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.




Wednesday, 25 May 2011


The physical appearance of a news anchor or TV show presenter can make all the difference between a viewer staying on a given channel or reaching for the remote. Importantly though, the viewer should not be distracted from what is being presented. 

It's good to try and be trendy and fashion conscious, but showing too much 'unnecessary skin' on national TV is to go overboard, in my considered opinion.

Whereas there's nothing a presenter can do about biological features, save for going for cosmetic surgery, the mode of dressing is one element that can be used to either augment or diminish the visual appeal.

The killer looks might keep those with perverted inclinations, especially men, glued to the screen, but I can almost guarantee it that an overwhelming majority will not be concentrating on what the presenter is saying.

Granted, sex appeal sells. But to what extent should this be used to drive up ratings? Isn't there a safe middle-ground, where decency is not sacrificed at the alter of driving up viewership numbers?

But there is a catch. As a TV presenter or news anchor, you can hardly ever hope to please everyone. As brilliantly reflected in the online discussion wall of the BBC:

...there is no form of dress or level of personal grooming that a presenter can follow that won't meet with criticism. If they dress nicely, they get criticized, if they dress casually they get criticized. If they comb and style their hair they get criticized, if they don't they get criticized...

It nevertheless does not mean the presenters can get away with anything, especially in an African setting, where many cultures frown upon too liberal a public dressing code. Conformity or minimal deviations from existing societal standards in this case is desirable.

There are instances, where a media organization imposes restrictions on what is an acceptable dressing code. This strictness at times becomes too much a burden for the presenters to bear, like it happened with Al Jazeera, where five female presenters quit their jobs, after being pressed to tone down their mode of dressing.

The bottom line then, I think, is to avoid extremes, when it comes to dressing for television. Much as a female presenter might want to reflect the very latest trends, what needs to be covered up, should remain covered up, to avoid looking trashy.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011


Dr. Willy Mutunga, courtesy of Daily Nation
Once again the local media has found itself in an awkward position. A seemingly innocuous earring that adorns the left earlobe of the man nominated to be Kenya's next Chief Justice, is causing all the rage in public debate.

Ignoring this issue on the grounds that it's trivial might seem a sensible thing for the media to do. But given the public interest generated, whether misguided or inconsequential, failing to highlight the matter, it appears, would be tantamount to taking sides and failing the neutrality or objectivity test.

Below is a sample of how this debate has been shaping up.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011


For how much longer will the term colonialism be thrust upon latter-day generations of Kenyans?  According to one critic, the coverage of the recent British Royal wedding by the Kenyan media, is a reflection of our continued state of colonization. Please, replace colonialism with globalization.

Britain's Prince William and Kate Duchess of Cambridge
Despite the global fascination with the nuptials, Evan Mwangi deliberately set out to paint a black and white picture, where black represents Africa and white its past colonial masters, thereby misrepresenting the colourful regal tradition of the entire ceremony.

Visuals are a key element in television broadcasting and that partly explains why the wedding was being beamed live by all the major local channels, because the images from weddings to many people, fit the description of 'eye candy.'

As captured in an article in the online version of the Christian Science Monitor,  it is a bit ironic that Kenyans would be so interested in the wedding of a major figurehead of the very people whom they fought hard to free themselves from the yolk of colonialism.

But to consciously set out to establish how many black people were captured on television screens or how many children in the choir were black, is to say the least being narrow-minded, which perhaps even betrays just how much one is suffering from colonial hang-ups.

An estimated 2 billion people watched Prince William and Catherine Middleton tie the royal knot so what difference would it have made even if the Kenyan media boycotted covering the event as a protest to colonial injustices?

If anything, as argued by Rasna Warah, it was more of about missed opportunities to weave in the Kenyan connection to the wedding, by marketing the country as a romantic tourist destination, buoyed by the fact that it provided the setting for Prince William's proposal.

And it is a tad unconvincing for somebody earning a livelihood in a 'white man's country,' to purport to lecture his fellow Kenyans at home about how much colonized they still are.

So Prof. Mwangi's argument that the local media's fascination with the British royal wedding amounts to perpetuating colonialism is to say the least plain hot air. Regardless of our history, we are now global citizens.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011


I've been to the Caribbean island of Jamaica, on a news feature assignment. Take it from me. The Jamaican dancehall music scene knows no shame. That daring lack of moral principles is what perhaps defines it. So what really did Kenyans expect to see, when a couple of Jamaican dancehall artists descended on the Nairobi entertainment scene?

Despite many of them having consciously or sub-consciously uttered the word 'Bendover' few it appeared, were prepared to see the daggering motions, heavily laden with raw sexual simulations, that have earned this breed of music notoriety.

It is however a tad ironic for the local media to castigate the organizers of this concert, as if they had just stumbled upon the goings-on in the Jamaican dancehall scene. After all, journalists had initially been denied entry into the event and had allegedly been told the show needed no coverage.

It therefore sounded ridiculous, when a variety show TV presenter in one of the local channels, introduced the Swaggeriffic concert story, by saying 80% of their footage was found to be unsuitable for screening.

Prior to the Easter show, the media should probably have tried to highlight the fact that some of these Jamaican music/dancing exports had been banned in a number of countries, including Jamaica.

And hopefully, a number of concerned organizations would have tried to petition the authorities to intervene to force the organizers to in turn compel the artists to tone down on their stage antics. 

But a number of media outlets instead, actually promoted the concert. It is only afterwards, that the same media started crying foul over 'Bent Over Morals.'

Below is a sample of the outrage generated in the social media networks, in the wake of the Swaggeriffic concert.