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, 26 March 2015


Names have been dropped impulsively, after Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, asked those implicated in a graft report to step aside, pending investigations. But what does stepping aside mean? Resigning, temporarily being suspended or waiting for the storm to quieten, before making a come back? No one seems to be sure, meaning even the media could be making side steps in their reportage.

And the local media could hardly contain the itch to share the supposed juicy details of who could be a prime suspect in the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission report, in spite of a proper parliamentary process of disclosing such matters being in place, (delays notwithstanding).

It will be interesting to compare the information hurriedly released, with what will actually come out through the formal or official channels.

Only then will it be possible to say whether such a reaction was fast and furious in the public interest, or swift and spurious to merely interest the public.

Thursday, 19 March 2015


The main Kenyan media houses appear to have taken a no holds barred approach, in highlighting ills bedevilling the various arms of government. Granted, Kenyans should be the winners, whether it's Corruption Central or Graft Diaries, dominating newscasts. But are the competency levels in these TV channels adequate or should the newsroom brilliance be outsourced?

It's relatively easy, for example, to do stories hinged on regurgitating 'supposed' findings of reports by parliamentary bodies like the Public Accounts Committee.

But I feel there is a mistaken belief that doing so adds so much value.

Such reports may not be widely distributed, but they are in the public domain, and merely picking out cases with the highest perceived potential to shock the audience, amounts to sensationalising the findings.

You may want to sound or appear to be hitting the government hard. But it's hard-hitting substance that is likely to have the most impact.

I would be more at ease if the assigned journalists would incorporate the input of financial, accounting or forensic experts, to better interrogate and interpret the findings, (and ascertain we are dealing with authentic statistics).

Not so long ago, after all, a 'presenter' at the TV station above, used an elaborate video wall-assisted computation, to momentarily hoodwink the audience into believing more than 7 million pupils enrolled in class one in a given year, and only about 600,000 went on to sit the primary leaving exam, leaving us to ponder over the missing 6 million plus phantom pupils.

Numbers never lie, but a lying media kills the goose that lays the golden credibility egg.

Thursday, 12 March 2015


The Kenyan media never seem to tire, in advising members of their audience to carry out due diligence, before parting with money or committing to something. But do the media houses partake of their own wise counsel? So, one moment you are all excited about hosting someone in your studios, then days later, it turns out the same person is a suspected criminal.

Should those charged with sourcing guests for TV programmes, e.g., be required to do a thorough background check, before clearing potential guests?

It certainly looks bad for a TV channel to host somebody in their studio, only for it to later emerge that the same person could be behind a heinous impersonation scheme, which also targets staff members of the same station.

So, before a host got all mesmerised (on behalf of the audience), marvelling at the 'magical' cards skills of the studio guest, it perhaps would have been useful to ensure there is nothing sinister up the sleeves of the 'trickster', beyond the visual deception or sleight of hand.

Again, if the 'hacker was hacked' to possibly reveal the person behind the elaborate yet devilish prank, does it imply the same news channel condemns and condones hacking in the same breath?

As somebody has pointed it out already, the local media does seem to be abdicating its moral compass responsibilities, going by how a person, who recently failed to pay a private debt, ended up being given so much public prominence.

Next time, don't act so surprised, if you see the same ills that the local media highlights, flourishing in the very same media houses!

Thursday, 5 March 2015


Set top boxes have become quite the buzz word, as Kenya effects the digital migration process. Even disagreeing stakeholders uniformly accept the gadgets are vital, in the transition from analogue, for those who can't afford a digital TV set. Consumers beware though, of a looming malfunctioning phase of a set top box. And we might just remain analogue for life.

I acquired a set top box late in 2013, in readiness for the switch to digital broadcasting, not being too sure of always being able to afford Pay TV. I carefully selected a set top box from the many that were type-approved by the Communication Authority of Kenya (then CCK), placing my faith on a known brand.

The gadget served me well until 3 'leading' broadcast stations had a major fallout with the industry regulator, which after a protracted legal battle, led to the discontinuation of analogue transmission in Nairobi.

Whether it's a coincidence is debatable. But strangely, the moment the analogue signals were taken off air, is the exact time my set top box switched itself off.

I first thought it was something to do with the aerial I was using. But another Pay TV decoder, (my house will soon turn into an electronics dump site), works perfectly well with the same antennae.

But more telling, the warranty of my set top box had also expired.

A call to the Samsutech service centre, was not that helpful, yielding only a direction to the physical location of their premises.

Days later, I was at their office, armed with my malfunctioning set top box. The attendant shockingly told me that my 'digital' gadget needed a parts replacement that would cost Ksh 2,000, with an additional 500 for service charge, in the absence of a warranty.

In other words, I am better off spending an almost similar amount on a new set top box, because the warranty would last one year, since after repairs, you only get a month's cover. The warranty card incidentally, I was told, is linked to the service charge waiver only.

Does it mean after one year of service, many Kenyans will have to contend with malfunctioning set top boxes? And who stands to gain from regular carrying out of repairs or purchasing new gadgets?

Being analogue for life

And as you ponder over that, you've probably heard there is no turning back to analogue, once the switch to digital transmission is made. Well, it turns out that we are analogue... till the day we die!

According to Marcus Weiss & Diana Weynand's book, How Video Works: From Analogue to High Definition:

- No matter how digital the equipment that is used to capture sound or images, the human eyes and ears see and hear the final results as analogue

- All information from the physical world is analogue

- Human beings don't process digital information

- What a human being sees or hears, must first be converted from digital back to analogue.

You might successfully switch from analogue, but even that digital content, might still need to be experienced in an analogue form for it to make sense.

So even if you lose to those profiting from the digital migration process, don't lose your analogue head.

Thursday, 26 February 2015


The motivation to find and disseminate meaningful information in Kenya's mainstream media, is perhaps withering, in the wake of the digital migration standoff. If there's no guaranteed audience, why bother and worry about the content? Consumers should be bracing for value subtraction in media content.

The same editorial rigour from days gone by, though not always consistent, appears to be lacking in copious amounts, in the content published (and quasi broadcast) by local news outlets.

It might have been a 'dry' day, but that notwithstanding, the, 'Bid to rename city roads after county bosses' story should not have been published, without giving it a frivolous context.

That the editor thought it fit for consumption by rational newspaper readers, in the form presented, is scandalous, to say the opposite of most.

Sample this warped self-worth sentiment by one MCA, as captured in the story:

'Mr. Speaker, some roads in Lucky Summer have no names and it would be a good thing to have my name on one of them'

Such a quote reflects the morbid obsession with mediocrity that has been taking over local newsrooms.

It's hard to tell the difference between the reasoning by some Members of County Assembly, and the newspaper publishers.

In other words, they both seem to think the naming of city roads after public servants in the county assembly, is an important issue, worth our shillings and sense investment.

That's where I draw the line. If you don't condemn then you condone!

Thursday, 19 February 2015


Everyone is allowed to hold an opinion. But this does not negate the need to respect other people's views. If journalists happen to also have an opportunity to publish their opinion, a measure of restraint is required. And if you mix Godly matters with your criticism, be wary of the unpardonable sin, as you practise your 50 shades of insensitive journalism.

You may have reservations about the decision to ban a film, based on what in your estimation, constitute flimsy and untenable grounds.

But why not just entirely dwell on the material facts, instead of singling out the personal attributes of the perceived decision maker, as if there's no institution he's representing?

There's little value addition in using a false dichotomy to defend your position, and amplifying the perceived irony of a bishop having to decide whether a film has pornographic content.

Then comes the usage of a trope that is heavily laden with insensitive religious 'overtones' in advancing the argument:

Yes, a bishop heads the body that classifies films in Kenya and decides what is approved for public viewing. He probably comes straight from Bible study to a board meeting, still levitating from the power of the Holy Spirit

This is not only demeaning to majority of the faithful in Kenya, but comes dangerously close to illustrating a perfect timing for the use of fire and brimstone!

Some would say it's an unpardonable sin.

I call it 50 shades of insensitive journalism.

Thursday, 12 February 2015


For a related story, click here. For more details, follow this link. These are useful additions to an online news story. Hyperlinks after all, are a distinct feature of web-based articles. So what is a reader expected to do with a link published within an article in a...newspaper? Is it a case of convergence taken beyond reasonable confines?  Or we should confidently say it was an error?

That may be so, but it does raise some issues, away from riding on the innocent mistake, to err is human type of defensive mechanism, which by design is meant to insulate against any deriding by critics.

Can one conclude that journalists do their research before penning articles?


Can one conclude journalists base their stories on what has been posted on the Internet and properly attribute?


Can one conclude journalists pass on other people's online ideas as their own print creations?


That's where convergence needs to be confined. Where there are multiple sources of the same original thought.

In an online platform, hovering above a passage of text could reveal if that particular section was copy-pasted, because the link somehow gets embedded in the process of lifting the material.

The plagiarism might be invisible to the eye, but it's quite noticeable to a computer mouse pointer.

Makes you wonder what would happen, when it becomes possible to hover over all articles in a newspaper.

Do I hear an Amen for future clickable newspaper articles?