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, 22 September 2016


In a TV studio, news presenters or program hosts use an earpiece to get cues or instructions from the director. In a talkback system, the presenter can also communicate with the producer or director. This equipment is placed on or in the ear. And if it also has the presenter's microphone, it should extend to near the mouth. But in 'smellavision' the nose too, gets some of the action. 

Is the presenter above speaking through the nose for some exotic sound effects of the nasal resonance type?

Or does it have anything to do with having a nose for news?

Or maybe...it's to nose around issues?

Enough of being nosy now.

Suffice it to say that with television, hardly any detail is missed by the audience, and therefore, great effort should be made to ensure there's minimal distraction from what is being said.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016


A big product launch. Potential market traction. Sustained social media endorsements. Sponsored tweets to promote functionalities. All details are in order. Unless the 'inconvenient truth' was part of the online marketing strategy.

Mistakes do happen. But so do corrections.

If less than a half as much energy spent on complex undertakings, like coordinating a huge product launch, was spent on simple things like proof-reading the text in the branding board, chances of ruining that first impression would be greatly eliminated.

All it takes is a resolve to make amends, whenever an error goes out inadvertently, and not to assume your target audience won't notice.

The confidence in the product being launched could be eroded by neglect to address even typographical errors, leave alone weightier elements like accuracy or fidelity to known facts.

This particular 'inconvenient truth' posted on social media, hit me between the eyes on Tuesday, and given the calibre of the marketing team behind the product launch, I expected it would be promptly rectified.

Wednesday as I write this, the 'inconvenient truth' is still accessible on the 'hyping hashtag' for the product and there's no formal acknowledgment of the spelling misadventure.

You want to know the truth?

I can't deal with wishing away an inconvenient truth!

NB: Spotted on another associated social media timeline:

May the promised convenience be with you!

Thursday, 8 September 2016


Time or space are valuable factors, when putting together a news product. The selection of almost every word has to be justified in a newspaper or magazine layout, and even audio or video components are many a times edited ruthlessly, to fit a particular duration. So, it's quite surprising to see a paragraph repeated in an article. Is this notable intelligence or editorial negligence?

Assuming this was a deliberate decision by the publishers of this Kenyan daily, what could have been the main compelling reason for repeating the same information?

Emphasis- I don't think so!

Editorial negligence- Eureka!

What's more, one can get an excuse to conclude there could be an attempt to advance an agenda, which deviates from the expected neutrality in reporting such a story.

Why the repetition of this particular detail that is seemingly favourable to the central subject, in such a short article?

Notice also, the calamitous patchwork of a 'he-said, she said' reportage, evident in this story.

The repeated paragraph alluded to earlier, is actually attributed to two different people.

Is it Kamlesh Pattni?

Or is it Mukesh Vaya?

Who is saying:
"...the protracted dispute between UHDL and CBK was settled in 2008 through a negotiated settlement..."?
I say this he said he says sayings don't say much! You know what I'm saying?

Friday, 2 September 2016


That operations of Kenyan media houses have had to be re-evaluated, mainly due to technological disruption of hitherto working business models, is hardly disputable. And as revenues dwindle, managing of costs becomes critical. Converged newsrooms are now becoming the norm, but more needs to be done in confronting divergent realities.

It's foolhardy for a media house to send out conflicting information to its audience, and it raises serious questions about whether its internal communication channels are properly aligned.

Indeed, communication or information sharing are key elements of a media enterprise, as it engages with its audiences on various platforms.

But often overlooked perhaps, is the value of clear communication and information sharing within a media house itself.

So, for example, a media outlet sends out alerts on its social media account, about an upcoming live TV coverage of an event, with exact details about timing and expected content (and a bonus typo).

But when one checks the channel at the indicated time...yes...there's live coverage...but of a different event!

I'm sure there's a perfect reason, (with a financial twist, you bet), for the change in the transmission schedule.

But, before the conflicting information was sent out, somebody ought to have done some simple cross-checking.

Communicate internally...to effectively communicate externally!

Thursday, 25 August 2016


The sheer lunacy of some newspaper editors in Kenya can seriously erode one's capacity to remain sane. Upholding simple professional standards can seem like such a complex undertaking. The heading of an article, being at variance with the first line of the article, should be easy to spot. But not all editors, apparently, can execute this routine task.

Probably, the person crafting the heading is not the same person who wrote the article, or even subbed it.

But that's no excuse for publishing editorial nonsense!

According to this article, appearing in the country's leading daily:

- West Ham is a football team in the English Premier League.

- The manager of West Ham is Slaven Bilic

- The club is keen to sign Manchester City striker Wilfried Bony.

But what does the heading of the article say:
"West Ham could make move for City's Bilic"
In other words:

West Ham is interested in signing its current manager, (from City?), according to the same manager!

This newspaper perhaps also needs to sign sharper copy editors.

Thursday, 18 August 2016


Interpretive journalism is a celebrated departure from the numbing run of the mill reportage. It helps scribes to tackle the 'so what' aspect of news coverage. But in so doing, the default path must not be one that is paved with negativity. The almost impulsive criticism of government especially, could be justifiable, but it often repaints good news into a masterpiece of bad news.

But such is the unfortunate nature of Kenyan media outlets. In the pursuit of an elusive and almost mythical objectivity, positive news portrayal is often misconstrued to imply being too close to the establishment.

This provides a fertile ground for contradictions in the local press.

For example, if the government downsizes its workforce, due to economic constraints, the focus almost inevitably will turn to the plight of the affected people, and how they are staring bleakly into an uncertain future.

(It does make you wonder why such stories are never found to be relevant, when media houses declare their own employees to be redundant).

And so you expect the same media to applaud the state, in those 'rare' instances, when there's recruitment.

But no. You are probably more likely to encounter such a depressing beginning of an article:
"The public wage bill is expected to rise significantly due to a plan to hire about 600 senior civil servant in addition to 7, 000 teachers."
Of what gain is it to repaint good news into a masterpiece of bad news?

Wednesday, 10 August 2016


Long sentences in broadcast news can make the audience discern a script being read. The preferred perception is to make the stories sound more conversational, and short sentences are a big help here. Windy sentences can also yield editorial nonsense, where language mastery is a concern. If the nonsense is displayed on screen, the result is an editorial nightmare.

Trying to load as much information as possible in a single sentence might appear smart, but it requires an acceptable level of alertness.

To begin with, the strap depicted above is way too busy, for a viewer to comfortably read, never mind the elements of repetition.

And since the medium is TV,  the viewer is also listening to the voice of the anchor/reporter, while engaging the eyes to process the video element.

The required coordination of sensory organs is greatly jeopardised by the eyesore of a top line, in the lower third story tag, which sates:
"Court denies man charged with chopping wife's hands denied bail"
Oh dear! It almost appears as if the words were being randomly strung together, hoping the resultant sentence would communicate the desired meaning.

But evidently, even with editorial licence, news packaging is a precise undertaking not best left to chance.