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.




Wednesday, 16 April 2014


The purpose of media interviews is to extract useful information from persons of interest. The information must be about or from the person of interest. And you use background information to bring fresh information to the fore. This was hardly the case in recent TV interviews of a Jamaican dancehall artiste, ahead of his performance in Kenya.

For starters, it's good broadcast practise for some professional distance to be maintained, between the interviewer and their subject. Even the choice of words should reflect this imaginary but crucial space.

So, it was shocking to hear the host in one of the TV station react to the mere name of the studio guest by saying:

"It's kinda cute name...I like it..."

Cute? I like it? Are the opinions and feelings of the host adding value to the interview?

And when the guest said he was 'in love' with Kenya, again the host let out an unbelievable:


But it gets worse. At some point, she claps and mumbles something like (it):

"...brought a tear in my eye..."

Then shortly afterwards, she yet again gets all emotional. The Jamaican dancehall artiste says he believes success is a journey not a destination, to which the host replies:

"My gosh I have to write that down...that's awesome..."

It has profusely been already pointed out that this TV presenter was awestruck and openly 'attracted' to the interviewee ('I'm your biggest fan alive'). And I tend to agree. But I'll be quick to also point out that it's part of being human.

I can relate because the time I was on assignment in Kingston, Jamaica, I visited Harmony House production centre, home to reggae living legend, Beres Hammond.

As I awaited a reply to my interview request, I moved to the records shop but had difficulty pointing out to the attendant, which particular song I wanted, in the many CDs on sale. I knew the tune but not the words, let alone the title of the song, so all I could come up with was a terribly off-key hummed rendition.

Then the shop attendant gave me the surprise of my life. Visibly fed up with my awkward query, he suddenly brightened up and told me:

"There's Beres behind you. Let's ask him. Hey Beres....?

I turned and sure enough Beres was there in person. Needless to say, I froze. Up to this day, I can only remember Beres saying he was too busy at that point to grant a TV interview. Nothing about the song I wanted to buy. I eventually took a guess and got the CD with the song, 'Not Over Till It's Done' but I digress.

The point I'm making is that once in a while, one does get overwhelmed to the point of 'acting funny' while in the presence of someone they regard in very high esteem.

However, reason must always prevail in a live studio situation. And that means keeping the focus on the guest. Does the host have to tell us, (and her probably bored interviewee) that in her family, she's in the middle, just like the Jamaican, but only has brothers?

It does help to do thorough research, before the interview, to avoid sounding very ignorant. The artiste comes from Jamaica, an island, meaning the place is surrounded by water. So why ask the guest whether he will be interested in visiting the beaches along Kenya's coastline?

The other host from the TV station that simulated a 'Live' interview of the same artiste, equally failed in this respect. He gloriously displayed his limited 'overstanding' of Jamaica's local music scene.

And when the guest mentioned Bob Marley, I expected a follow-up discussion on the continuing posthumous influence of the late King of Reggae, decades later. But all I got was:

"Do you have a favourite Bob Marley song?"

I'm now more convinced there's no master of all subjects in Kenya, when it comes to conducting TV interviews. Maybe getting a co-host, who is a specialist in the relevant topic, will help bridge the knowledge gap.

Friday, 11 April 2014


TV news many a times thrives on creating an illusion of infallibility in the viewer's mind, to enhances its believability. There's also a perception cultivated of a mysterious ability of media houses to be always present, where all the interesting stories are happening. But Kenyan media houses are now determined to keep it so real, so as to reveal their insider wiring secrets.

So, a viewer can now easily start questioning, why the news presenters must have gadgets strapped on their backs or other parts of their bodies. And in responding to such curiosity, a discussion about the functions of talk-backs is invited.

It's nowadays also hard to avoid noticing a wire-like thingamajig sticking out from a presenter's ear, and disappearing to God knows where, down their back.

One can actually conclude the news presenters must be powered using electricity from the mains!

Does that explain the constant scratching and tagging on the ears..a little shock perhaps?

And on close scrutiny, it looks like some news presenters have another cable extending to the mouth. It actually appears like that 'thing' is sellotaped on the skin, doesn't it?

Honesty might be the best policy, but in broadcast news, a viewer should not be distracted from partaking of the news, by such wiring and cabling jobs all over the presenters.

Come to think of it. For female presenters, this is one area the much maligned weaves can come in handy. No doubt they can conceal much more than the true state of one's natural hair.

Thursday, 3 April 2014


A Kenyan newspaper has found itself in an unenviable position of disagreeing to agree with its readers. The paper insists its decision to publish a grotesque image in its front page, was based on sound reasoning. The justification further cements the belief that there was an abdication of editorial responsibility.

The paper begins by a telling admission:

"...the Star ran a graphic photo of the body of the late Sheikh Makaburi on the front page..."

This does not take into account the extent to which the word graphic' entails. So one might not appreciate the full impact of the gory image used. But I can tell you for free the chosen picture was utterly distasteful.

Then the editor seeks to provide a contextual backup, arguing that:

"...the photo had overriding news value. Its publication was not gratuitous. The public was extremely interested."

What news value? Does it mean the other media outlets in the country missed the 'story' by not capturing that being referred to as, 'overriding news value'? It can similarly be argued that if the public is extremely interested in pornography, acts of copulation should be published copiously by the press.

The paper's editor continues with this spurious trajectory by concluding that past display of the bodies of Muammar Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein, was enough evidence of an acceptable precedence.

I wonder if the paper would have had the guts to publish the image of a captured Samuel Doe, with his genitalia exposed, now that only bad examples are being cited.

Yes, people need to know the truth. But we all know handling the truth and dealing with its full impact, is a different matter. Then comes this comparison:

"...Four terrorists were killed at Westgate but we have never seen their bodies.......With this photo we know for certain that Makaburi is dead."

What if the paper's reporter, correspondent or even stringer was at the scene and viewed the body, would their account be so unbelievable to the point of necessitating the use of a graphic image of a cadaver, for the story to be credible?

Can't there be, at the very least, an attempt to artistically and ethically produce a more appropriate image, which takes into account the various sensitivity levels?


"A photo makes you understand with an immediacy that text can never achieve."

However, if indeed, "..people are being killed on both sides..." isn't it possible that the published picture could inflame angry emotions and cause more tension?

I guess that would mean more gory pictures for the paper to prominently publish!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014


I regret to announce the death of death in a dead Kenyan newspaper. In yet another display of malevolent ineptitude, many readers have been left aghast by a sickening assault of ethical photojournalism. For all its editorial worth, the front page picture of a dead body robs humanity of the essence of being alive.

By eroding public sensitivity about the phenomenon called death, one runs a very high risk of also diminishing the value of life. That's what the editor elected to overlook.

Yes. Many have argued that the subject in the picture seemed to have been beckoning death with open arms, given his controversial views on recent terror attacks in Kenya.

Yes. Many people felt threatened by his direct and confrontational approach to resolving 'quasi-religious' differences.

Yes. The country's security apparatus was feeling immense heat from a public in dire need of reassurance that safety concerns are addressed decisively.


No. Elimination of perceived threats, without following the normal channels accorded by the country's legal system, undermines the rule of law.

No. The media must not spread further panic or augment animosity by stirring negative emotions.

And No. If the picture of a lifeless prominent person results in a newspaper selling all its copies, then there's something morbidly wrong with the paper's editorial policy.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014


At what point is it safe for the media to generalise that a particular view is a reflection of a wider belief or standpoint? Apparently, for the Kenyan press, all it takes is to interview one person and then assume the views are from multiple sources. This amounts to peddling blatant lies and manufactured truths.

According to the headline of this particular story, from one of the national paper, doctors have spoken in one voice and advised that care should be taken, before administering a World Health Organisation tetanus vaccine to women.

Given that doctors are highly trained professionals, this report naturally sends alarm bells ringing, especially because a sub-heading continues to state that the vaccination campaign seeks to prevent women or girls from getting pregnant.

This message is prominently displayed and underscored, with the attribution suggesting more than one doctor, if not an organised grouping of medics, holds the same view.

But shockingly, further down the article, it becomes clear that the writer only spoke to ONE doctor!

How then, could the newspaper editor conclude from this single interview, that the resultant stance on the tetanus vaccine issue, is representative of the thinking of many doctors?

Isn't it easy to conclude that this article has a hidden agenda of backing up similar claims raised by the Catholic Church head in Kenya, who was the first to reject the WHO vaccination campaign?

No doubt this amounts to a gross misrepresentation of facts, deliberately designed to sway opinion against the campaign to administer the tetanus jabs.

Even if it eventually turns out that WHO had an ulterior motive of 'preventing pregnancies' the reader needs to be allowed to arrive at such a conclusion using supportive and compelling evidence presented in the article.

Not by propagation of misguided perceptions. Again. The media is not a platform for circulating blatant lies and manufactured truths!

Thursday, 20 March 2014


The use of English language by Kenyan newspapers is many a times so wanting, it almost feels like editors are beyond any grammatical help. But there are times, when their grasp of syntactic tenets and semantic elements shines through. And thanks to one newspaper headline, I'm now more familiar with subjunctive verbs.

On coming across the above headline construction, I admittedly, thought it was erroneous at first. I mean, the rules of singular and plural verb forms immediately point to some grammatical discordance, right?

Well, not exactly in this case. It is tempting though, to conclude at first glance, that the correct construction should have been, 'I wish my mother was here...'

But here, the subject 'I' in this headline, is just not referring to something in the past tense, and subsequently the case for using the verb 'was' to comply with grammatical rules.

As I was so ably informed by Lynne Gaertner-Johnston, in her phenomenal blog, what is being expressed here is something that's contrary to fact.

This means the person is directly implying his mother is not alive. Had 'was' been employed here, instead of 'were', then this meaning would be lost.

And it could also misleadingly suggest the mother was not there, only on that particular occasion.

On that note:

 'Even if I were an English language guru, I would know better than to generally condemn the competence of Kenyan newspaper editors.' 

Tuesday, 11 March 2014


What informed the transformation of  TV news in Kenya? Some say the shift is detrimental to sensible news delivery. Others argue the changes have energized, hitherto, stiff presentation styles and widened the appeal. That's the position being vigorously defended by one of Kenya's finest broadcasting managers.

It had been laboriously pointed out here, that local TV stations needed to urgently desists from adulterating news bulletins with nebulous content, which essentially confined the day's main news to the periphery.

Then the stars conspired and conjured an unusually illuminating confrontation on social media.

One tweet led to another, and before one could say, 'Tweef', a fully-fledged battle of wits and media mastery had ensued. And it's all captured below.