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, 23 February 2010


2009 X-Factor Winner Joe McElderry , Copyright Agachiri 2010

One weekend. Four two-hour shows in one venue. Over 40,000 screaming fans, each paying more than £20. That is how powerful the X-Factor television concept is, when it comes to attracting untold riches.

You may easily think the primary goal of the hit series is to uncover fresh singing talent in the UK. But the more I do the maths around the massive incomes generated before, during and after the show's conclusion, the more it begins to look like a business proposal excellently executed.

To begin with, over 200,000 hopeful contestants auditioned for X-Factor, out of which emerged 12 finalists, who went through an elimination process that culminated with 19 million people tuning in to see the 2009 winner being declared last December.

So during the shows, the producers were constantly testing the market to see which talent personifies a musical product that will eventually be sold to the same audience for a song.

                                                                                                    Jedward performing 'Ghostbusters' Copyright Agachiri 2010

Think about it. The Jedward outfit could not sing properly even if their lives depended on it but somehow, they stayed on at the expense of other worthy talent. The producers noticed the wild reception the duo was receiving on stage and that signalled a strong product recognition. 

And indeed, during the finalist concert at the Wembley Arena, the Jedward act drew one of the largest applauses, coming only second to the winner, Joe McElderry.

Another brilliant business idea was to create the impression that the millions of viewers were doing the actual selection of the winners through a public vote. This sort of bonded the audience to 'their' choices and ensured customer loyalty to the X-Factor products.

X-Factor finalist Olly at Wembley Arena, Copyright Agachiri 2010

So now the show is on tour across the UK, playing out to sold-out venues and destined to rake in more than a billion GBP.

Even though the stars perform unoriginal songs, they are still sensational in the eyes of the audience, who incidentally have already seen the show on TV.

The fans constantly take pictures of their X-Factor musical idols but after the show, they still buy thousands of posters bearing the images of the performers.
And some still wait to catch a glimpse of the bus taking the stars pulling out of the venue and scream some more.

They believed the X-Factor hype.

Saturday, 20 February 2010


'Media stupidity has to come to an end.' 
This is not the first time for the 4th estate to be referred to in unsavoury terms. The very nature of journalism makes it prone to attacks by those caught up in the media's constant attempts to interrogate the truth, in matters of public interest.

But the scenario does change a bit when the person firing salvos at the media happens to be one who hitherto had considered herself to be a journalist.

Does it mean all along this person had not been a full convert of the tenets and guiding principles of journalism and her professional heart lay elsewhere? It is quite telling that her background is in law.

It does however leave a bitter taste to hear somebody besmirch the very professional occupation that has earned her widespread recognition and admiration. Was the trust of the loyal public misplaced?

I imagine a disgruntled doctor going public and dismissing the whole medicine profession as harbouring 'stupidity.' Or a lecturer shouting from the rooftops saying the 'stupidity' in the teaching profession has to come to an end.

How about a banker, accountant, pilot, soldier, musician, pastor, dentist, marketer, designer, contractor, architect, nutritionist, matatu driver, hair stylist, politician (...aah...maybe), model, farmer........

You get my 'stupidity' drift.

Monday, 15 February 2010


It is a day set aside for lovers. But critics of St Valentine's Day feel it has been reduced to a heavily commercialized occasion. A live performance by American  R&B  singing and song writing sensation, Ne-Yo, at London's Wembley Arena, fully exploited both sides of the February 14th divide.

                    Ne-Yo London Concert, Copyright Agachiri 2010

The scheduling of the evening concert on Valentine's Day was a major marketing coup, with Ne-Yo's sensual ballads fitting snugly with the amorous atmosphere of a lovers' day.

It is not surprising perhaps then that the venue was packed with over 10,000 screaming revellers, mostly female and also with a fair ratio of couples in tow.

And they got their money's worth as Ne-Yo belted familiar tunes, to which the crowd was more than happy to supply the lyrics, had the man lost his voice on stage. As has always been the case, 'So Sick' and 'Sexy Love' were among the most favourites tracks of the night.

The show was spiced by very sexily attired female dancers, who at some point embarked on simulated 'coital manoeuvres' with Ne-Yo under amazing silhouette light effects, much to the delight of the frenzied audience.

The song writing talent of Ne-Yo

But Ne-Yo did showcase his song-writing prowess too and earned an instant applause when he crooned, 'To the left...to the left....,' which is the opening of the ' Irreplaceable' monster hit he penned for Beyonce.

Another Hip-Hop anthem that that delighted the crowd was the number one hit, 'Let Me Love You,' which he wrote for Mario. It did not matter that the chorus was more like a jazz interlude.

And screams of  'Me...me...me' almost brought the roof down when it was time to select one lucky girl  to join Ne-Yo on stage for a special Valentine performance.

                      Ne-Yo London Concert, Copyright Agachiri 2010

Another unexpected climax was provided by the band's powerful renditions of the late Michael Jackson's smash hits, as a tribute to the genius that was the King of Pop.

The next American performer at the Wembley Arena has a hard act to follow in thoroughly entertaining the UK audience. But then again, not so much given that it's going to be none other than 50 Cent, in March.

Thursday, 11 February 2010


The rapid rate of technological advancements has opened up the field of communication to such an extent that everybody with access to the Internet now feels capable of (mis)handling the higher and noble duties that pertain to journalism.

Acquiring a professional camera is equated to becoming a professional photographer or cameraperson, solely based on the knowledge gained from equipment manuals.

One's ability to churn out post after post in mostly self-serving blogs has created the illusion that becoming a newspaper columnist or opinion pages writer is a no brainer.

In addition, the difficulties of enforcing media industry standards in the online platform has seen the most horrendous of ethical abominations with such a regularity as to almost reduce the journalism practise into a vain engagement.

The time is right to re-affirm the ideals that should help distinguish between a useful media, a misused media and an abused technology.

And as evidenced by the Robert Hernandez experiment captured in the Online Journalism Review, the practical and knowledge, techniques or concepts gained through mass communication training should still be insisted upon, for a responsive and meaningful journalism to reclaim its rightful place in society.

Friday, 5 February 2010


Interactivity has been a much sought after component of the modern day media. So platforms are set up to tap into readers, listeners or viewer comments because the journalism process is no longer a one way street affair.

Many international media outlets have streamlined the mechanisms of incorporating user-generated content, especially into their news-based products and this has won them legions of loyal audiences.

But if the feedback is critical or one that expresses disappointment with, for example, the content or treatment, why don't the same comments get to be used as robustly as the positive reviews?

This has prompted me to look into how some viewers of NTV Kenya have been quite direct in their criticism of how I deliver the weekly political satire, 'Bull's Eye,' whenever I step in to cover for Emmanuel Juma, the creator of the news segment.

This is what LimuruBoy posted next to a Bull's Eye clip I had done, which was uploaded to YouTube.
'Where did Emmanuel Juma go??? This Albert Gachiri character is boring!!'
Over the years, so strong has the Bull's Eye brand been associated with Emmanuel Juma that every segment apparently, already has a pre-conceptualized expectation from some of the viewers.

lymo2005 emphatically opines: 

'Bring Emmanuel Juma back ! Nice try Albert but you are no Emmanuel Juma.'
Okay. We are dealing with two individuals here so clearly the styles of delivery should hardly be expected to be identical. And this is the point bigfish20009 tries to make.
'Can people stop this Emmanuel Juma nonsense!! It is becoming a nuisance. If you don't like the new guy, don't watch Bull's Eye. Period! Enough with your nonsense!!'    
But that is not enough to stem the tide of criticism. One poster even goes as far as declaring:
'If Emmanuel Juma is not there, KILL BULLSEYE!'
And nmbugua says:
'Damn, this reporter is sooo boring... it's like watching some boring news... wea is Emmanuel Juma bana... NTV... do something!!! '
To which mqenya is quick to add:
'Tru dat! he's missing the ingredients. Emmanuel ndio mwenyewe.'

And cuzslimshady readily agrees:
'Yea ur absolutely right dis job's specially meant for Emmanuel Juma.'
To a professional journalist, such comments should be taken in their stride. There is no point ignoring them, especially if they are posted in the Internet. And where possible, lessons can be drawn from them.

The truth of the matter is, you can't please everyone, but criticism might just be the magical ingredient needed to propel you to the epitome of your career.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010


TNA Wrestling at the Wembley Arena, Copyright Agachiri

It is a known fact that wrestling, as sport entertainment, does not involve actual fighting. And yet millions of fans across the world have remained ardent TV fans. But when people pay so much to see the actual recording of the fake fights, that's when a fan becomes a fanatic.

As soon as the doors of London's Wembley Arena opened, there was a mad rush as families accompanied by their children, grown men and women, sought to quickly identify their seats.

Some adorned meticulous costumes, while others removed their coats and jackets to reveal T-shirts inscribed with the names and pictures of their favourite professional wrestlers from the hugely popular WWE franchise.

And to show their appreciation of the sport, many had taken their time to create colourful placards, banners and flags, or maybe it was because the event was being recorded to be televised at a later day and they wanted to catch the eye of the cameraperson.

But the strongest impulse it seems, was to take pictures with the glittering TNA screen behind, and to take away a piece of the night's action, frozen in time, as a permanent record of their attendance.

The great pro-wrestling fake moves

When the professional wrestlers took to the ring, I finally got to see with my own eyes, what many people in Kenya found hard to believe. It is all acting and no fighting.

Just like in the movies, every move is carefully choreographed and you have to admire the steps taken to ensure the camera angles are positioned in such as a way that the illusion of real fighting could be easily transported to the television screen.

So with the camera behind him, the 'legendary', Kurt Angle pummels his opponent, but from my view, I can clearly see that no blow is making any actual connection.

On that account, maybe the 'fighters,' deserve to be referred to as professional wrestlers. It takes quite an amount of skills to get the timing right so that you don't hurt your colleague during all those body slums, or pro-wrestling manoeuvres like knee drop, suplex, clothesline, spear and submission holds that really look excruciating on TV.

The camera does not always lie though and people do actually get thrown up quite high in the air, which means the amount of padding on the ring ought to fit the bill. 

But in the fantasy world of the fans, some who paid as much as £50 pounds, (Ksh 6,000), for ringside seats, the fact that there is no real fighting going on is inconsequential. They loudly cheer and express real emotions, when for example, their star makes a comeback from imminent defeat to win a match.

There is no denying different folks from enjoying their different strokes.

Monday, 1 February 2010


In the space of one week, two new pieces of technology have been unveiled. And both promise to revolutionise the digital media platform. 3D television and the iPad. But at what cost to the consumer?

There was great excitement across the UK, when Sky Television announced its plan to televise the Manchester United versus Arsenal football match live in 3D.

But like it was posed by the Mail Online, is the new 3D craze worth forking out £1,000, (Ksh 120,000), on a 3D enabled TV? Just think of the millions of people, who have just purchased High Definition sets.

And what does it mean for developing countries such as Kenya, with no channel broadcasting in HD yet? You do start to appreciate the Third World tag afresh.

That a technological advancement has started the process of becoming obsolete, even before it lands in the shores of developing countries.

The consolation though, is that the rich countries will eventually dump their now outdated but quite modern TV sets in African countries, for example, at a profit to them, of course.

New technology does not mean higher revenues for media industry

The introduction of the iPad has received a mixed reaction. Writing in the Online Journalism Review, Robert Niles cautions that the news industry should not blindly expect to make a killing from the latest Apple product and should instead find ways of reconnecting with a fleeing audience.
"When PhDs can write engaging blogs on the topics of their expertise, reaching an affluent worldwide audience, can you really afford to continue employing a general assignment reporter, who has no advanced degree or relevant industry experience, and may have finished somewhere in the middle half of his or her high-school graduating class, to cover the same stories? Can you afford to continue clinging to the myth that print narrative "writing ability" is somehow more important than research analysis skills, professional knowledge and a long memory for reporting in a complex, technological age?"
Pertinent questions indeed. To which I add, should we become slaves to the ever evolving technology designed to ensure consumers never make a purchase to last and serve them well in a significant portion of their lifetime?