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, 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.

Saturday, 1 September 2018


If one tunes into a TV station in Kenya, one's mind can easily wander off from the substance of the content. A major driver of this phenomenon is the distraction that news or program presenters create. The over-emphasis on physical attributes of the on-air talent is often believed to be responsible for this concentration lapse. And then there's the spiritual spectacle.

These particular presenters begin their show with an 'animated' prayer.

There's probably nothing wrong with this set-up on set.

And it might actually not upset any of the channel's viewers.

I just find it odd...that's all.

The viewer might expect content that travels through the narrow path of piety, or that which is broadly centred on religiosity.

Fortunately...or unfortunately...that's not always the case!

Thursday, 23 August 2018


Information channelled through the media needs to be unambiguous, if it's to be useful to the audience. The challenge though, can come by way of using a not so straight-forward language like English. And the press in Kenya appears to be prone to linguistic shortcomings, which at times result in vague headlines or even doubtful information.

The heading of the above editorial can leave the reader a bit confused because though it may not be apparent, the chosen words make it open to two interpretations.

Crafting headlines is an endeavour that seeks to maximise the impact of chosen words, sometimes against minimal use of available space.

It thus becomes very necessary to leave out 'empty' words like determiners or definite and indefinite articles such as 'the', 'a', 'that', 'an', etc.

Instead, emphasis is put on keywords that are l'oaded' with 'meaning' and words that convey a powerful sense of 'action'.

After all, news revolves around something happening, and reporting this involves use of words that capture the action well.

Going back to the article above, the chosen action word is 'clear' meaning 'remove', 'act' or do something about changing a situation.

Well, the same word also conveys the sense of something being evidently easy to perceive, and hardly possibly to disprove.

So, is the newspaper calling for the 'clearing' of any doubts around a new polio vaccine?

Or are readers being told there are 'clear' doubts about this vaccine?

I need to 'clear' my mind, (you probably should do the same).

Tuesday, 14 August 2018


Words are the building blocks of communication. Whether in isolation or combination, they are used to convey meaning. But frequently for the media in Kenya, words are carelessly stitched together. And it's no longer shocking to find TV graphics alluding to infertile news couples or childless parents.

Only a fertile imagination, perhaps, can come up with the details in the straps above.

What in the name of procreation, is the viewer expected to make of the words, 'news couples' and the supposed fact that 2 million of them are infertile?

That pseudo-statistic arises from a very minor error, but the outcome is a major source of editorial embarrassment.

Another critical element is context.

Each of the words may appear to make sense, like the lower-third information above, but what they collectively imply may not be sensible at all.

How such an obvious contradiction can escape the scrutiny of editorial gatekeepers is another newsroom wonder.

But the on-air result is far from being wonderful!

Thursday, 9 August 2018


Broadcasting stations in Kenya have raised their rivalry a notch higher. And this has in turn sparked a scramble for star talent, perceived to be critical in curving a competitive advantage. But there's a growing need to re-engage the audience, because a personnel-centred approach in TV news can only deliver so much. The writing is on the camera lens.

In these 'post-millennial' days, it was surprising that the above live cross with the 'seasoned' reporter/editor, had to be aborted on account of such an elementary technical challenge.

As if the battery status message appearing on screen was not damning enough, the news production crew allowed the live signal to continue, until the camera gave up the ghost, leading to an on air freeze.

It's likewise important then, not to ignore any indication that a channel could be deviating from its core functions.

Enough with 'Tanite' and its associated TV foolery, and let's get focused on the needs of the viewer.

A station may opt to bring together a star-studded team to enhance the delivery of content.

If the content is wanting, however, no amount of 'fine' delivery would compensate any lack of serious substance to offer the audience.

May 'tanite' find its way back to 'tonight'!