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.




Friday, 9 October 2015


It's highly regrettable that a section of Kenyan children have been found indulging in 'adult' misbehaviour. And the media has been quick to jump on such stories, riding on their potential to shock and jolt the nation's conscience. But not every news story adds value to this issue. A sober approach is needed to smoke out the underage drinkers.

So, a media house gets word that pupils of a certain school have been more than quenching their thirst for knowledge, by imbibing fermented beverages of the illicit type.

A TV news crew is dispatched to the school, (or as is reported, 'pays a courtesy call'), interviews are conducted and material gathered used to assemble a ' Drunk in Class' news story.

It's perhaps hoped the emotional hook will align the morality compass in the audience, to point to the falling societal standards of raising children.

But the substance collected during the news gathering process needs to support the weight of the final content being broadcast.

It's one thing to say children attend school in a 'drunken stupor' but it will require more than the claims of school authorities and 'blurred' interviews of pupils to make the story fully convincing.

Talking heads only, and not even a local social worker or a medics's expert diagnosis, waters down the potency of the story.

And ethically, you don't violate the privacy of minors, by pin-pointing pupils in class, whom the audience is supposed to believe are inebriated.

That is not a sober approach to smoke out underage drinkers!

Thursday, 1 October 2015


That facts are sacred is never in question in the business of news. Politicians, however, have been known to be sacrilegious, when handling facts. And unfortunately, this is what the Kenyan media thrives on, to push their news products. But, it is more worrying if news editors desecrate facts.

West Africa. Burkina Faso. Cote d'Ivoire/Ivory Coast. Abidjan. Ouagadougou. A foreign media outlet can barely be excused for mixing up these hard facts, in the form of African countries and cities.

An African media house simply ought not to not know that Ouagadougou is not the Ivorian capital.

You see, the media prides itself in its watchdog role, which makes it safe to assume there is an inbuilt fact-checking mechanism, not entirely infallible, but generally reliable.

So, once in a while, (although it's more like regularly for local media), mistakes do happen and apologies are subsequently published.

But the different levels of gatekeeping, are primarily designed to ensure factual errors are not part of what is published in the public's interest.

It is thus puzzling that a reputable, (hey, biggest in the region), Kenyan newspaper can allow such a 'little' monumental error to appear on the front page of its premier publication.

If your vision is to be the 'Media of Africa for Africa' then you better know the continent real good!

Thursday, 24 September 2015


One often gets the feeling there's too much emphasis being put on literacy skills in the practise of journalism, at the expense of equally important numeracy competencies. And as Kenya seeks a way out of the teachers pay dispute, a lot of confusing figures are being thrown around. So, a literacy wise and numeracy foolish media can easily spread misinterpretations. 

The casual manner in which unqualified figures are often published, even with larger than life clues of something not adding up, is really worrying.

A simple cross-checking with the relevant available resources, can prevent glaring errors from being propagated.

For example, attendance figures quoted in the Mombasa International Agricultural Fair 'filler' story, are ridiculous.

The population of Mombasa city, nay the entire county, is nowhere near 2 million.

It's hard to imagine, where the fabulous figure of 6.4 million people, said to have attended the show came from.

That 'a team of newspaper editors' can fail to see such inconsistencies, points to a rather careless approach to editorial fact-checking.

Further scrutiny of the article reveals more confusions. Is the 6.4 million the 2015 attendance, as per the heading, or membership, as alluded to in the first sentence in the story?

Curiously, the last line of the news brief states that:
"Attendance was 55,000, a slight increase of six per cent from 52,000 people."
How can a brief 'mini article' be loaded with so many numerical deficiencies?

It is no wonder the local media has been unable to sufficiently interrogate figures being bandied, as the government and Kenyan teachers stalemate persists.

The media can't elect to be wise in literacy, and select to be foolish in numeracy.

Thursday, 17 September 2015


There's activism and advocacy. There's patriotism and public service. Then there's journalism. But within journalism can be found all the aforementioned elements. The distinction is that these are not expressed in their raw form. They are editorially refined, to best project the public interest. That's why there could be a thin line between suffering for, and serving Kenya.

If a media outlet decides to embark on an investigative piece touching on core national security matters, it thus becomes critical to serve public interest by telling the story, without setting up the country for untold suffering.

I strongly believe it's the duty of the press to uncover shortcomings of the government and state agencies, to make them more accountable and true to their mandate and responsibilities to citizens.

But I equally expect some conscious effort to balance that sacrosanct watchdog role of the media, with the need to preserve the entity being exposed, especially if it's what we collectively call our country.

You see, it borders on being pointless, if the media reduces itself to just being a trophy hunter, uncovering scoop after scoop of the dirtiest secrets of state and society.

Okay. So in the process, there could be some real positive changes and measures taken to address issues raised.

But in the larger scheme of things, those desired changes still need a state and society in which they can manifest themselves in, and importantly, for the difference they make to be appreciated.

In other words, you can't meaningfully change the state of affairs in a state, by compromising the state's very own existence.

So, we've seen the deplorable working and living conditions of policemen, in practically a war zone.

The government can be shamed into swinging into action (to improve the situation and/or deal with the source of the unauthorised disclosure to the media).

But more dreadful, the country's enemies can exploit the weaknesses highlighted in the expose, to further their deadly intentions.

The investigative piece could serve NGOs well, as they solicit for donor funding, to facilitate their often self-rewarding interventions.

However, the media must be alive to the fact that the government needs to be engaged fairly, for it to respond effectively to matters of public interest.

After all, many Kenyan journalists have been serving and suffering, in the course of discharging their professional duties, and yet the media is often too quick to expose the plight of other people.

Indeed, if you serve activism without patriotism, it is journalism that will suffer.

Thursday, 10 September 2015


Interesting times lie ahead for Kenyan media. Major players are experiencing serious challenges. Very regrettably, this has led to job cuts. Media houses should perhaps rethink their business models. And the prospects of a devolved media now look so enticing. Audiences will soon start commanding news coverage at their community level, not begging for visibility in national channels.

The perception has for a long time been that perceived important events ought to attract coverage by the big media players, a.k.a., Nairobi-based outlets.

So, one of the counties signs two major agreements with a delegation from a foreign country, and yet this hardly made news. And the county's communications department feels aggrieved.

Well, whether there are valid reasons as to why the developments were not covered, or if at all they merited coverage, is debatable.

But in the very near future, that could as well become a non-issue.

You see, the big media players (read Nairobi-based) have been pursuing expansion plans that spectacularly fly into headwinds, predictably perhaps, leaving no option but to wind up many such still-born ventures.

The advent of digital broadcasting, especially, has led to stiff competition, as new players, not necessarily Nairobi-based, begin to crowd the audience market.

And just like it happened in more developed countries, the way to go for the now vulnerable Nairobi-based media players, will not be trying to be everything for everybody.

Instead, it might make more sense for national media houses to have affiliate regional stations, or for them to acquire a stake in small but niche-rich outlets.

On a different note, I couldn't help but 'appreciate' the sense of self-worth of the author of the article above.

Maybe he needs to prove it by persuading his county to consider the idea of having a community media station.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015


Gears driving the assembly line of fresh media professionals keep turning. Which could in turn mean competition for established journalists. New exciting talent should however, not be seen as a threat, but should be allowed to flourish. Unfortunately, not all progress in newsrooms is celebrated. Those still able to shine, will hopefully be the antidote for the newsroom progress poison.

Some new talents are usually snapped up, especially after exemplary internship stints, while others fade away, but not just because of their inadequacies.

Indeed, those showing so much promise can be overlooked, and more opportunities availed to the ones who extend other favours, to those calling the shots, (pun very much intended).

But this is meant to be a very uplifting post about a bright talent, in one of the Kenyan TV news stations, whose progress I've keenly been following.

She pleasantly surprised me by holding a very engaging live interview, with so much confidence and such professional command, to rival any seasoned veteran.

It was a welcomed departure from the 'Ambush-Gotcha-Guillotine' type of TV interviews that many news presenters mistakenly believe is the way to handle their interviewees.

While others first arm themselves with damning evidence, as if on a mission to destroy interviewees, she disarmed her guests by just being calm, graceful and humble, which allowed them to freely share the required information.

It was a joy to watch her steer the interview, and sensibly interrogate her interviewees, covering much ground within the limited time.

Well, that is not entirely true. The choice of location for the interview almost ruined the experience.

It's terrible being struck with full light beams of oncoming traffic, while driving. But it's equally unsettling and visually bruising, to have bright lights coming straight at you from the telly.

But I'm tempted to think that's how bright the future is, for this fast-rising journalist. And I'm so glad I played a very tiny role in training her.

Shine on girl!

Thursday, 27 August 2015


If a TV station uses material from a secondary source, it's good professional practise to give on air credit, even when use of the material does not come with a 'must courtesy' clause. Unauthorised usage can attract a lawsuit. But care should be taken not to give undue credit, for clips from YouTube.

Most broadcasting houses have subscribed to various news agencies or wire service, because it's more cost-effective to source, especially video footage from them, than deploying crews to gather the same material from far-flung areas.

Local TV channels have also increasingly been getting their material from YouTube, due to the abundance, availability and ease of accessing desired footage.

But what if the video is uploaded to YouTube from a primary source, with or without authorisation, and then a TV channel downloads the same material and uses it in its broadcast. Who should be credited?

Is it the primary source, in this case 'Sky Sport' or YouTube?

It seems pretty naive for this channel to 'Courtesy YouTube' for the clip.

And 'Sky Sport' retains the right to make matters ugly for the TV station, if broadcasting rights have been infringed.