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Wednesday, 17 December 2014

TWO PHOTOJOURNALISTS, ONE PHOTO BUT TWO NEWSPAPERS

Perhaps it was one of those very remarkable coincidences. That two photographers clicked away from the same position, with the same subjects in frame, and other pictorial perspectives also being constant. Or maybe, it's a case of two photojournalists, one photo, but two newspapers.


It definitely is that classic portrayal of one significant moment frozen in time. And even a momentary glance offers ample evidence why the picture was splashed on the 'coveted' front page spot(s).

The subject in the foreground is just about to kick some bu...wait...the bu...hold on...yes, has kicked a ballot box... or presumably some other election/nomination related material.

And because the Kenyan press is possessed with posturing, such a photo had to be given prominence, so as to profit from pandering to partisan politics.

Now swiftly getting back to the two photojournalists, one photo but two newspapers-


- is it remotely possible that one identical scene can be captured simultaneously by two photographers, and be similarly framed but differently cropped?


Maybe....not!

Looks can be deceiving but deceptions can also look alike.






Tuesday, 9 December 2014

TIPSY-TURVY: WHY KENYAN NEWSROOMS NEED TO SOBER UP

The news report says the man was drunk. The result of his drunkenness is a number of angry motorists lamenting about their damaged vehicles. The inebriated man is arrested. Then a news reporter on the scene, seeks the drunk's side of the story. Does this add any value? Kenyan newsrooms need to sober up.    

It's noble for the reporter to want to give a balanced account of what exactly happened. And perhaps the viewer could be in need of some proof that the 'culprit' was indeed intoxicated and justifiably linked to the mayhem on the road.

But is it necessary to attempt to know from the man, what it is he had exactly imbibed and in which drinking hole? Given his state of inebriation, is it plausible to expect a coherent response?

If the police officers were doing the interrogation, then it's understandable because their work entails gathering information to help their case, at the prosecution level.


However, for a journalist to take that line of questioning with a drunk, is in itself a not so sober approach.

And having the interview of a drunk in the final TV news story, shows a tipsy side of editorial decision making.



Thursday, 4 December 2014

EMACIATING EDITORIAL TO FATTEN ADVERTISING FATCATS

Whoever pays the rent gets the master bedroom, right? That seems to be the thinking in newsrooms as well. So advertisers can get the choicest of spaces, because they help the newspaper to meet its bottom line obligations. Where commercial interests lord over public interest, emaciating editorial to fatten advertising fatcats is fine.

Many Kenyans have been calling for changes in the state security structures.

And when that finally happens, albeit after the tragic loss of many lives, does that story warrant front page prominence?

For all the major dailies, that was an easy decision to make. But one particular paper opted to seize the moment and pull a 'brilliant' marketing stunt.

The headline was there alright, just to show the editors were aware of the biggest news story then.

But it looked as if the single sentence was intruding on the space reserved for a 'glorious ' advert.

Why should even a good story, laden with public interest elements, come in the way of a full colour sales pitch, and ruin the chance for the audience to grab a great bargain?

Sadly, you can't entirely blame the paper for focusing on who butters their bread. Somebody has to pay their bills you know, and leave sufficient profit to excite shareholders.

Enter the reign of adverts, exit news content being king!


Thursday, 27 November 2014

I REBUKE THE MEDIA FOR PERSONIFYING THE KENYA WE DON'T WANT

It's becoming clear the Kenyan media is degenerating. The competitive nature of the news means content is now constantly being primed to generate profits, pageviews, viewership, readership, ratings, retweets, likes and online hits. I rebuke the local media for personifying the Kenya we don't want.



I rebuke the media for being opportunistic: 
Journalists conveniently overlook the fact that they are in a position of actualising positive change, given the nature of their careers. They instead choose to score points by posing as the conscience of society. And yet a glance at Westgate attack coverage, shows the shameful prejudices being castigated in the media, are frequently perpetuated by the same media.


I rebuke the media for being selfish: 
Laws become draconian mostly if they threaten the profit margins of media houses. For any other sector, the aggrieved are encouraged to move on.

I rebuke the media for being inept at portraying the big picture:
The President might have been away from the country, but the Presidency was very much around. If the Deputy speaks in the absence of the President, the Presidency can be said to have spoken.


I rebuke the media for being inconsistent: 
One moment the President is praised for being accessible to the public, then it becomes excessive PR, before selfies become despicable.


I rebuke the media for being shortsighted. 
Media representatives are invited to State House and despite very ominous signs, hardly anyone has the foresight of raising the issue of insecurity, preferring mostly to wallow in shameful soliciting for state appointments. How then does one transform into a latter-day saint for reminding the President to firmly deal with insecurity?


I rebuke the media for being a philanderer: 
Maintaining close links and benefiting from illicit relations with political and commercial interests, while public interest and editorial integrity wither in the background.

I rebuke the media for being insensitive: 
Reporting about a horrific tragedy, with the dominant image of a smiling face.


I rebuke the media for being incurably reactive: 
The strange irony of castigating the government for only scrambling to contain a bad situation, long after the diabolic event. Yet that's exactly what the media does, when providing coverage, in spite of the tethered hordes of resident analysts.


I rebuke the media for being gifted in parachute reporting:
Pretending to understand the underlying issues shortly after landing in a conflict area.



I rebuke the media for being quick to misplace priorities: 
Irresponsibly reporting about weapons being allegedly found in places of worship, and then wailing the loudest, when radicals use the skewed coverage to justify the massacre of Kenyans.


I rebuke the media for being allergic to reason:
The media allocate acres of space and tonnes of airtime to highlight maniacal and debased sexual assault in the guise of upholding decency standards. But ignores its own contribution, through its hyper-sexed news delivery.


I rebuke the media for allowing politicians to frequently set its agenda:
The relevance of an issue is many a times, inversely proportional to how many politicians have raised it, and directly proportional to the square root of nonsense!










Thursday, 20 November 2014

STRIPPING FEMALE JOURNALISTS OF ASSIGNMENT STEREOTYPING

There has been an outpouring of intelligent discourse and at times emotional outbursts in the Kenyan capital. This was sparked by very unfortunate and criminal acts of stripping women in public. Is the press only capable of adequately covering this issue, if female journalists get the assignment? Is the stereotyping helpful?


The mainstream media latched on this story, after it generated quite a storm on social media. So when a major protest was organised, news crews were dispatched to capture all the possible angles, as offended women and men, demonstrated their anger at the assault of women's rights to dress as they please.

Remarkably, all the local TV news stations deployed a female journalist to cover the event. Was this a deliberate editorial decision and if so, what informs such stereotypical thinking? And has it got anything to do with the gender of the assignment editors?


For starters, those who were stripped of their dignity in public are like any other human being, before one looks at them as women, so any other 'sane' human being should be able to identify with their predicament.

In other words, this was not simply a case of women's rights being trampled upon, but a serious violation of human rights.

That's why I find it strange that locally, its female reporters who took up this assignment. And come to think of it, most of the TV stories by the international media also had a female voice.


Are we saying male journalists are not able to sufficiently connect with this issue? Or maybe in this case perhaps, any professional detachment with the subject matter was not required.

Incidentally, the men were more than adequately represented in one area, during the news gathering process.


Virtually all the people filming the dramatic footage were, well cameramen!

There's a demon lurking in every demonstration.


And justifiably perhaps, this is where the innate brute force of men in this profession comes in, as the women handle the delicate matters of reporting.

See how demeaning that sounds?

However, there are aspects of human nature that even the best of equality policies cannot help us transcend.

My brain, my thoughts!






Thursday, 13 November 2014

BLUNTED POINT AND POINTLESS VOYEURISM IN EDITORIAL CARTOONS

Cartoons found in the editorial page of a newspaper usually make useful commentary on social, economic or political issues. They are loaded with humour and satire, which undoubtedly offer lessons that linger after the laughter. But this is not to say they have an express licence to be licentious. The point need not be blunted by pointless voyeurism.


The above illustration, though probably making a poignant point, appears to have gone overboard as far as common decency standards are concerned, especially given that it was published in a national paper that purports to uphold family values.

Moreover, the artist, it seems, might inadvertently invite unwarranted introspection of the morals of the depicted characters, because parallels can be drawn between real life personalities and the context of the illustration.

Whether this can precipitate a lawsuit is very much debatable but what should not be objectionable is how dangerously close the cartoon is to descending into decadence.

The same message that the 'offending' editorial cartoon is trying to make, has been cautiously delivered in a rival paper, (very remarkably on the same day).


The setting is at the 'pre-honeymoon stage', which is much bearable than a 'post-coital' scenario.

Still, legal minds can help to evaluate whether this in injurious to the reputation of certain people within the Kenyan society.


It does take guts and other associated circular appendages from the human anatomy, to boldly publish evocative and provocative editorial cartoons, but not everyone in the intended audience will be having a ball, (oops!)


Thursday, 6 November 2014

MATHEMATICS, JOURNALISM AND EDITORIAL EMBARRASSMENTS

Journalism and Mathematics in Kenya are at best suspicious acquaintances, or at worst sworn enemies. That's why it at times gets so hard to understand a news story involving numbers. Yes, your forte is dealing with words, but as a journalist, you need to get over any disappointing maths grades from yore, and be able to crunch numbers. Failure to do so can lead to editorial embarrassments.



The article above is premised on deficient numerical skills. Something has gone terribly wrong with the conversion of US dollars into Kenya shillings.

It's not a very 'complex' calculation, like say:


Unfortunately for the reader, the writer generously uses a heavily bloated figure, erroneously arrived at, to buttress the rest of the article and subsequently make an impossible analogy with the cost of constructing the Thika Super Highway.

But something more worrying catches the eye, other than the millions masquerading as billions, in the estimation of the article's author.


If this kind of writing is coming from a supposed senior person in a newsroom, what is to be expected of the overall standards in that media outlet?

So, it's no surprise that a very accomplished Kenyan can be described as a, 'Board of Trustee'!


Hey, people, and here I was thinking, "The best things in life are free."