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.




Saturday, 27 August 2011


Dowry. Bride price. Going by a recent Kenyan newspaper article, one may easily think these two words mean the same thing. But in actual fact, though both are some form of payment, each carries an opposing meaning, depending on who between the bride or groom is receiving the payment.

The Daily Nation's front page story of 21st August, was about some tragic news of a road accident that killed over 20 people. And among those who perished were relatives, who were returning to their village after a trip to pay bride price.

Further reading of the article shows that it was a man, who having living with his partner as husband and wife, was going back to his in-laws to complete paying the bride price, in line with the local traditions.

But in the inside pages, the same newspaper made reference of a dowry ceremony, in a related story about the same tragic accident. The facts though remained that it was the man's family, going to his 'wife's people.'

It appears like both bride price and dowry here, are used to mean the same thing. But as aforementioned, that cannot be accurate. according to the online free dictionary:

"Dowry is money, goods or estate that a woman brings to her husband in marriage."
So in the context of this story, any reference to dowry is misleading. Bride price fits the bill though because it is the man's family that was visiting their in-laws. The dictionary meaning is:

"Money and property given to a prospective bride's family by the prospective groom and his family"
So Kenya's leading daily erred on two fronts in its coverage of this particular tragic story. First on account of referring to dowry whereas it was the man's family visiting his wife's people.

And two, using dowry and bride price interchangeably, hence implying they mean one and the same thing. A double apology to readers would perhaps suffice!

Friday, 19 August 2011


Now, turning to an inspiring story from.... Now, it is emerging that....Now....Now....Why is this word so easy on the tongues of Kenyan TV news anchors? Is it a sign of laziness or just a fallback or default word to (mis)use, when introducing a story?

Placing 'now' at the beginning of a sentence is not a grammatical mistake, but if it appears forced or  disconnected from the words that follow, it would make the sentence sound awkward.

According to yourdictionary.com, as a conjunction, 'now' is used to covey the meaning of 'since' or 'seeing that,' e.g. 'Now that you have graduated, you will be required to start repaying your student loan.'

As an interjection, it's used with no definite meaning, to provide emphasis or to resume one's remarks, e.g. 'Now, many are the times I have warned him about gambling.'

Or is the intention to mechanically use 'now', borne out of the false assumption it would contribute to the newsiness of a story, by sort off implying very current information?

Now that I have pointed out that cliche, it brings to mind blunders regularly starring in Kenyan broadcast stations, during their prime time newscasts.

The lower third text is arguably the commonest place to mine English language howler gems. I am aware though, of the pressure news producers goes through, which makes them prone to making errors.

First of all, one must have the story tags ready in good time after making them short enough to make sense, while restricted to the number of characters that will not bust and go off-screen.

As a news producer, I  often used to wonder why my own story tags would embarrassingly contain hideous mistakes, even after running a spelling and grammar check.

It's only after realizing the setting for the Word spell check on my desktop, was such that words in capital letters would be ignored, and yet that is how the tags were being displayed entirely.

I occasionally still flout grammatical rules, of which I blame the pressure to have them ready before the news bulletin begins. But even I do appreciate that there should never be a reason to have 'silly' mistakes on air.

Thursday, 11 August 2011


That the riots in the UK have been exacerbated by social misfits is highly debatable. That the breakdown in law and order has occasioned great misfortunes for a hitherto stable country is obvious. But the main realization for authorities there, should be: the UK riots offer greatest lessons to the UK.

There's hardly anything strange in people acting like hooligans and causing mayhem in the streets in Kenya or generally countries that unwillingly carry the Third World tag. Nor is it surprising to see hordes of youth looting and causing rampage. (OK. 9 year-olds stealing alcohol is just weird).

The poverty levels in developing countries have a knack of bringing out the worsts from citizens lacking basic sustenance, who at times are deprived of very fundamental rights as human beings. But if truth be told, even that should not be a reason enough to turn violent.

But here is a very wealthy country, that even manages to make regular payments to unemployed people, who mostly consist of youths. Here is a country, where on calculating how much one is going to earn by taking up a job and comparing it to the financial handouts from the state, one can amazingly opt to remain jobless, because it's more lucrative.

So is there another underlying cause for all the disturbances in England, the apparently ill-advised shooting by police in Tottenham notwithstanding? Why was the rioting not confined to the area where the incident occurred? The answers to such queries would offer invaluable lessons to the UK.

But to many Kenyans perhaps, the UK riots offer a mixture of sympathy, amusement, wonder and amazement. Below is a sample of reactions from social media networks, locally.

Friday, 5 August 2011


Thursday, 4 August 2011


His nearly 30-year reign ended dishonourably, after a popular uprising led to his ouster. Indeed, there was jubilation in the streets of Cairo, when Hosni, 'the last Pharaoh of Egypt,' Mubarak exited from power. Given his supposed decades of misrule, I don't see how his trial amounts to an embarrassment to Africa.

The front page of one of Kenya's local dailies
Embarrassment to whom? To an individual, who so happened to have served as Egypt's Head of State for years? Is that reason enough for him not to be subjected to a trial? I strongly beg to differ.

And for those arguing that hauling Mubarak to court on a stretcher is unreasonable, inhuman and an embarrassment to the African continent, how would they describe the treatment accorded to former Liberian leader Samuel Doe? Or his predecessor William Tolbert and his Cabinet ministers?

The charges Mubarak is facing state that he allegedly authorized the killing of protesters, among others. So why, pray tell, should he be allowed to go scot-free, and allowed to enjoy the sublime comforts of his ill-gotten wealth?

Coverage of Mubarak trial in a Kenyan daily
What of the Egyptians, who lost their lives or livelihoods during Mubarak's rule? Should the passion of Egyptians yearning for change, as exemplified by my friend and former classmate, Randa el Tahawy, including the attendant risks, be denied a befitting closure in Cairo's corridors of justice?

So many questions needing appropriate answers. But hardly any likely to be wished away by even insinuating that Mubarak's trial is inappropriate. I can only read a hidden agenda on such reportage.

Egyptians, I feel, should be applauded for applying their own law to try a leader, who fell out of favour probably a long time ago.

                                                  Ex Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo Reacts to Mubarak Trial

Instead of Africa being embarrassed, Mubarak's trial should serve as a stark warning to dictators in the continent that the days of wantonly clinging to power, while perpetuating savage atrocities against the masses, will no longer be tolerated.