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, 27 August 2014


News on Kenyan television, has of late become 'inspiringly' standardised. The various channels seem to have all reached a plateau phase, with not much effort seemingly being put to differentiate their product from what the competitor is offering. Psst...News Reporters...give your PTC some TLC.

Content in a news story is said to be king. But in this royal setup, the queen is ably represented by form, or in this case, the format of delivery. And this witchcraft news story aptly illustrates this point.

Ordinarily, this could pass as one of those numerous episodes of a community held captive by superstitious beliefs. And I had marked it down as such, ready to confine it to the temporary holding bay, in a dimly-lit part of my brain.

Then a flash of brilliance elevated the story to a more prestigious address, in the leafy suburbs of my psyche, reserved for the intellectually-gifted elements, meant for long-time retention.

The Piece to Camera oozed creativity. It may have appeared strange to some, but for me, it showed much thought was invested in determining its delivery, and this deserves a hefty round of applause.

It's not very often that you see Reporters going the extra mile to make a story memorable. A well- crafted PTC can help a story in this regard, no matter how simple the news content is.

That's why I still remember the story above, about floods, many months later. The Reporter wanted to capture the desperation on the ground, and is there a better way than to be seen in the very predicament, during his Sign Off?

There was also a news item about Halloween, that had the Reporter donning the attire of a witch in the Stand Upper. Now that was creepy...but in a good way....given that I still remember the story.

So, News Reporters, extending some Tender Loving Care to your Piece to Camera, adds value to your story, especially if you opt to disregard what is prescribed in journalism text books, and venture into the realm of unbound creativity.

I'm still amazed that seven years down the line, I still encounter people, who recall a story I did, while on a news assignment in Kingston, Jamaica. And yes. The PTC is largely responsible for that.

However, there's got to be some sensible restraints.

The delivery of the PTC does not always warrant a soap-opera performance!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014


It's pretentious and a stage-managed ploy to hoodwink the audience. One can even describe it as media personalities playing to the gallery. So you've been away for whatever reason, and when you reappear on TV screens, it's made to seem as if the public desperately needs an explanation of your absence. Enough of the welcome back and on air goodbyes! 

I can bet the proposed Standard Gauge Railway that TV news presenters and other journalists of a given broadcast station, have interacted or been in close contact, prior to going on air, even if one of them has been away from the office for some time.

So, when someone is introduced on air, the simulation of excitement at seeing each other is already an exaggeration. It should not be made overly dramatic, lest some soul out there is left with the impression that somebody is seeing his or her colleague for the first time on air, after their return to the newsroom.

And again, I plead, dear quasi-celebrity media personalities, spare us details that border on very personal information like who has procreated, (and no... this is not intended to be trash talk).

If 'Welcome back' pseudo-ceremonies are a visual nuisance and psychologically draining, then TV news broadcasts should not burden the audience with more 'Goodbye' festivities.

If one of the staff members is leaving, then the audience will eventually get a clue, if he or she ceases to appear on screen. There's nothing really special about changing jobs, to warrant excessive display of emotions on air.

It's also not exactly a complement to your employer, if you wish the departing colleague well, as he "moves to greener pastures!"

Enough of the welcome back and on air goodbyes! 

Wednesday, 13 August 2014


If one is to distinguish between journalism and blogging, will it be more clearer if one uses the point of view of a journalist, or the perspective of a blogger? Or is either option not equal to the task? This is one of those debates that can continue in perpetuity. It's like a two coins of the same side scenario.

If you try and see it as two sides of the same coin, then you are likely to end up questioning the very existence of a coin that purports to have the capacity to have two sides.

And that was the folly of a gallant attempt of one of Kenya's mainstream media, when seeking to interrogate the role of bloggers and whether they needed to be regulated.

This was clearly from the point of view of standard journalism practise. In other words, trying to use apples to explain how bananas taste.

Below is a sample of online reactions.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014


Finally. A very interesting long-format TV feature has graced Kenyan screens. In a stark departure from the usually over-dramatized investigative pieces, the producers managed to weave a compelling story of human existence and its attendant variations. It succinctly depicts how mothers are burdened with the blessing of babies.

The new arrivals seem to forever alter their mothers' lives, as they know it, irrespective of the economic situation they are born into. Many viewers expressed shock at the different unfolding scenarios for the three mothers, in the two-part feature.

But in total honesty, is there any valid reason for one to have expected the experiences of a working class, slum-dwelling and homeless mother, to be not so markedly different?

And therein lies my often-stated problem with this kind of 'brilliant' features:

So What? So What? So What?

In other words, wasn't this 'epic story-telling' bound to be self-fulfilling from the very onset?

Yes. The emotional hook made for very engaging viewing. But in the end, what was the central message cutting across what was presented to the audience? That life is unfair?

Hey. Even baby Jesus was born in a manger. That didn't stop him from becoming our Saviour!

Below is a sample of how viewers reacted.

Monday, 28 July 2014


25th July, Friday morning, I hear a presenter in one of Kenya's many FM stations engage listeners on the topic of memorable advertisements from years gone by. Days later, I watch a TV news story, taking viewers back to past advertisements. Coincidence or copy paste?

Admittedly, the TV story has been given so much depth and is enjoyable to watch. The analysis of what makes some commercials to remain etched in the mind, was also quite illuminating.

But...I couldn't help but notice that the 'YouTube' clips being played of past commercials, are almost identical to the audio inserts I heard in that FM station's morning show.

I will hazard a not so thoroughly informed conclusion that here, the TV copied the radio.

So, was it so hard for the TV news story to make a direct reference to the radio 'source'?

The answer is probably yes, because both stories, apparently, lifted the idea from the Internet, in a collection of 'Vintage Kenya TV Ads' posted online.

I'm not so sure the website, originally came up with the idea of compiling memorable adverts, but you get my point, don't you?

There's nothing wrong with borrowing ideas. What is harrowing is failing to attribute, and unfairly taking all the credit.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014


The tone of a news story largely depends on the nature of its content. If it's about a happy occasion, then the audience can naturally be moved to smile or even laugh. Similarly, a tragic story is likely to elicit sadness. So it's very absurd for a Kenyan newspaper to purport to see a funny angle in a story of great sorrow. Laughing at tragedy is such a shame and unethical.

Nearly three hundred lives were lost, when a Malaysian plane was downed in eastern Ukraine. Death brings immense pain to those directly or even indirectly affected. And so, I find it highly insensitive for a national newspaper to publish an article headlined:

"Malaysia crash comes with its lighter side."

What is light about people perishing in a such a horrific manner?

And what's funny about the folly of the man, who changed flights, only to end up dead?

If one of the passengers posted a pictorial premonition on social media, saying, 'If it disappears this is what it looks like,' does it give the newspaper's writer/editor leeway to depict the 'unfortunate' irony, in a 'laughable' context?

There's no lighter side of this story because many hearts are heavy with grief.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014


Newspaper editors have a right to place articles in whatever position they feel will give the paper a lift, financial or otherwise. Stories of the 'non priceless' type, after all, are important in driving up sales. But this does not mean the readers should be shortchanged, in terms of the consistency of featured stories.

According to the first paragraph of this front-page article, in one of Kenya's biggest newspaper publisher:

Secondary schools are facing a major crisis after Government ordered immediate release of all national examinations certificates they are withholding due to fees arrears approximated at Sh 14 billion.

So, going by this content, contextualised by a headline starting with the words, 'Schools stunned...' one gets the impression that the decision by 'Government' is a very unpopular one, to the point of causing great discomfort to various, if not all school managements in the country.

But on the next page of the same newspaper, another headline screams: "School heads happy with fees waiver for ex-students." And in stark contradiction to the previous story, the first paragraph says:

Secondary school administrators in Nyeri County have welcomed the Government's move to release Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education certificates for students who are unable to clear fees arrears.

So which is which?

Notice too, that in the second story, it's being implied that 'Government' has been keeping these withheld certificates, which will now be released...again...an apparent contradiction of the facts stated elsewhere in the same story, and also in the front page story.

If this defines the editorial approach of a 'bold newspaper' then I'd rather a bald one.