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, 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!

Thursday, 15 January 2015


Five minutes past the hour, the TV station was still airing commercials. At this time, major electronic media in Kenya have a news bulletin. Could this channel be breaking from tradition? 10 minutes past the hour, the station switches to news. So fine is the redefined anchor, hardly anyone notices the news was late.

Widely acclaimed locally for presenting news in Kiswahili, the anchor effortlessly executes a flawless delivery of the news in English, much to the amusement of her adoring (male) fans.

But in the lead up to the anchor's saving grace, there was probably a mini, if not a fully-fledged editorial crisis at the TV station, (insert my fertile imagination here).

There's only seconds to one o'clock and still no sign of the designated English News Presenter. The reasons could range from a serious personal emergency, technical hitches in the news studio, a gap in the duty roster, traffic, standoff in the newsroom (it can happen), and so on.

The transmission crew is directed to keep commercials running to buy some time. But when adverts start being repeated, there's need to change tact. Should the newscast be cancelled and a programme put on air? 

Hold on. There's a Kiswahili news presenter in the newsroom, (already assigned a story for both English and Kiswahili bulletins). Indeed, there's nothing wrong with the way she does her English stories.

This proves to be a master stroke by the station managers. The Kiswahili news anchor wows the audience and the social media is awash with her new found 'prowess' in the Queen's language.

Does anyone still remember the news was delayed for a whole 10 minutes? 

Moreover, it should be pleasing to the now bilingual news presenter, that viewers were saying more about her ambidextrous linguistic capabilities, as opposed to merely being platitudinous about her 'fabulous' fashion sense.

Let's show some gratitude for this kind of, 'bring it on' attitude!

Thursday, 8 January 2015


Getting the name of  a news source right. That ranks among the most basic of requirements for a news crew. A quick phone call or online cross-checking should clear any doubts. And yet one still comes across two TV stations, one person, but with two names being broadcast.

Granted, getting the proper name of a married woman can be a challenge, in this age of hyphenated appendages.

Again, a news organisation might have its own house style defining how to title news sources, which could restrict reporters to using only two names.

So, there's a slight chance media houses could name the same person differently, especially a married, female news source.

But that could be understandable, if all the individual elements of the collective name are displayed correctly.

In the example above, 'Jane' is awfully out of line, (even if a missing letter 't' could have made all the difference).

The acceptable possible combinations, it seems are: Janet Muthoni, Janet Ouko, Janet Muthoni-Ouko, Janet, or Muthoni-Ouko.

And to clear any lingering doubts, one ought to just have let the fingers either dial the numbers, or take a little walk on the keyboard, to the Elimu Yetu Coalition website.

Beginning the year with regular exercise, is not a bad idea after all!

Tuesday, 30 December 2014


The journalist kept pleading. But the security officers were adamant the law had been breached. The journalist explained there was no better way to tell the story. And the response was that a court of law would be the best judge of that. This did not happened. But it does describe a possible hazard for a scribe with a borrowed firearm, who is tempting the devil in daredevil reporting.

So, imagine a very brave and quite outstanding journalist seeking to highlight the security gaps in public places. She courageously straps a real and loaded gun on her back.

She manages to go past the security desk at the entrance of a popular mall and heads straight to a supermarket, and mingles with the shopping multitudes.

To further test the security apparatus in the mall, she positions herself next to CCTV cameras and daringly reveals the lethal weapon dangling on her back.

Nothing on Cam 1, not a bleep on Cam 2 and Cam 3 is not even functioning.

As she makes her way out, she gets this urge to turn and look back. What she sees are three heavily built security officers, who first floor her effortlessly, before rapidly frisking her and hoisting her shoulder high, after retrieving the firearm.

What follows in the back room is a ruthless interrogation, punctuated with actual bodily harm. The questioning is rigorous and furious:

"Have you been licensed to carry a firearm? How did you get past the metal detectors? What is your motive? Why did you scare our shoppers and cause panic in the mall?

"I'm a journalist. I'm an investigative journalist."

"Do you have a firearms certificate?"

"No. I briefly borrowed the gun from a licensed gun holder."

And then the journalist is told she will be charged with contravening the Laws of Kenya, Chapter 114 Firearms Act, Part Two, Section 4 (1), which states:
No person shall purchase, acquire or have in his possession any firearm or ammunition unless he holds a firearms certificate in force at that time.
Yes. This never happened. What we saw was a chilling, yet compelling reality check of how major security lapses continue to exists in public places, even after deadly terror attacks.

This may have made a great TV news investigative piece. However, things might have taken a dramatic turn to the detriment of the journalist, keen on delivering a public interests expose.

Journalism, indeed, is not a career for the faint-hearted. But journalists do have a heart, which needs to be preserved, even while chasing the greatest story.

Do have a hearty 2015!

Tuesday, 23 December 2014


It was arguably the stormiest session in the history of Kenya's parliament. And it's easy to say the chaos was a reflection of the society, or that we get the leaders we deserve. But I say this is the best time to impart civic education and show the impact of voters' decisions, in that August House of disgust.

The dishonourable conduct by supposed Honourable Members of Parliament is a direct product of the majority of ballot box decisions.

The power vested in the people is invested in representatives, who in turn enact laws that ideally should be in the best interest of the electorate. But that's not always the case, is it?

So, the acrimony we witnessed was largely made possible by using democratic means to create an autocratic National Assembly.

But all the local media gave us was mostly the drama, during the passing of the Security Laws Bill, and a heightened sense of how it limits inalienable rights/media freedom, while bashing the conduct of the Speaker, Opposition legislators and MPs from the government side too.

I think some analysis of how we got here could have added great value.

A comparison between the current parliament dominated by one political player, and the previous one, where there were persistent stalemates because no side could have its way unchallenged, could offer useful insights, to guide the electorate in the next General Election.

Below is the furious reactions in social media, during and shortly after the acrimonious passage of the now duly enacted Security Laws.