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.




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.


Friday, 11 July 2014


It's all good for journalists to want to immerse themselves in their story. But if in the process they come between the audience and the story, then Communication Centre, we have a problem. A baby theft expose need not have the reporter's face all over it, to add to the 'over narration' in the story.

The facts prior to, leading to and even after the baby traders racket has been smashed, should have been left to speak for themselves a little more loudly, especially because the matter inherently packs a very emotive punch.

And so dwelling on the personal experiences of the reporter, detailing how he went about setting up the suspects and bringing the back story elements to the fore, doesn't add much value to the TV news piece.

That's a pretty overused 'stylistic' device in investigative stories, and is now likely to contribute more to the pressure on a viewer's attention span, as opposed to enhancing the understanding of the story.

In other words, let the audience have as much of a first-hand account of the story as possible, without blocking their view with numerous on-screen appearances of the reporter and 'We' references. A standard piece to camera would most of the time suffice, unless it's a walk and talk kind of delivery.

Moreover, one just doesn't chance upon the details that should go into the story.

It was unbelievably naive for the reporter, for example, to just have 'random' members of the public make claims about how they have 'similarly' lost their babies in unclear circumstances, and let it pass as if it's a statement of facts.

Due verification process still has to be applied, even where there's attribution, lest the reporter gives credence to hearsay.

That's all I'm saying.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014


Putting the spotlight on the Kenyan media, is what one of the local TV stations has embarked on doing. Their new show, it seems, is seeking to interrogate topical issues as covered in the press, with the ultimate objective of apportioning blame or praise accordingly. But the first episode regrettably degenerated into another radar-less and lengthy talk show. 

Insinuations had been made that this new programme concept has never been explored before, in the country.

This raised expectations, only for it to begin appearing like one was watching the 'Professional View' of yore, or its latter-day morphs like 'Fourth Estate', previously aired by the same station.

The topic of choice was still relevant, though very belated, given the extensive media attention it had already received.

And the contributions from the panel were mostly making sense, but not in an unexpected manner.

The debut TV show thus lacked spark and direction, and one began to struggle to understand its desired intention, hardly mid-way through.

It was, however, great to see the producer deploy examples of stories sourced from other competitor channels. This does not in any way amount to media trespass.

But, passively using clips posted on YouTube, almost indicates there was no attempt made to engage the other news broadcast stations formally.

This is a pity because had that been done, and the programme producers gone ahead and negotiated to have the News Reporters/Editors from other stations on their set, then that would have been truly groundbreaking, in this part of the world.

Going forward, the host needs to be bold enough to raise shortcomings of his own employer's coverage of issues, (even if it means crossing the self-preservation red-line) and be brave enough to acknowledge superior treatment of a story by rival stations.

That will be the mark of distinction, Mark!

Friday, 27 June 2014


A Kenyan media house has once again captured the struggles of administering mandatory vaccinations, to people, who don't believe in modern medical practises. To some, this highlights the retrogressive nature of some religious faiths. While to others, the 'dramatic' news provided comic relief. But does this amount to the media preying on the prayers of such believers?

First of all, the fact that this Kavonokya story involves children, calls for special considerations. They after all, have a right to absolute privacy. So, was consent granted by parents or guardians of those children, before the TV news crew started rolling away?

Secondly, as argued by my friend Rukwaro, is it fair for the media to capitalize on the plight of the terrified children just to get a news story?

But thirdly, isn't it justified to let the general public know the state will enforce its immunization targets, regardless of a people's religious faith?

Or fourthly, is sensitising the public about the need to have all children vaccinated against polio, in conflict with an 'insensitive' media, trying to raise awareness about the importance of such a noble government goal?

Fifthly, there's hardly any chance of reaching a consensus on all these issues. And the sample of reactions from the social media below, reflects this state of affairs.

Thursday, 19 June 2014


Is it possible for the media to invent facts and project them as actual reality? Very much so, it seems, when it comes to the press in Kenya. It is becoming increasingly difficult for consumers of media content to separate the truth from half-truths and non-truths, partly due to the ignorance of journalists. The mix-up over the marking of the Day of the African Child, in one local daily, aptly illustrates this.

According to the writer and/or editor of the above article, the 'world marks the International Day of the African Child.'

This, on the face of it would be such a worthy cause to generate maximum awareness around. But unfortunately, the 'International Day of the African Child' simply does not exist.

June 16th was the date set aside in 1991, by the OAU/African Union, to mark the Day of the African Child, in commemoration of deadly protest by schoolchildren in Soweto, South Africa, in 1976.

It should thus not have been merged or confused with the 'International Children's Day, usually marked on June 1st in many countries, or even the 'Universal Children's Day', which falls on 20th November.

It seems like this particular paper fell into the trap of trumpeting the agenda of International Day of African Childhood, IDAY, a network of civil society organisations, riding on the 'Day of the African Child' theme, to probably boost its visibility.

Such editorial missteps greatly water down the credibility of news organisations, more so because relevant and verifiable information often reside a click or two away, in the Internet, (which unfortunately is also a great source of misinformation).

In the wake of the heinous attacks in Kenya's Lamu county, local and even the international media exhibited similar behaviour of mixing real facts with 'official facts' and 'invented facts' in their coverage of the senseless killings.

On a different scope, the noble goal of packaging news in the present tense, to suggest freshness of the information, should not lead newspaper editors into the terrain of absurdity.

So yes. To say, 'The giant male elephant named Satao has been killed', denotes this beastly act (pardon the pun), happened not so long ago. But if the information is being published on June 16th, and the next paragraph states:

'He was felled by a poacher's poisoned arrow in Tsavo East National Park on May 30'.

...then, Wayaki Way, we have a problem.

And as for the eyesore below, you are on your own.

Only you can explain this mouthful of a non-erudite headline.

And this particularly 'smart' paper appears to be on a roll, when it comes to churning out howlers.

Now this is one expensive editorial disaster!