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 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?

Thursday, 5 February 2015


To err is human, agreeably. But some errors threaten to defy the forgiving confines of humanity. Hardly a week after I pointed out the need for broadcast stations to pay closer attention to their lower third story tags, Kenyans were treated to yet another horror of a howler in a local TV news channel.

Depending on the newsroom system in place, a number of people could be responsible for scripting the information titles. The News Editor/Producer could formulate the first draft, given that they have gone through and possibly polished all the scripts.

A superior Editor or even the Managing Editor could then make changes and give the final approval, before the story tags are put on air.

Alternatively, where there's an advance newsroom production system, a Scriptwriter can incorporate the story tags in their scripts, which are then submitted together for sub-editing and final approval.

Admittedly, even after these editorial checks in the broadcast news production process, involving multiple players, errors still find their way on air.

That's why the Computer Graphics people, News Director and other personnel in the studio gallery, being the last line of defense, need to be always alert and ready to act immediately such an error is spotted.

In case of any doubt, it's better to remove the story tag, than to have it remain on air, as a decision is sought about its appropriateness.

Being extra vigilant keeps embarrassments at bay...ALL THE TIME!!

Thursday, 29 January 2015


For some Kenyan newsrooms, one of those bad days in the office is gradually becoming like any other day, where editorial mishaps neither elicit shame nor the need to shape up. Mistakes and apologies follow in quick succession for weighty matters. But typos appear to be too lightweight. This is the loose editorial guide on how to lose without sense of loss.

But the eyesores that are typos, amount to a visual assault on the audience, especially where the intended meaning is shoved out of the window.

In the above example, what is the viewer supposed to make of the lower third tag:

Herders express fear for lose of livestock

I know it can happen to the best of editors, (and S is a good neighbour of E on the keyboard).

But the acceptable practice is to rectify on air errors as soon as they are spotted, however minor. The fact that this one lingered till the end of the story points to other deficient gate keeping abilities.

And the next sentencing of semantics reads:

Projcet is a collaboration between Kenya, USA and UK

I sret ym scae!

Friday, 23 January 2015


The TV presenter introduces an international football match. After the clip runs, he is left with egg on his face. One of the countries he had previously said was featuring, is the wrong one. Does he simply apologise for the ignorance? In a rare on air dress down, he scolds his own TV station's sports department.

Calling them out by name at first, he chides them for not knowing the difference between Democratic Republic of Congo and Republic of Congo. Their capitals may be on opposite shores of the same river, but they remain two distinct Congos.

The common practise in local channels, is for news presenters to go through their scripts, before heading to the studio. Script...not video clips!

So, one might clean up the Intro and polish the language, but if the clip played afterwards is contrary to what was introduced, then clearly the blame should lie elsewhere, right?

What is remarkable then, is the decision by the news presenter to give a 'live' lecture to his colleagues in the sports department, to up their game.

If he had just given the usual apology, then perhaps a viewer somewhere would have been left marveling at the ignorance of the TV presenter....instead of the actual culprits.

Broadcasting involves teamwork, but on this occasion, there was no need to take embarrassment for the team.

The sports department should get their facts on football. Collective responsibility my foot!

Tuesday, 20 January 2015


There's safety in numbers. So the group of school children, flanked by teachers, parents and activists marched majestically to reclaim their playground. But when innocence encountered violence, a little girl suddenly was alone. She did not cry out to her teachers, or the activists. All she wanted was her mummy. That's the vanity of tears over tear-gassed children.

Had there not been earlier signs of potential trouble, given the heavy deployment of police officers and a canine unit in the disputed piece of land?

Given the checkered history of Kenyan anti-riot agents, was there no sufficient indication from the onset that the safety of the children was already compromised...

...even as some of them were misled into taunting the security officers?

Supposing by some stroke of diabolical ill-luck, the police fired live bullets on the children and we were talking of fatalities?

(To draw a picture-perfect analogy with the 1976 Soweto shootings, as highlighted in the local media).

What angle would the press have taken?

Police brutality, suicidal activism, or state cannibalism?

Would journalists even have remembered the issue of land grabbing?

Sure. Even children have a right to demonstrate and uphold their freedom to express anger over supposed corrupt dealings.

But 'strangely' no Kenyan TV station found it necessary to invite some of the affected kids to their studios, as part of the panel of analysts.

Yet the children were on the front-line, courageously defending their right to occupy their playground.

That little children were tear-gassed is despicable and should be condemned by all.

It's equally disturbing that children could have been put in grave danger, to score activism points in the process of highlighting a societal ill.

Let the media not lose focus on the key underlying issues.

Expose the vultures that gobble up public land. Expose the vultures that prey on children's vulnerabilities!