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, 23 April 2015


Sources can either be direct providers of news, or indirect providers of information that can lead to big news, or even misleading news. And yet this is a gamble, almost all news organisations have to continue taking. The end result can be embarrassment, or even legal suits, arising out of publishing inaccurate information. So, sourcing resources, should not just lead to saucy stories.

Confirmation of key facts has never stopped being an important pillar of journalism.

However, the decision to publish or broadcast a story is often not determined by the availability of conclusive facts.

The juicy details of a story, (well aligned with driving up newspaper sales perhaps?), at times can't wait for comprehensive due diligence, given the fickle nature of news.

That's why a right of reply must always be accorded to those adversely mentioned.

But one could rightly expect that a person mentioned in a story, should be contacted, before the story is published, to either confirm the details or give their own side.

The only problem then is that, a whole complement of obstacles could arise, ranging from court injunctions, non-cooperative news sources, decoys, to even the killing of stories.

This is often after the intervention of internal higher forces in the managerial or editorial chain of command, acting on pressure/inducement from external 'sources' with vested interests

So you either choose to publish and be damned, or hold the damnation and have no news for your target audience.

There is though, a small time-tested principle advocating for the use of multiple sources, to corroborate details of a story, before going to press.

To go ahead and publish the fact that a story was based on a single 'reliable' source... is self-incriminating, and counter-indicative of the credibility of a news organisation.

Now that is a 'source' of concern!.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015


TV news relays the reality of a day's major occurrences, but often relies on a lot of visual manipulations and technical illusions. So the audience gets to see orderliness on their TV screen, although a news presenter could be surrounded by all manner of chaos. A recent discussion on the no right turns agony on Nairobi's roads, shattered this perception, with wrong turns in the TV studio.

A guest had been invited to a live newscast, to analyse the effectiveness of new changes meant to decongest the main road networks in the Kenyan capital.

It may seem like a straightforward arrangement in the studio set, with TV cameras calibrated to get various angles of the guest and news presenter, to be picked by a vision mixer, as instructed by the director.

But of course there are other people in the gallery, some tasked with managing lighting, sound, graphics, autocue, etc, and all seeking to ensure there's a flawless news delivery.

Expectedly, there's bound to be lots of movements and conversations off camera, which the audience at home never gets to see or hear.

Never...well...maybe not.

Like in this instance, in one of the major local news channels, a hand suddenly appeared, as the studio guest was making his point.


And in the following few seconds, as captured in the short video clip above, the local, (global perhaps?) audience was treated to a rare instance of the reality that never gets projected, during TV news presentation.

There was a glass and bottle of water behind the studio guest, and these items were perhaps giving the camera operator(s) a hard time, in framing some shots, (or somebody got really thirsty).

So off with the annoying glass and bottle. But oh no...not in front of the whole world!

Obviously, there was a breakdown in communication, in the gallery.

But that's not a good enough reason to interfere with the 'perfect' world of TV news presentation!

Thursday, 9 April 2015


The Kenyan government has been heavily criticised for what some say was a lethargic response to the horrific terror attacks in Garissa University College. An editorial in a leading local newspaper was particularly stinging, while castigating the late and inadequate response by state agents. But behold, truth be told, that editorial was belated.

Granted, a more timely and well coordinated rescue mission, moments after the terrorists stormed the institution, could have saved many lives and lessen the amount of anguish across the country.

Better still, preventive measures hinged on compiling and acting on prior intelligence and a visible security on the ground, could probably have thwarted the planning and execution of the despicable and highly diabolical mayhem.

And in the aftermath of the senseless bloodletting, the leadership could have better steered the country from the forefront, in mourning the departed and consoling the bereaved, be it from the government or opposition ranks, while assuring there's sufficient public safety.

These appear to be points validly raised in that rare font-page editorial.

But in pointing out these shortcomings, is the local media beyond reproach, in its coverage of the Garissa massacre?

Not a single local newspaper felt the need to publish a special edition, and yet the terrorists struck in the early morning hours on that 'cursed' Thursday.

Does it mean the publishers weighed between the gravity of the news and the potential earnings, and found costs involved surpassed the need to inform the country?

It took more than five days for the second deadliest terror attack in Kenya to merit that front page editorial.

Does it mean the publisher was incapable of being alive to the pain being experienced from the very onset, to feel obliged to accord the tragedy such a powerful editorial lamentation?

May families, friends, colleagues and relatives find strength to endure the loss of their loved ones.

May the injured and traumatised get quick healing.

May the government be more responsive to the needs of citizens.

May the media provide responsible coverage that relieves the psychological burden of the affected, without forcing the survivors to relive their pain.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015


So, a Kenyan TV station gives a platform to a controversial 'pastor'. Then the same station goes ahead and criticises the views of the same 'pseudo-preacher' in their own newscast. This is simply sacrificing editorial probity at the altar of TV ratings, camouflaged as public interest.

Among the people aggrieved by the appearance of the man of cloth (of the seed planting variety), in a family programme, was a staff member of the said TV station.

So, supposing he was asked to report on that 'rogue miracle worker' would he have been objective enough to question his employer for giving the 'tithe farmer' a national TV platform?

The news presenters didn't hesitate to express their disgust after the news story, but chose to only castigate the 'three-figure extortionist' for unapologetically leading a gullible flock astray.

But isn't it pretentious for the TV station to want to join those condemning the assertions of a 'non-heaven bound free-range swindler', yet it's they themselves who facilitated the dubious broadcast?

Interestingly, the same station had hoped to steal the thunder (and lightning probably), from a rival station, which had aired the original expose, by being the first to bring the 'fisher of women's anatomy' to their studios, only to have a last minute cancellation.

Comedy ceases to be funny if the laughter ends up frying our value system!

Thursday, 26 March 2015


Names have been dropped impulsively, after Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, asked those implicated in a graft report to step aside, pending investigations. But what does stepping aside mean? Resigning, being suspended or waiting for the storm to quieten? No one seems to be sure, meaning even the media could be making side steps in their reportage.

And the local media could hardly contain the itch to share the supposed juicy details of who could be a prime suspect in the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission report, in spite of a proper parliamentary process of disclosing such matters being in place, (delays notwithstanding).

It will be interesting to compare the information hurriedly released, with what will actually come out through the formal or official channels.

Only then will it be possible to say whether such a reaction was fast and furious in the public interest, or swift and spurious to merely interest the public.

Thursday, 19 March 2015


The main Kenyan media houses appear to have taken a no holds barred approach, in highlighting ills bedevilling the various arms of government. Granted, Kenyans should be the winners, whether it's Corruption Central or Graft Diaries, dominating newscasts. But are the competency levels in these TV channels adequate or should the newsroom brilliance be outsourced?

It's relatively easy, for example, to do stories hinged on regurgitating 'supposed' findings of reports by parliamentary bodies like the Public Accounts Committee.

But I feel there is a mistaken belief that doing so adds so much value.

Such reports may not be widely distributed, but they are in the public domain, and merely picking out cases with the highest perceived potential to shock the audience, amounts to sensationalising the findings.

You may want to sound or appear to be hitting the government hard. But it's hard-hitting substance that is likely to have the most impact.

I would be more at ease if the assigned journalists would incorporate the input of financial, accounting or forensic experts, to better interrogate and interpret the findings, (and ascertain we are dealing with authentic statistics).

Not so long ago, after all, a 'presenter' at the TV station above, used an elaborate video wall-assisted computation, to momentarily hoodwink the audience into believing more than 7 million pupils enrolled in class one in a given year, and only about 600,000 went on to sit the primary leaving exam, leaving us to ponder over the missing 6 million plus phantom pupils.

Numbers never lie, but a lying media kills the goose that lays the golden credibility egg.

Thursday, 12 March 2015


The Kenyan media never seem to tire, in advising members of their audience to carry out due diligence, before parting with money or committing to something. But do the media houses partake of their own wise counsel? So, one moment you are all excited about hosting someone in your studios, then days later, it turns out the same person is a suspected criminal.

Should those charged with sourcing guests for TV programmes, e.g., be required to do a thorough background check, before clearing potential guests?

It certainly looks bad for a TV channel to host somebody in their studio, only for it to later emerge that the same person could be behind a heinous impersonation scheme, which also targets staff members of the same station.

So, before a host got all mesmerised (on behalf of the audience), marvelling at the 'magical' cards skills of the studio guest, it perhaps would have been useful to ensure there is nothing sinister up the sleeves of the 'trickster', beyond the visual deception or sleight of hand.

Again, if the 'hacker was hacked' to possibly reveal the person behind the elaborate yet devilish prank, does it imply the same news channel condemns and condones hacking in the same breath?

As somebody has pointed it out already, the local media does seem to be abdicating its moral compass responsibilities, going by how a person, who recently failed to pay a private debt, ended up being given so much public prominence.

Next time, don't act so surprised, if you see the same ills that the local media highlights, flourishing in the very same media houses!