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, 18 August 2016


Interpretive journalism is a celebrated departure from the numbing run of the mill reportage. It helps scribes to tackle the 'so what' aspect of news coverage. But in so doing, the default path must not be one that is paved with negativity. The almost impulsive criticism of government especially, could be justifiable, but it often repaints good news into a masterpiece of bad news.

But such is the unfortunate nature of Kenyan media outlets. In the pursuit of an elusive and almost mythical objectivity, positive news portrayal is often misconstrued to imply being too close to the establishment.

This provides a fertile ground for contradictions in the local press.

For example, if the government downsizes its workforce, due to economic constraints, the focus almost inevitably will turn to the plight of the affected people, and how they are staring bleakly into an uncertain future.

(It does make you wonder why such stories are never found to be relevant, when media houses declare their own employees to be redundant).

And so you expect the same media to applaud the state, in those 'rare' instances, when there's recruitment.

But no. You are probably more likely to encounter such a depressing beginning of an article:
"The public wage bill is expected to rise significantly due to a plan to hire about 600 senior civil servant in addition to 7, 000 teachers."
Of what gain is it to repaint good news into a masterpiece of bad news?

Wednesday, 10 August 2016


Long sentences in broadcast news can make the audience discern a script being read. The preferred perception is to make the stories sound more conversational, and short sentences are a big help here. Windy sentences can also yield editorial nonsense, where language mastery is a concern. If the nonsense is displayed on screen, the result is an editorial nightmare.

Trying to load as much information as possible in a single sentence might appear smart, but it requires an acceptable level of alertness.

To begin with, the strap depicted above is way too busy, for a viewer to comfortably read, never mind the elements of repetition.

And since the medium is TV,  the viewer is also listening to the voice of the anchor/reporter, while engaging the eyes to process the video element.

The required coordination of sensory organs is greatly jeopardised by the eyesore of a top line, in the lower third story tag, which sates:
"Court denies man charged with chopping wife's hands denied bail"
Oh dear! It almost appears as if the words were being randomly strung together, hoping the resultant sentence would communicate the desired meaning.

But evidently, even with editorial licence, news packaging is a precise undertaking not best left to chance.

Thursday, 4 August 2016


Finally. The beginning of what could raise the bar a little bit, when interrogating the workings of the Kenyan media and the coverage of topical issues. A lonely voice in the urban jungle had bemoaned the inadequacies of media scholars appearing on local TV,  in adding value to debates. And the topics don't often come hotter than the presidential ambitions of one politician.

The supposed findings of an opinion poll raised all shades of a social and mainstream media storm, by suggesting it was time for the opposition maverick to throw in the political towel, according to the 'measured' perceptions.

It had been intimated that my previous criticism of a frequent panelist in a media review show, was an affront to hard-fought gender-based accomplishments.

I suppose the fact that I'm now celebrating the addition of a more refined intellectual input, from a 'representative' of the male order, further adds to that injury.

But really, the cold fact is that I'm basing my observations from nothing more than the articulation of issues on national TV, without a care whether the brain output is male or female.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching this particular debate, especially when such terms as 'Socratic' were being carelessly thrown around.

That is the extra dimension a scholar is supposed to provide, so that studio discussions are enriched by meaningful comparative analogies and wider contextualization of emerging scenarios, for a broader global outlook.

But unlike the postulation of the good professor, in tearing apart the now controversial opinion poll, I hope no one argues I started this post with a sinister ending in mind!

Tuesday, 26 July 2016


Personal grief is a private affair, even for a public figure. The pain of losing a loved one is no less for those in the public eye. But most importantly, anyone experiencing such a tragic loss deserves to mourn in dignity. The media shouldn't pry into this private space, beyond the confines of ethical coverage. Using such a a sad occasion for commercial gain is in very bad taste.

A case in point is the way a section of the Kenyan media sought to shamelessly drive traffic to its site using its report on the funeral of the father of a popular local gospel singer.

From the way the link was posted on social media, it appears like the target audience is not expected to empathise with the artiste.

Instead, the audience is being enticed to click on the link, with a collection of photos taken at the funeral.

From the link, which insensitively starts with:
'Check out the photos...'
... the dominant tone almost makes it seem like it was a joyous event, hence the voyeurism bait.

And the exploitative nature of the media wickedly shines through.

In a civilized society, the pain of a distressed mourner should never be trivialized!

Wednesday, 20 July 2016


The content in Kenyan TV stations is generally believed to be formulaic, unimaginative and predictable. The many talking heads in particularly simplistic talk shows, steers the broadcasting infamy towards toxic viewing levels. But amid the noise masquerading as useful information, some gems do stand out. It's a pity if they are not accorded a befitting recognition.

A good example is a recent brilliant attempt to enlighten the audience on the likely scenarios in reforming Kenya's electoral process, with respect to practical timelines.

The show was amazingly informative and the panelist were well versed in the topic at hand, with the added bonus of an actual involvement in the electoral process, be it on the administrative front or in direct elective politics.

The chosen topic was immensely timely, given that the next national elections in Kenya are slightly more than a year away.

There has been a clamour for an overhaul of the institution charged with conducting the polls, but a sober reminder of the diminishing time to implement the desired changes, is a useful addition to the political discourse.

Again, it's a pity that this weighty discussion was in a morning programme, in one of the local channels, hardly the appropriate time to engage a greater portion of the general public.

In such situations, station managers ought to have the wisdom to edit a stand-alone news item for use in later news bulletins, with appropriate updates, and further analyses or reactions.

The entire discussion can also be re-broadcast later or even on a different day.

Unless this channel has decreed that only entertainment-based programs will be re-aired, to generate maximum interest in the public, despite the minimal public interest.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016


Explosive. The meaning implies a potential to blow up, but it's not so big a word. Yet a newspaper sub-editor, with his or her back-up copy perfection squad, can somehow still misspell it. Simple errors in the press, can be indicative of complex editorial inadequacies. 

These could arise from:

- wanting staff competence levels 

- abnormal propensity to publish mistakes

- aversion to attention to details 

- quality control systemic failures

- internal sabotage by newsroom gatekeepers

- overworked and underpaid dedicated employees

Or could this just be the product of pompous media critics like this one right here? (Yes..me!).

But any mortal ought to cringe at some of the content pushed out by Kenya's mainstream media.

If it's not being misled into looking for non-existent photos, (none of the 3 faces on the left, in the page above, come even close to Kenya's former Chief Kadhi)...

...it's an exhibition of gross violation of historical facts, in the era of powerful and available search engines.

The 1986 World Cup was held in Mexico, so its absurd for the article above to state that:
'Germany celebrations did not last long as Italy won the Madrid final 3-1.'
Neither is it sane to say during the 1982 World Cup in Spain, it is:
'...West Germany who went on to lose the final to Argentina 3-2.'
Go ahead...cry for Kenyan media.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016


For a long time, there had been an unwritten rule within Kenya's mainstream media, about not reporting the not so rosy internal affairs of any media house. But nowadays, tribulations of one media company are no longer a no-go zone. And sadly, beneath the veneer of projected sympathy, the coverage at times borders on rejoicing about a rival's misfortunes.

Job losses in the media industry are an emotive subject, hence perhaps the justifiable need to highlight this issue as public interest.

The press after all, routinely provides copious coverage of reorganization, resizing or restrategizing decisions, both in public and private entities, which result in redundancies.

But in so doing, there's little room to speculate that a media house could not be neutral in its coverage, although some vested interests in the downfall of particular establishments, cannot be entirely ruled out.

Some other factors, however, come into play, when it comes to one media house reporting about the goings-on in another outlet, possibly a direct competitor.

Should the struggles of one media company be viewed as an opportunity to shore up ratings or perceived superiority by its rivals?

I sincerely hope this is not, has never been, and will never be the case.

In the end factually, what goes around comes around.

Think of the manner in which one evening, a TV station stretched its coverage of the alleged disbandment of the Kenyan presidential press team.

The same channel was 'forced' to report news of it's own parent company's 'massive' layoffs, barely 24 hour later.

I should know a little bit more about these situations.

Sometimes back, on a very rare occurrence, I was sitting in the interview panel that was recruiting reporters for a then yet to be launched TV station, which has now just been closed down.

One of the applicants had unilaterally left previous employment, and I sought to know why.

"Are you a quitter?" I self-assuredly enquired, proud to be a direct hitter.

The very next day, I was handing in my resignation letter!

The Almighty has a way of humbling us...and we should be grateful it does not entail eating grass like Nebuchadnezzar.