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, 26 November 2015


The Kenyan president makes an address to the nation, broadcast live in all major channels, during which changes in his administration are announced. The event ends less than half an hour to prime time news bulletins. Then, newscasts lead with a lengthy recap of the presidential briefing. This double dose of identical information is a cue for the audience to doze off.

Is the news significant? Oh yes, very important. Must it be re-aired in its original format and the content of the presidential address regurgitated on an ' as is where is' basis, so soon after the live broadcast?

Yes...in the land of dead journalistic analysis and media allergies to interpretative value addition on information being conveyed.

But that's not to say you lose focus on the fact that TV is a visual medium.

So having a news presenter on a prolonged solo talking spree makes it hard to distinguish between facts and personal opinion.

It is hard to imagine that within one hour, local channels weren't able to line up analysts or experts to interrogate the Cabinet reshuffle, despite big hints that major changes were in the offing.

And if all fails, even in-house 'editorial authorities' can be roped in to broaden the discussion, as opposed to the tiring studio monologues.

It's important for a news story to be taken forward. And the media can be proactive in seeking to raise and find answers to the 'so what' question.

That 'lazy' newsroom pattern of waiting for reactions a day after, ought to be discarded.

That's why it was so refreshing to see one of the channels airing a Cabinet Secretary nominee's initial thoughts, shortly afterwards.

Those visuals came from Europe...

...And you want the audience to think it's impossible to get a relevant comment from the neighbourhood?

Friday, 20 November 2015


When terrorists strike, human suffering is amplified and individual pain is multiplied. A responsible media helps to confront terror, without unwittingly advancing the terrorists' agenda. This aspect often eludes Kenyan media, in their coverage of terror attacks. Media terrorism should also be condemned.

The siege in a hotel in the Malian capital, was beamed across the world. But the sense of terror being experienced by the hostages was not diluted by the absence of phone calls from the media to some of the victims, a la Westgate.

And as was demonstrated during, and in the aftermath of the terror strikes, in the French capital, loss of lives can be reported, without necessarily showing dead bodies, a la Garissa or Mandera attacks.

Perhaps based on valid reasons, Kenyans and the local media have become distrusting of the government and its security agencies, hence the demands to see bodies of terrorists 'allegedly' killed.

But hardly any doubts or disbelief greeted the announcement that the mastermind of the Paris attacks had been eliminated.

Lack of crucial intelligence, or failure to act on prior warnings, are also not charges being levelled against the French government, like the local media would have easily done.

The international media does have its own shortcomings, in the coverage of terror attacks.

There are frequent accusations of belittling tragedies involving African or less developed countries, and appearing to place more value in the lives of citizens from developed nations.

This perceived discrimination is not helped by 'skewed reports' as depicted below.

Notice the undertones of suspected profiling of hostages, to determine who is to be rescued.

If there's one important lesson to be eternally emphasised, it's that terrorism is a universal threat.

Thursday, 12 November 2015


Proofreading skills are proving to be in a state of neglect in the Kenyan press. The frequency of editorial errors on textual and semantic levels, is far too high. One is tempted to think the draft copy is starved of adequate revision and overfed with false confidence, during sub-editing. All that is required could just be a second glance by the first eye, or a first glance by a second eye.

Such is the nature of some irritating errors. Nothing complex. Just really simple omissions that ruin the reading experience and distort the information being conveyed.

Even in the wildest of imaginations, there's no way the entire European Union can:

"...pledge $3.8 to help curb migration."

Less than 4 American dollars! That headline in the country's leading daily, does not even begin to add up.

But what is more worrying is that the 'Intro' of the story clearly states the amount is in the region of billions.

Undoubtedly, many eyes must have noticed that headline, during the production process, yet hardly any seemed to have taken note of the major anomaly.

The first eye of the headline drafter ought to have spotted something was amiss at first glance, and not miss the error at second glance.

The second eye should have raised a red flag at first glance, or flag it off for correction at second glance.

That is how newspaper sub-editing ought to be alive to eye-opening glances.

Thursday, 5 November 2015


The pattern is familiar. First corruption accusations. Followed by denials and blame games. Then aggrieved politicians and the media keep the graft allegations alive. And the government puts up a defence. Kenyans then get caught up in different quadrants of this vicious cycle. That's why this devoured devolution or devolved devouring will only be ended by the power of the ballot.

We may make all the noise we want, cry for change and pursue the high and mighty in all platforms, peacefully or confrontationally. But ultimately it counts for nothing, if lessons are never learnt about the direct link between the leadership we elect and the fate of our country.

Politicians will come seeking votes, and you bet there will be the mention of the importance of having sufficient numbers of elected party or coalition representatives, for a government to conduct its business effectively.

I just hope Kenyans will now be able to distinguish between effectively and suffocatingly.

Thursday, 29 October 2015


That editorial blunders abound in Kenyan mainstream newspapers is indisputable. English language deficiencies are regularly on display. But at times, one wonders if some mistakes actually emanate from acts of sabotage, by those tasked with cleaning copy, before publication. How else can one explain mistakes in an article correcting other mistakes?

The situation is difficult to understand, because the author of the article is one of the most accomplished senior journalists in the country.

And he is widely renowned for smoking out poorly written newspaper articles.

His grasp of the inner workings of global languages is authoritative and impeccable.

He can convincingly argue that the Indo-European question mark symbol, is etymologically linked to the mid-14th century fish hook, found in the Great Lakes region.

It is thus very surprising that this particular veteran can make careless spelling mistakes.

And more so, in a newspaper article deeply entrenched in his characteristic didactic role.

Drawing from his long experience in the industry, he had once again embarked on enlightening readers, writers and editors alike, on proper deployment of English language elements, to express intended meanings.

But unbelievably, this is what assaults the eyes:
...But note that the word aircract has no plural form. Except in the pages of one notorious Nairobi newspaper, there are no such things as aircracts. Aircract remain aircract (without an "s" at the end)...
All I can say is:

I Accuse the Press!

Friday, 23 October 2015


The Kenyan media can sometimes deploy very strange editorial logic. Even news elements inherently dangerous in the long term, are milked for short-term glory. And misguidedly, fleeting audience approval is thought to translate to news product loyalty. It's no surprise that media sees logic in curbing incitement through coverage of inciters.

You castigate hate speech by propagating hate speech.

You are wary of inciting statements, but choose to expose inciters, by giving them a platform to further spread their incitement.

You stress the importance of national values but drive the agenda of tribal politics.

You promote issues-based politics but refuse to ignore personal interests of politicians.

You decry the inability of the state to combat terror threats but you publicly share sensitive security details.

You disseminate copious negative news about the country and question why tourists numbers are falling.

You condemn corruption but condone underhand dealings that bring you business.

You highlight the widening gap between the poor and the rich but entrench huge salary disparities in your workforce.

You advocate for meritocracy but make merry, when brilliant talent wilts as mediocrity thrives, within your ranks.

You hunger for exclusive stories and starve the audience of incisive news.

Just like it's being bravely suggested above, there is need for serious introspection by practitioners in the local media industry.

Hopefully one day we will realise that the joy of winning a competition of staring at the sun, comes with the agony of turning blind.

Thursday, 15 October 2015


The biggest continental journalism awards came calling in the Kenyan capital. It was yet another chance to fete Africa's finest and reward professional excellence. The overall winner was the toast of the night. But one outstanding entry had the misfortune of having a number of factors working against it. This is how success of Kenyan journalists can become a curse.

It was a compelling television story, well researched and laden with powerful visuals. The narration carried the pain of a people's prolonged suffering, and the victims' agony was unmistakable in their cry for help.

The story has dominated reviews and discussions locally, and even the country's Head of State, the chief guest during the awards ceremony, initiated the process of availing help for the highlighted community, in medical distress, (as reported by the reporter).

Having also been present at the awards, and therefore having a clue about all the entries that emerged victorious, I honestly feel the story in question had what it takes to clinch the overall title.

But that befitting top honour was denied, I think, either because:
- The awards were being held in Kenya and it could have been awkward for a Kenyan entry to win. 
- There was a Kenyan among the panel of judges, hence inviting some speculation of a covert influence. 
- Kenyan entries have won the overall title more times than any other country in Africa. 
- The previous year's overall winner was from Kenya. 
- Or, this criticism of the awards is by a Kenyan (a previous category winner notwithstanding).

Yes. The 2015 overall winning story was ingeniously and meticulously planned, and even prophetic about the going-ons in Burkina Faso.

But to me, it was more like the judges were applauding how the story was crafted, more than the substance and delivery of the entry.

Oh, well, you win some and sometimes, the loss is never beyond deserving winners.