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, 12 July 2019


Influential people often get extensively featured in the media. Politicians definitely get more than their fair share of coverage. A number of such Kenyan leaders have multiple roles and attendant titles. Is it too much to ask that when captioning such personalities, their identities be put in the relevant context? Continental titles in a local news setup is clearly a mismatch.

It's all good to recognise important roles or status of newsmakers, and in the process, also help a viewer to appreciate why the views of the person appearing on TV are significant.

A Special Envoy of the African Union in a broadcast, is likely to add value and also help sustain attention in a news story.

But how is this even remotely related to...wait... not even a national matter...but a very local county governance issue?

The editorial competence on display here, I suspect, is suspect!

Friday, 5 July 2019


A journalist or any writer must know that the interpretation of what's already published is likely to be beyond their control. As such, care should be taken to ensure any semblance of vagueness is dealt with, to narrow down the chances of misinterpretation. A headline can be loaded with many call to action words, but end up causing an unintended reaction.

The headline of the newspaper article above, can lead to a very 'dangerous' interpretation, which the writer and many a reader would be quick to frown upon.

What are people being urged to do?
"Embrace, encourage and support female genital cutting warriors"
Say that again slowly....but now with emphasis on the part that says:

'...female genital cutting warriors.'

What are we talking about here?

A warrior is a skilled fighter...so here...it can be somebody who is experienced in...female genital cutting?

Notice that it's not clear if the warrior is fighting against female genital cutting.

But, a warrior, in contemporary usage, can also be a reference to somebody engaged in a defined struggle or cause.

However, note again that the headline does not directly imply this warrior is against female genital cutting.

The constraints of space notwithstanding, the headline would have better communicated the message if it read:

"Embrace, encourage and support ANTI-female genital cutting warriors"

A good sub-editor should strive to panel beat the copy to make it as close to the intended meaning as possible.

Simply put, avoid being vague like the plague. And it's better to be obvious than ambiguous!

Friday, 28 June 2019


Media coverage can revolve around current issues, past events or even future occurrences. The reader, viewer or listener would not find it hard to follow a story framed on whichever time frame, especially if the context is logical. This is achievable as long as editors don't get tense, to the point of mixing-up tenses.

A news story can begin with the anticipation of a future happening, dash to past events, before settling on present issues.

This would still make sense, if the reporting tenses don't imply an element of time travel is required.

The date of writing this post is June 28th 2019.

This newspaper article was published on 26th June.

The story states the winner of the contest to replace Theresa May as UK prime minister will be announced on July 23rd.

But the headline states:
'New British PM named on July 23'
A reader has every reason to get tense, with this lack of attention to tense matters.

Or is this a prime example of a future, past impossible tense?

Cue in the tension headache!

Friday, 21 June 2019


Kenyan television can be a fraud. If you tune in, you're not sure whether you are adding to your level of knowledge, or if what you have is being subtracted from. The broadcasts have many learning opportunities. But there's also a real danger of eroding one's intelligence. A viewer can feel defrauded, by on air fraudsters, under the guise of content editors, or disguised as program producers.

In the above screenshot, it's not clear what was the intention of using the 'word':
- Is it a proper conjugation from the root word 'fraud'?

- Does it even correctly convey the sense of somebody doing something wrong?

- Is it a legitimate verb? Or an illegitimate noun?

So many pertinent questions...one obvious answer.

It's either there's a false self-confidence by media practitioners in their ability to make up words, or more accurately, perhaps, there's a need for more English lessons in that newsroom.

It's a fraud, I tell you... and I hope you don't trust these frauds!

Friday, 14 June 2019


A reputable media house has internal editorial guidelines, to achieving a standardised approach in gathering, processing and publishing or broadcasting content. Such a stylebook acts as a critical reference point. The rules can be borrowed from established journalistic enterprises, and customised to suit specific requirements. But some editorial decisions defy logic.

In the above live broadcast story tag, there's a rather strange looking word contraction.

There ought to be a sensible way of optimising the use of limited space, because the need to communicate should never-ever be sacrificed.

Shortening of words should thus be done in a way that the audience can still decipher what the full word is.

And, there are certain rules that still need to be observed.

An apostrophe, for example, indicates that letters are missing in between...but the last letter retains the logical sequence of the full word.

The word 'international' can be shortened to: INT'L.

But...what is one to make out of: NT'L?

Saturday, 8 June 2019


The content across Kenyan media outlets can be very monotonous. You tune in to one news channel, and most likely stay there, because if you see one, it's like you've seen all of them. But nothing shouts lazy journalism more than when one publisher regurgitates what another has already put out. That's when media monotony morphs to media moronity.

The story of how Kenyan cars are registered using differentiated number plates makes quite a fascinating reading.

But, does it mean other media outlets should just copy what has already been published?

New angles can be used to add value to the original content, and still make the replicated read relevant.

You get a sense that this was not the intention here, because someone even decided to use the same photograph to illustrate the lifted story.

The take home lesson?

The biggest fan of a Kenyan media house...is a rival media house!

Thursday, 30 May 2019


The term 'billion' has been quoted frequently in reference to misappropriated public funds in Kenya. It's a huge figure that elicits shock, probably until the mentions became one too many. That a billion has now become a common-placed phrase, is, however, no reason for the press to casually bandy it about.

The headline of this article makes that 'magical' reference of billions, to perhaps immediately grab a reader's attention.

But, this reference becomes farcical after going through the content of the story and finding no supportive facts.

A mention is made of a somewhat vague figure of 'more than Sh1.3 billion', which hardly equates to billions.

Either some details were edited out from the original draft of the story, or, it's a classic case of a screaming headline and whispering substance!