny resemblance, to the sole of the shoe, worn by a neighbour, of Barack Obama Senior.

Sic 'em...news hounds!

Thursday, 16 July 2015


A media house should develop its own editorial house style. This subsequently informs how its products will be consistently expressed. In its absence, you are likely to end up with a patch work of different styles. So a story about life in prison, comfortably uses warder and warden interchangeably, which to the not so erudite, might appear to be erroneous.

The main article was a brilliant and if credible, a chilling account of how certain levels of comfort are financially inducible in Kenyan prison.

But a side bar story almost 'ruined the impact' of the supposed expose.

The headline alludes to prison wardens. But further down the body of the story, reference is made to prison warders.

My immediate reaction was that there was a linguistic mix-up.

(Yes, I am one of those not so erudite).

A warder is more likely to be found in a prison, while a warden should be spoken of in the context of wildlife or forest rangers, so I thought.

It turns out that:

- A warder is a guard in prison, in British English.

- A warden is the head official in charge of a prison, in American English.

So now you can appreciate my British-American headache.

The cure of this malady is for media outlets to adhere to a defined editorial house style.