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.




Tuesday, 16 September 2014


Long format TV features are gaining popularity in Kenyan broadcast stations. They accord adequate time for reporters to thoroughly interrogate topical issues. This came out in a well executed story on the encroachment of the Mau forest complex. But the coverage was ruined by the subtle media agenda in the Mau, courtesy of a tragic tribal trajectory.

The reporter did well in capturing nearly all the possible angles, and incorporating a multiplicity of views. This element was so exhaustive factored in that the feature ran the risk of losing focus on what it intended to highlight as the key concerns.

But for me, what one interviewee said stood out. He was convinced that it was perfectly in order for members of his community, (read tribe), to lay claim to swathes of the crucial Mau water catchment, given that other communities (tribes) were being 'allowed' by the state to plunder the forest.

The Mau Tragedy can't get more tragic!

If the water tower is destroyed, the serious consequences will not only affect particular communities/tribes. The impact of such a catastrophe will even cross the country's boundaries, and be felt by millions regionally.

And this is why the media needs to be cautious. This issue has already been heavily politicised. It should not be further trivialised by whipping up ethnic undertones.

My observations may be far-fetched. But I got the feeling that the TV station inadvertently perhaps, ended up giving prominence to partisan sentiments, with subtle hints of the editorial slant.

Yes. The media mirrors evils obtaining in the society.

No. The media must not always reflect the rot back to the society and deepen schisms.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014


Journalists are known to go to great lengths to get details of a news story. This means, travelling to the other side of the world, or risking lives and limbs, is but an occupational hazard. It's therefore baffling, to see Kenyan media being so reluctant to get relevant facts of a story within their reach. A legislator's absence in Parliament, continues to be amplified by absentee journalism.

This particular issue of a Member of Parliament seemingly 'not keen' on fulfilling the duties that come with winning an elective seat, has been in the public domain for months.

The local media, it appears, is only content with re-establishing this basic fact, and the possible consequences of skipping parliamentary sessions continuously.

The press has nevertheless been tracking the development of this story, perhaps it being a matter of great public interest, with the latest update being the petition by the affected constituents, seeking to have the parliamentary seat declared vacant.



For scribes' sake...

Isn't there a 'brave' journalist or editor, with a nose for news to smell one missing element in this story?

What does the Member of Parliament involved have to say about this issue? Has anyone tried to contact him? Could he have valid or justifiable reasons for skipping parliamentary sittings?

Is he okay?

Thursday, 4 September 2014


The English language can play a nasty game on a newspaper editor. One can stitch words together, which on the surface seem to yield a sensible sentence, but which on close examination, amount to a semantic calamity. Such was the case of the millions of refugees, half of whom were displaced.

Refugees. Displaced. Can one be a refugee without being displaced? Or alternatively, can one be displaced, without fitting the description of a refugee? The headline above, seems to suggest there's a distinction between being displaced and being a refugee.

And yet looking through a number of online dictionaries, one notices an almost similar description, meaning-wise.

A refugee is someone who has been forced to leave their country due to war, persecution or natural disaster. A displaced person on the other hand, is one who is forced to leave their home because of war, persecution or natural disaster.

The only difference it seems, is that a refugee is forced to leave their country, while a displaced person is essentially forced to leave their home, not necessarily their country.

Ok, that distinction is now clearer. But still, the article's headline reads:

'Syrian refugees top three million, half of them displaced, says UN.'

Now, say with me slowly:

Syrian refugees are three million. They have all been uprooted from their country. Half of them though, are displaced, meaning out of the 3 million forced to leave their country, 1.5 million have only been forced to leave their homes, but not their country.

Spot the contradictory nonsense?

Wednesday, 27 August 2014


News on Kenyan television, has of late become 'inspiringly' standardised. The various channels seem to have all reached a plateau phase, with not much effort seemingly being put to differentiate their product from what the competitor is offering. Psst...News Reporters...give your PTC some TLC.

Content in a news story is said to be king. But in this royal setup, the queen is ably represented by form, or in this case, the format of delivery. And this witchcraft news story aptly illustrates this point.

Ordinarily, this could pass as one of those numerous episodes of a community held captive by superstitious beliefs. And I had marked it down as such, ready to confine it to the temporary holding bay, in a dimly-lit part of my brain.

Then a flash of brilliance elevated the story to a more prestigious address, in the leafy suburbs of my psyche, reserved for the intellectually-gifted elements, meant for long-time retention.

The Piece to Camera oozed creativity. It may have appeared strange to some, but for me, it showed much thought was invested in determining its delivery, and this deserves a hefty round of applause.

It's not very often that you see Reporters going the extra mile to make a story memorable. A well- crafted PTC can help a story in this regard, no matter how simple the news content is.

That's why I still remember the story above, about floods, many months later. The Reporter wanted to capture the desperation on the ground, and is there a better way than to be seen in the very predicament, during his Sign Off?

There was also a news item about Halloween, that had the Reporter donning the attire of a witch in the Stand Upper. Now that was creepy...but in a good way....given that I still remember the story.

So, News Reporters, extending some Tender Loving Care to your Piece to Camera, adds value to your story, especially if you opt to disregard what is prescribed in journalism text books, and venture into the realm of unbound creativity.

I'm still amazed that seven years down the line, I still encounter people, who recall a story I did, while on a news assignment in Kingston, Jamaica. And yes. The PTC is largely responsible for that.

However, there's got to be some sensible restraints.

The delivery of the PTC does not always warrant a soap-opera performance!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014


It's pretentious and a stage-managed ploy to hoodwink the audience. One can even describe it as media personalities playing to the gallery. So you've been away for whatever reason, and when you reappear on TV screens, it's made to seem as if the public desperately needs an explanation of your absence. Enough of the welcome back and on air goodbyes! 

I can bet the proposed Standard Gauge Railway that TV news presenters and other journalists of a given broadcast station, have interacted or been in close contact, prior to going on air, even if one of them has been away from the office for some time.

So, when someone is introduced on air, the simulation of excitement at seeing each other is already an exaggeration. It should not be made overly dramatic, lest some soul out there is left with the impression that somebody is seeing his or her colleague for the first time on air, after their return to the newsroom.

And again, I plead, dear quasi-celebrity media personalities, spare us details that border on very personal information like who has procreated, (and no... this is not intended to be trash talk).

If 'Welcome back' pseudo-ceremonies are a visual nuisance and psychologically draining, then TV news broadcasts should not burden the audience with more 'Goodbye' festivities.

If one of the staff members is leaving, then the audience will eventually get a clue, if he or she ceases to appear on screen. There's nothing really special about changing jobs, to warrant excessive display of emotions on air.

It's also not exactly a complement to your employer, if you wish the departing colleague well, as he "moves to greener pastures!"

Enough of the welcome back and on air goodbyes! 

Wednesday, 13 August 2014


If one is to distinguish between journalism and blogging, will it be more clearer if one uses the point of view of a journalist, or the perspective of a blogger? Or is either option not equal to the task? This is one of those debates that can continue in perpetuity. It's like a two coins of the same side scenario.

If you try and see it as two sides of the same coin, then you are likely to end up questioning the very existence of a coin that purports to have the capacity to have two sides.

And that was the folly of a gallant attempt of one of Kenya's mainstream media, when seeking to interrogate the role of bloggers and whether they needed to be regulated.

This was clearly from the point of view of standard journalism practise. In other words, trying to use apples to explain how bananas taste.

Below is a sample of online reactions.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014


Finally. A very interesting long-format TV feature has graced Kenyan screens. In a stark departure from the usually over-dramatized investigative pieces, the producers managed to weave a compelling story of human existence and its attendant variations. It succinctly depicts how mothers are burdened with the blessing of babies.

The new arrivals seem to forever alter their mothers' lives, as they know it, irrespective of the economic situation they are born into. Many viewers expressed shock at the different unfolding scenarios for the three mothers, in the two-part feature.

But in total honesty, is there any valid reason for one to have expected the experiences of a working class, slum-dwelling and homeless mother, to be not so markedly different?

And therein lies my often-stated problem with this kind of 'brilliant' features:

So What? So What? So What?

In other words, wasn't this 'epic story-telling' bound to be self-fulfilling from the very onset?

Yes. The emotional hook made for very engaging viewing. But in the end, what was the central message cutting across what was presented to the audience? That life is unfair?

Hey. Even baby Jesus was born in a manger. That didn't stop him from becoming our Saviour!

Below is a sample of how viewers reacted.