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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Wednesday, 13 June 2018

FACTS AND THE TRUTH BEGETTING AN UNTRUTH

The moment the media puts out a news story, it develops a life of its own. If something is not clear in a particular story, clarification can be sought within the newsroom. But that is not the case with the audience out there. There's nobody to ask for further explanation, or additional context. The result could be facts and the truth begetting an untruth in a reader's mind. 


In the newspaper article above, the headline contains factual information, but at the same time, a very misleading and negative impression could be created about a 'reputable' medical facility.

Yes, a patient died at the hospital indicated by the headline.

But a reader glancing over that headline might easily conclude this tragic incident began and ended at the same medical facility.


Only by reading through the body of the story would the reader be able to know that this case started in another medical clinic, and the patient only passed on at the hospital reflected in the headline.

The medical facility would rightly take offence if this story ends up making inappropriate insinuations, by directly linking it with the botched operation and subsequent death of the patient.

In other words, the truth here begets untruths, by virtue of the way this newspaper is treating this story.

The result could be a high-speed chase, involving a reputation damage ambulance chaser!


Saturday, 9 June 2018

CRIME, FOOTBALLERS AND ENTERPRISE REPORTING

In a rare departure from the beaten path, a sports journalist delivered story of footballers, who had a promising career, only to end up behind bars. Getting access to film in Kenyan prisons is not easy. And convincing the sportsmen to open up on camera about their doubling in crime is quite an achievement. The result is a powerful depiction of the impact of enterprise reporting.


In this era of converged newsrooms, it was quite refreshing to see one journalist masterfully piece together a fantastic tale on both print and broadcast platforms.


The local media outlets are known to mostly dwell on diary stories that are almost predictably going to be about negative developments, personality-based politics, press conferences, and the occasional breaking news that again is likely to yield uninspiring coverage.


So, when a gem of enterprise reporting hits your screen and newspaper, the impact is unmistakable.

The meticulous planning that was involved is very evident and the multiplicity of voices within the prison and in the outside world all build up to an inspiring story about the futility of crime.

The convicts now hopefully have a better conviction about life.


Saturday, 2 June 2018

QUANTIFYING DESTRUCTION: MONEY FIRST OR MONEY LAST?

Loss of lives or property often get well-accommodated in the media. Such coverage does not seek to celebrate calamity or someone's misfortune. The unfortunate bit could be that the press seeks to capitalize on this sense of loss to get the attention of the audience. Quantifying the value of destruction appears to be quite a challenge though. Should money come first or last?


In the newspaper headline above, the reader is first being asked to process the amount of money 'destroyed' before relating it to a particular product, in this case wheat.

From the way this information is packaged, the headline writer is stressing the amount of money lost... but in terms of wheat.

To a reader like me, this is rather confusing.

'Floods destroy wheat worth Sh 150m' would sound more natural and easier to process than 'Floods destroy Sh 150m worth of wheat'.

In other words, the loss should first be established to be of wheat, before the value of the wheat lost is given.

And if you are not fully convinced, try listening to a similar sentence construction in a radio or TV news broadcast!

Saturday, 26 May 2018

PICTURES, CAPTIONS AND THE NEWS COVENANT

For any piece of news to make sense, certain details need to be included. The reader needs to be provided with critical information to not only understand what is being reported, but also the context of what has happened. Pictures without relevant captions break this news covenant.


A picture, they say, is worth a thousand words. But keywords are needed, if the pictures appearing in the press are to be meaningful to the reader.

This is where picture captions come in.

In the stand-alone photo story above, the caption says:
'A police officer issues instructions to casual workers who were clearing debris from the site where a house under construction collapsed, injuring two people yesterday. The county inspectorate is investigating the incident.'
Quite a clumsy threading of words, but perhaps the writer was trying so hard to ensure as much information is squeezed into the available space.

We can tell what is happening, who are involved, what they are doing and also when this happened.

However, it's almost impossible to know the location, from the supplied information.

So, there's hardly any relevance in saying 'The county inspectorate is investigating the incident' if the reader is not told the exact county where the incident happened.

There ought to be something more definite, when talking about 'the county' don't you think?






Wednesday, 16 May 2018

WORDS, MEANING, MEDIA CONTEXT AND WRONG FACTS

Words convey meanings encoded in them. But deciphering the meaning of words in many languages is not a simple affair. Other factors like stress and intonation, if spoken, or the context, could vary the meaning of words. For media that use English, wrong use of words can result in misrepresentation of facts.


The word 'deadly' either implies something causing death, or able to cause death, resembling or suggesting death.

In the TV news story above, the woman is narrating her ordeal, meaning her harrowing experience at the hands of her husband cannot be said to be deadly.

The assault was severe, but not to the point of making the woman look 'deadly' or suggest she was about to die then.


Similarly, the writer of the lower third tags, creates the impression of the woman being 'insanely' punished, because of speaking a 'foreign' language.

It turns out the language in question was Swahili!

The language could be 'foreign' to the diabolical husband, but the audience knows it as an official language in this part of the world.


Then there are instances, when the chosen words can ridiculously miss the intended meaning.

And you end up with 'lectures' that have the power to disobey orders to resume duty.








Friday, 11 May 2018

FACTS, JOURNALISTS AND NURSERY RHYMES

Journalists can get facts wrong based on faulty interpretation of information. Some facts though require no additional processing. The've been the same for centuries, are still the same, and may remain the same for eons to come. To help remember them, maybe some nursery rhymes could be of assistance.

Indeed, by the time one gets into any professional career, one ought to be aware of certain stubborn facts...

...Like the number of days in every month of the year!

So repeat after me, dear sub-editor:

Thirty days have September, 

April, June and November.

All the rest have thirty-one,

Except for February alone.

But according to this newspaper article, in a far, far away land, filled with mystical and mythical creatures, which possess magical powers and frequently engage in time travel:

There exists a date like April 31.

And it lived unhappily ever after with the rest of the correct dates!


Wednesday, 2 May 2018

INTELLECT, INSTINCTS AND INSENSITIVE FOOTBALL ANALYSTS

It's the most prestigious club football competition in Europe, and probably the most popular in the world. An ugly blot from one football analyst, however, threatens to ruin this beautiful game. His insights on the performance of one player from Africa were insensitive and offensive. The intellect of professional football players shouldn't be so doubted.


In a Pay TV channel, Tim Sherwood made a controversial observation about the abilities of Senegalese sensation, Sadio Mane.

In the first-leg semis tie between Liverpool and Roma, Mane missed a number of great chances to score.

He did eventually grab a goal in Liverpool's huge but still precarious win.

Sherwood offered to explain the instances when Mane is likely to score, and when that could prove to be impossible.


He argued that the Senegalese finds it hard to convert chances that require 'thinking' and easily scores those that require an instinctive reaction.

So, it all boils down to thinking and instincts!

And Sherwood is of the opinion that Mane relies more on instincts than intellect.

Which makes Mane a what...animal?


Maybe Mane's attacking threat could be more portent, when he reacts in an intuitive way.

But given where he has reached, we shouldn't reduce him to a non-thinking footballer, or disparage his mental abilities.

That is an affront against this great talent from Africa.