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, 18 October 2018


A primary roles of the media is to inform. The audience expects to either learn something useful or be enlightened about somebody or something significant. This does not imply that the average member of the audience is not well-informed. And neither is he or she all-knowing. On first mention of key details, the assumption should therefore never be that the information is obvious.

In the newspaper article above, the reader is likely to be flying rudderless, simply because there's no editorial support to aid in the contexualization of the details, and hence the understanding of the news story.

The intro talks about 'Members of the Country Assembly'...and inconveniently neglects to mention the particular county in question.

If Kenya has 47 counties, how is the reader expected to zero in on the one the editor is referring to?

There are names being thrown around like all the readers are all well-acquainted with the personalities being mentioned.

These may well be public figures, but the paper should not assume they are well-known by the public.

Friday, 12 October 2018


The media often enlightens the audience about subjects or issues that were hitherto unfamiliar. Publications that ply their trade in English can be particularly useful to learners of the language. But the lesson can at times be hard to grasp, if it's assumed that the meaning will be apparent to everyone. You can't take heart that the deal will be sweet.

In the above article, reference is made to a 'sweethearts deal' in the headline.

An average reader is likely to be perplexed because 'sweetheart' is a common endearment term, that oozes heavy romantic undertones.

There are two parties in this case alright, but one is an institution...the one that employs teachers in Kenya...and the other is a top representative from the teachers' labour union.

A stranded reader may as well be left wondering what a 'sweetheart deal' is all about in this context.

Well, the paper is correct in the sense that this is an acceptable expression, meaning a sort of favourable agreement.

But it's dead wrong to use search a term, without giving proper contextualisation, to enable the reader to derive the right communicative value from it.

Deal with this doubt sweetheart!

Wednesday, 3 October 2018


It's been argued that the media's penchant to broadcast or publish negative stories can lead to emotional or psychological trauma on the audience. The sad news may be factual, but does it distort the reality? That could be the case, especially when the media appears to threaten the very existence of society. A morbid headline promoting child mortality is a sure way of killing humanity.

In the above newspaper article, very critical elements of journalism are missing...and that gives the headline quite a chilling effect.

Even a casual glance at that headline, is likely to deliver a guaranteed repulsive reaction.

And that is only if the reader can survive the shock of the unintended repugnant message.

The elementary attributes of a news story missing in this abhorrent headline are CONTEXT, and...well...ATTRIBUTION!

There's a barely there indication that the headline is drawn from a conclusion of a study.

However, in the absence of a direct link of the findings of the study and the article's headline, one is left with little choice than to think the newspaper has no problem with anyone calling on mothers to kill their children.

Moreover, it's only in the first paragraph that one gets to understand the context of the story...that it has to do with children born with disability, and their parents being pressured to kill them.

These reckless omissions by the editor make the headline morbid, and its details sordid!

Wednesday, 26 September 2018


Skills in enterprise reporting are welcomed in the newsroom. But is the world always going to provide interesting stories that journalists can continue to uncover, discover and cover? Highly unlikely. Inevitably, some stories will be recycled, even under the guise of making follow-ups. But the audience can easily see through regurgitated features disguised as new ones.

If a TV channel heavily promotes an upcoming feature, it builds anticipation and expectation that the story is worth making a viewing appointment.

Even if it's a familiar 'special' feature being hyped, one is hopeful of watching a fresh insight, perhaps a new angle even, or the latest developments in a story that's being retold.

However, in this particular instance, there was little to show that an attempt was made to add to the existing level of awareness about the story.

One gets a sneaky sense that the reporter deliberately chose to try and obliterate any acknowledgement that what was being served was a not so tasty dish of televised deja vu.

This, needless to say, was as futile as it was foolhardy.

Truth be told, this is a story that has previously been featured by both local and international media, from as early as 2010, as captured here.

Behold, however, this late 2018 version was largely centred on the same central 'fact' that the language spoken by the Yaaku community was on the verge of extinction.

The one loosely substantiated 'new' fact was that only three fluent speakers of the Yakunte language remained, (down from 7 in 2010?).

Maybe the media should consider borrowing the principle of specifically adding to the existing body of knowledge, before publishing, which is a key cornerstone in the world of academia.

If a story has already been covered, then it would be a requirement that reference is made to what has already been produced, even if by rival media entities, so that emphasis is strictly put on value addition, for the benefit of the audience.

And a bibliography also won't hurt, (just kidding!).

Wednesday, 19 September 2018


The easiest way to identify people covered in the media is to use their names.  To help the audience understand more about the subjects, additional attributes are added, like job titles. This can also provide the context within which reference is being made to a person. But some descriptions add little value. 

What exactly does a city lawyer do that is different from other lawyers?

The headline for this newspaper article, appears to be making such a distinction.

In the same spirit, would the paper be inclined to identify somebody as a village lawyer?

It can be simplistically argued that if one's law firm is based in a city, then one can be referred to as a city lawyer.

But for arguments sake even, which particular city is the story referring to?

Or are we to 'appreciate' that adding the tag city to something, or somebody for this matter, adds prestige, authority, recognition or an extra sense of accomplishment?

The second paragraph describes the same lawyer as being flamboyant, which perhaps correctly reflects his attention-grabbing lifestyle.

A city lawyer title, though, is nothing short of a forced newspaper flamboyance.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018


The cost of living in Kenya, it is now widely feared, might be about to get dangerously close to being unbearable. And the local media has been firmly locked on highlighting this issue, as the country awaits a decision by the president on a critical piece of legislation. But this pressing matter it appears, is now even confounding the press. The result is 100% value added inaccuracy.

After consistently reporting on the merits and demerits of the president assenting to the Finance Bill 2018, it's a bit surprising to see an article in the mainstream media that is seemingly out of touch with the basics of this major story.

This in turn could easily leave the reader as 'confused' as the said newspaper.

To begin with, does anyone have a clue as to what exactly the 'VAT Bill' captured in the above headline is referring to?

There has been widespread coverage of the calls to shield citizens from high fuel prices, courtesy of a 16% Value Added Tax on petroleum products that came into effect at the beginning of September.

Pressure has thus been mounting on the president to assent to the Finance Bill, which has a clause suspending the implementation of the VAT on fuel.

Then suddenly, this article audaciously turns the facts around!

My head is still spinning from this spin-off.

Friday, 7 September 2018


If the work of journalists was to simply report what newsmakers say, then it would be very difficult for the audience to distinguish between fact and opinion. The media's role should revolve around adding value to expressed views, not simply relaying utterances or public pronouncements.

It is quite disappointing that comments made by Kenya's deputy president, with potentially serious implications on the earnings of a certain cadre of workers, were not subjected to an equally serious interrogation, before being published.

The main argument being advanced is that the monthly contributions to a national health fund should be much higher than they currently are, for those earning higher salaries.

On the face of it, it sounds like a sensible suggestion....but the reasoning behind it...is worthy of at least a counter-argument.

I can't help but wonder why it doesn't seem to count that the higher income-earners already shoulder a weightier tax burden.

And probably due to shortcomings in the public health system, this same group has people paying for expensive private medical insurance covers, to access better quality healthcare.

Shouldn't the government be challenged to first improve public health facilities and ensure taxes are properly utilised, before calling for higher contributions to the national health fund?

Would there even be the need for private medical cover, if public medical facilities offered superior services?

These are some of the issues the media should have picked on, and including the voices of experts, to enable the audience to have a clearer perspective and wider context of this call to increase health fund contributions.

But I guess that would deny the Kenyan media it's 'favourite' pastime of reporting 'he said-she said-they-said' which actually doesn't say much to the audience.