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.




Monday, 30 August 2010


The one thing I've learnt over the past year during my academic sojourn, is that a more responsive and innovative media stands to gain the most in the competition for audiences and ad-spend. Traditions entrenched in old media practises simply have to pave way for multimedia approaches.

Having had the privilege of studying in a developed country and now in a position to compare what I experienced with what is obtaining in my not so developed country, Kenya, some observations standout.

As journalism practise in the more modernised world races towards full multimedia platforms, Kenya's media landscape appears to be awakening to the possibilities inherent in opening up their services to audience interactivity.

The reasoning for lagging behind has been hinged on low Internet connectivity and limited technical know-how. But broadband has now arrived in the East African shores and the required knowledge can be as close as a Google away.

So now most broadcast stations in Kenya are spotting 'dazzling' sets complete with 3D simulation-filled virtual sets. Call me a naturalists, but it's had for my eyes to find favour in a studio background that looks so far removed from nature, the shine and glitter notwithstanding.

But whereas there appears to be an almost obsessive pursuit of the 'best' technical presentation styles in newscast sets, there is no equal effort being made to conceptualise unique content or story-telling formats, in my opinion.

In any given day, it is almost predictable that the news content across the various channels will be largely similar. And as you switch from one station to the other, the visual assault from the cacophony of colours, awkward, exaggerated camera movements and flickering video-mixing techniques used to fade images in and out is not very pleasant.

The station that re-connects with the 'content is king' maxim will definitely be ahead, when it comes to enriching their news with a multimedia experience for its viewers.

And here, multimedia interactivity means much much more than inviting comments through SMSs or displaying a website link. It's enabling the viewer to choose what stories to watch and in which order, among other departures from traditional news media formats.

Saturday, 21 August 2010


The newsroom has changed, so why shouldn't the classroom? The profession has advanced, so why should the training not keep up? Pertinent questions about the state of journalism, well answered by Robert Niles.

In a 5-point highly illuminating article, published by the American Online Journalism Review, Niles succinctly bridges the knowledge gap for enrolled journalism students, by linking current industry demands with the professional training being pursued.

No doubt the strong background in web-based journalism of Robert Niles means he places a lot of emphasis on the Internet or online publishing platforms. He thus easily presupposes that all media students must have posted something on the web, which he equates to kick-starting a journalism career:

"Immediate access to a global publishing medium allows any source to become a breaking news reporter, if only for just a moment" 

Quite a sweeping statement to make, in my opinion. I still hold the view that journalism has to be hinged on a set of news values, with stories done with a bit of interpretation, preferably with a multiplicity of sources or voices, with lots of effort to counter-check the veracity and also achieve some level of balance.

But Niles is absolutely spot on, when he challenges journalism students to  consider cultivating an appropriate online presence. I agree with him that potential employers could be keener on somebody who can demonstrate a significant number of unique visitors to their blog, as an example.

But when he says:

"Don't undercut your hard work with moments of Facebook foolishness."

It does look like a hard act to follow for any journalism student. Niles is advocating for a 24/7 awareness of the need to constantly maintain a scribe's demeanour.

I personally like to carefully elect to reflect a different persona, depending on who I am interacting with and also think one is capable of keeping one's private life intact, the attendant difficulties notwithstanding.

Unlike Niles, I feel one needs an alter ego to help keep the 'insanity' that comes with being a journalist, at bay.

Saturday, 14 August 2010


Many are the times one can be left mesmerised by what appears to be an original TV programme concept. And the origin of such a perception of originality should indeed not be questioned, especially at the individual level.

In all my often under-estimated naivety, I have been marvelling at one particular programme concept, 'Pete Versus Life,' screened by Channel 4. It struck me as a completely out of this world sit-com.

It just amazes me to see a TV programme employing a split-screen, technique to regularly show two other people doing a running commentary of what is transpiring in the actual programme.

It's like a double dose of comedy because apart from the hilarious escapades of the main character, the commentators also chip in with their own brand of humour. How ingenious!

But apparently, this is not that original. As a matter of fact, as reported in a Guardian online article, the concept's freshness goes back as much as 40 years ago.

So, the storyline could be different, the characters and even the overall treatment. But plainly speaking, that commentary style is not original. And the Guardian goes as far as besmirching the references to what it calls sports-casting cliches.

Pete Versus Life producers however can continue basking on the limited knowledge of viewers like me, who initially believe most of what they encounter for the first time is original.

The empirical interpretation of originality in my view, should not necessarily inform the perception of what constitutes original programme concepts. Unless a programme is outstandingly inferior to the known prototype.

Friday, 6 August 2010


International followers of the just concluded referendum in Kenya might have had one stereotypical perception reinforced, courtesy of a leading American media outlet.
Copyright: Washington Post
The majority of the pictures used by the Washington Post depicted members of the Maasai community casting their votes.

This is very much in line perhaps with what the world is used to see, whenever Kenya is mentioned.

Images of the Maasai's resplendent in their traditional regalia and cultural artefacts.

On the face of it, this might not look so wrong but keen observers may want to question whether such pictures are representative enough of the Kenyan people.

It predictably can be classified with the penchant of the international media to elect to use pictures of slums to amplify the poverty levels in Africa, even if the story could be about new found prosperity or economic progress.

Parallels can also be drawn with the customary visits to Nairobi's Kibera shanty dwellings, whenever foreign dignitaries go to Kenya, in the spirit of promoting 'slum tourism.'

And so whenever a Kenyan travels abroad, the bombardment with obnoxious questions, like whether wild animals mingle freely with people in the streets, inevitably has to be endured.

But on a positive note, as somebody wisely pointed out, the usage of the Maasai voting pictures is a befitting statement of the level of democracy and civic awareness prevalent in Kenya, even at the rural or grass-root level.