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.




Sunday, 12 September 2010


Fire guts a number of houses in one of Nairobi's biggest slums. The cause of the blaze according to one Kenyan TV station report: two women fighting over a man, based on an eyewitness account of a pre-teenage looking boy.

Now there is something just terribly unethical about this particular news story. And it all has to do with the choice of person to interview.

How do you subject a minor to attempt to explain how two fully grown women, earlier identified as commercial sex workers, fought over a male client and one subsequently getting enraged and setting fire to one structure, leading to the blaze?

As if that is not a big enough media ethics transgression, the interview of the small boy is aired as part of the story, with no attempt made whatsoever at concealing the minor's identity, unhelpful as it may also be.

Call me prudish, but that is just shameful, a blatant violation of the absolute privacy accorded to children and tantamount to abetting the moral corruption of a minor's innocence.

What well-trained journalists do is at times think beyond the actual substance of the news stories they are covering. Are there other grave implications, especially when dealing with children?

Would leaving the boy's interview out of this particular story have diluted the understanding of the possible cause of the fire? I most certainly think not.

Another unrelated but also irksome gaffe was the obvious display of one newish  TV journalist's lack of understanding of Kenya's devolved system of governance, during a live newsfeed.

Starting out in the electronic media has its immense challenges, and I did have my share of journalistic mishaps and still continue to humanly err, but care must be always taken to avoid making too elementary of mistakes.

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