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.

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Thursday, 5 May 2016

MEDIA SCHOLARS DEFICIENCY IN KENYA

There appears to be a deficiency of accomplished Kenyan media scholars, to steer the industry forward, by providing research-based solutions to emerging challenges. Those who appear on local press review TV shows seem to be terribly wanting. They generally are devoid of original thought, but excel in advancing pedestrian, if not inferior interpretations of obtaining issues.


I painstakingly try to follow the panel discussing the state of Kenyan journalism, in one of the local channels.

The journalist and communications consultant are vibrant in their assessment, and articulate their views passionately, with believable conviction.

But when it comes to the turn of the media scholar, the contribution tends more towards the obviously simplistic, and annoyingly commonplace observations.

And it's not helped by opening statements such as, "I like what so and so said."


In actual fact, the other panelists appear to be more knowledgeable than the PhD holder.

A doctorate is earned by contributing to the existing body of knowledge, I would want to believe.

So, I ask, where is the original contribution, or relevant theoretical frameworks, when media academics dissect pertinent matters affecting the Kenyan media sector?

Just how much research is done on Kenyan media? How many books are published annually? Do papers presented in local journalism fora end up in revered journals?

You often hear laments about the quality of journalism training in Kenya, and the lack of facilities or or proper equipment.


The calibre of media trainers is no doubt also a major contributor of the inadequacies permeating through Kenyan newsrooms.

Eradicating the rot will depend a lot on those at the top!

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

PROFESSIONAL DISTANCE BETWEEN PUBLISHER AND ARTICLE - THE INTRUSIVE US

APOLOGY
In my attempt to put together what I humbly thought would be an illuminating piece about the perils of not properly attributing news stories, I inadvertently ended up premising my argument on a highly inaccurate interpretation of a newspaper headline.


This grave error in judgement has since been brought to my attention by a highly erudite former colleague, as indicated in the screen grab from my Facebook wall.

I profusely apologise for any resultant embarrassment to all the entities alluded to in my post and take this early opportunity to also reassure the followers of this blog that I will take extra care to keep such mistakes at the most possible minimal level.

In the interest of having a permanent reminder of my fallibility, when it comes to media criticism, I will leave the original article below, in its purest form of ignominy.

May this be a valuable lesson to me and fellow bloggers!

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Objectivity in the media cannot be absolute. It's highly likely there are hidden nuances, selective angling of stories, or even a deliberate bias in coverage, despite the supposed neutrality in serving the public interest. But it's essential for a professional distance to be maintained between the publisher and the published article.


That's why subjectivity indicators like the words 'I', 'we' or 'us' are often frowned upon, when scripting for both electronic or print media, unless in very specific contexts, like when a journalist's personal account adds value to a news story.

And adding value has nothing to do with a TV reporter, e.g., using any excuse to jump in front of the camera, irrespective of how such 'narcissistic' visuals irritate the viewer.

In the newspaper article above, the headline reads:
"Youths: This is how cash set aside for us could be made more beneficial"
So just who exactly is the 'us' being referred to?

The article has a byline, which indicates affiliation to a media entity.


The obvious impression being created then, is that the 'us' has something to do with the newspaper publisher, (the writer perhaps?).

It may look harmless in this instance, but a missing proper attribution might entangle a media house in some serious legal mess, like where negative allegations are being made.

So let's toast to a more responsible writing style:

"To us"

(Oops!)







Thursday, 21 April 2016

NEWS IS NOT AN EDITORIAL EXPERIMENT - THE BOGUS WATER & ELECTRICITY STORY

Aspiring scientists could be well-advised to avoid a section of the Kenyan media. Established scientists would be forgiven for concluding the TV is a certified idiot box. And unschooled journalists should be restrained from covering scientific topics. News is not an editorial experiment, so there's no room for a bogus story like the supposed water conducting electricity revelation.


The scripting of the highly suspect news report makes one continuously cringe at the very apparent display of ignorance.

There's ample empirical evidence to prove that I am not gifted in sciences, in an exam setting, (but my immense interest in any scientific inquiry is a deeply appreciated gift).

Yet I too, with my 'basic knowledge' was appalled by the massively flawed delivery of this particular TV news story.

The use of aggrandizing adjectives grossly distorted the purported factual elements.


And the capacity of the reporter to engage with the subject matter, to sufficiently make it meaningful to the audience, rapidly degenerates into an intellectual travesty.

The sole subject in the reportage is allowed to make concrete conclusions based on very flimsy grounds.

As is the default characteristic of many a Kenyan journalist, there is no evidence of proper interrogation of the assertions being made, during the filming of the piece.


Worse still, there's no indication there was any research done, post-production, to ascertain the core assumptions, before the story was aired.

Indeed, there's plenty of contrary information online, that would have raised serious doubts about the claims that 'all' water conducts electricity.


Pure or distilled water...not a molecular chance!

Perchance Kenyan newsrooms ought to have more journalists with distinct areas of specialization, as opposed to having calamitous all round reporters.



Tuesday, 12 April 2016

SIMPLE GEOGRAPHY, CONFUSED CLIENT AND A COMPLACENT MEDIA

Simple geography. Confused client. Complacent media. Any of two of these elements in combination, could be at play in yet another embarrassing misinformation by the Kenyan press. That the country's two leading dailies could publish such an obvious inaccuracy is astonishingly baffling.


As I have previously argued in this forum, newspaper publishers ought to exercise some form of editorial control, on even the advertisements appearing in their platforms.

After all, the entire content in the paper, whether paid for, unsolicited or internally produced, is the direct responsibility of the publisher.

And this means ideally, the publisher is liable for example, for any material that is deemed to be offensive or injurious to any person, and hence not immune to any potential lawsuit.

Turning to the erroneous substantive matter, this is one instance where the media terribly fails in its often stated basic role of educating the public.

In actual fact, even the role of informing, as aforementioned, is a massive failure by the mass media.

The erroneous depiction of the position of one of the East African countries, maybe, by a very long-short, purely based on extremely dry humour, could perchance be entertaining.

But this is no laughing matter.

It's a crying shame!

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

DISTORTED RIGHT OF REPLY FOR MISREPRESENTATION OF FACTS

The right of reply accorded by the media, enables aggrieved parties to give their side of the story. If it's a written rejoinder, the newspaper can edit the article for clarity or space considerations. So, what happens if the aggrieved party buys space to give its version of facts? Can the contents of its rejoinder be edited? That appears to have been the case, in a queer case of a distorted right of reply, for perceived misrepresentation of facts.


In what looks like a paid up advertiser's announcement, there is no mention of the fact that the perceived offensive article was originally published by the same media house.

Indeed, it appears like this rejoinder had been heavily edited, before being published.


It did not make sense to me because I immediately sensed there was some missing information that was required, to make it more meaningful than:
"It is both incorrect for the Newspaper to come up with headlines as below."
Which newspaper? Why both? Could it have been an innocent editorial or graphical omission?

Not a chance!

The same message made perfect sense, as published in a rival paper.


And on closer inspection, the reason why becomes very evident. The write up says:
"FACT: Its is both appalling and real distortion of facts for the Na... newspaper writer to come up with headlines as below."
Okay. The 'Its is' part needed to be edited.

But there seems to have been a deliberate effort to remove self-incriminating evidence against the newspaper that originally published the story.

Maybe from a legal point of view, that makes a lot of sense.


But what's the point of the media according the right of reply to an aggrieved party, seeking to set the record straight, if their intended message is going to be wantonly distorted?

It amounts to misrepresentation of facts, in a write up about misrepresentation of facts!



Monday, 4 April 2016

SENSELESS NEWS NONSENSE: WHEN EDITORIAL AND PRODUCTION FALL APART

What makes sense to the media can be nonsense to the audience. And what amounts to nonsense in newsrooms can actually make a lot of sense to readers. But in a moment of extreme idiocy, that which is senseless, oozes lots of nonsense, for both the media outlet and its audience. It can happen, when a newspaper's editorial and production departments fall apart.



Indeed, there comes a time when minimum editorial judgement and maximum production senselessness are perfectly aligned, to publish, well...NONSENSE!

Grabbed from the flagship news product of the largest, (and 'misleading') media house in the region, the picture above, and its horrifying caption, astounded many a Kenyan reader.

It is not right on many wrong levels, rendered (using a presumably dead Latin language) in unintelligible morphemes like: "Quod mo intro utum at, egertum..." etcetera ad nauseam.

The central figure in the chaotic presidential campaign launch, is given the name of a vocal agitator of the rights of teachers, in a union with a prolific affinity to national strikes.


Here, at least the newspaper can be sued for wrongful representation of a highly recognisable political figure.

The custodian of teachers' welfare can likewise claim damages for being dragged into the murky world of politics.

Possible compensation models for aggrieved readers

Of greater concern to me is how the readers, (especially those who have invested their money in a news product, expecting to be better off, after consuming its content), should be compensated.

- Should they be allowed to return the 'faulty' newspaper to the news-stand, and ask for a refund?

- Should the paper's proprietors be compelled to provide a subsequent product for free, just like they do to advertisers, whose paid for commercial do not go out as scheduled?

- Should offended readers sue the paper for professional negligence, causing mental anguish and intellectual distress to law abiding citizens?

- Should the newspaper's publishers be penalised for violating their contractual obligation to take every care not to put out an erroneous product in the market, so as to uphold the sanctity of the buyer-seller covenant?

Too many unanswered questions...hopefully making sense.

Somebody ought to take responsibility for publishing the senseless news nonsense.


Wednesday, 30 March 2016

FROM SOCIAL MEDIA SPLOSH TO MAINSTREAM MEDIA SPLASH

There are days in the newsroom, when a scarcity of stories begets strange editorial decisions. Newspapers after all, still have to be produced daily, and the costs of production recouped, preferably at a profit. But the number of views of a video clip in social media, hardly constitute a front page story in mainstream media. A social media buzz does not automatically set mainstream media abuzz.



Okay. If we are talking about a billion views, a la Gangnam Style, it's justifiable to have such a story dominate the entertainment sections of any paper, globally.

Several million views? Perhaps still worth some prominent coverage locally, (inside pages of the entertainment section, don't you think?).

But a mere 200,000 views?

And we have a front page teaser, followed by a more substantial article that significantly amplifies the irrelevancies.


How can such a low number of views in social media be the news peg, in mainstream media?

If a prominent Kenyan politician takes a tumble, while addressing a public gathering, that agreeably, is newsworthy.

Very disagreeable, in my opinion, is to purport it's in the public's interest to know that:
"The incident elicited comments, with more than 50 likes and only 4  dislikes..."
Somebody enlighten me... we care about that because?

What's buzzing in social media circles, can be fuzzy in the mainstream media.