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.




Thursday, 27 October 2011


Journalists are chroniclers of major occurrences that are measured against the yardstick of known news values and found to be worthy of bringing to the attention of their audience. A new model of Solution Journalism seeks to transform media coverage to make it have more depth and purpose.

This would especially be helpful in Africa, where both local and international media coverage is always often dominated by negative news about this and that problem, with a very heavy dose of doom and gloom-inspiring content.

Very rarely do you find a lead story that is positive, one that would make the audience smile, laugh or cry...genuine tears of joy. I know for example, if Kenya wins gold in a major global competition, that nowadays is guaranteed of commanding the number one TV news slot.

This shows that in such moments, there is recognition that the feel good factor carried by such stories is beneficial and more important than the deaths, disease, conflict and other calamities, including what the politicians have been up to, that regularly hog the airtime and newspaper front pages

Solution Journalism would thus be a welcome addition in our situation, because where a problem is highlighted, (and there are always very numerous), a deliberate attempt will naturally be made to point to a way out of whatever predicament, disaster or misfortune being captured as news.

As eloquently argued by Ann Babe, writing for the Centre for International Media Ethics :
"The media, when solution-oriented, can actively function as a platform for social innovation and positive change."
Moreover, most local media outlets do try to balance the good and the bad sides of an issue, but often they are treated as separate stories, e.g., famine in one part of the country and surplus harvest in another part.

The challenge then is to make one story out of the problems and solutions. I've for example received many calls, after a needy case is highlighted in a TV news story, full of inquiries about how help can be channelled to the person in need.

But if this detail was also captured in the news story as well, then the impact and subsequent assistance pledged would be greater.

Like the name suggests, Solution Journalism is a gem that can bring back the glitter in news coverage.

Friday, 21 October 2011


Muammar Gaddafi is dead. He was formerly reported killed, after first being said to have been captured and wounded, in his hometown of Sirte. That was how this story was covered by the international press, with every care being taken not to appear too certain, about the fate of the ex-Libyan leader.

Whereas it is commendable for the media to want to first confirm its facts, it reaches a point, in my opinion, when making reference to unconfirmed reports throughout, ceases to have its original value.

Why would CNN for example insist on first having a confirmation from the US government about Gaddafi's demise, and keep mentioning this fact over and over again in their coverage, while acknowledging that Libyan sources had confirmed Gaddafi's death?

In my part of the world, waiting for a confirmation from the government on any issue, would take close to forever, and you might end up getting the complete opposite of what actually happened. That could perhaps explain why the CNN modus operandi astounds me.

Below is a sample of how this story was first covered by the global media, in the initial stages.

Sunday, 16 October 2011


It is no longer a secret. Television soap operas are some of the most popular programmes in Kenya, which explains why every local channel has a catalogue of them. Along comes a made in Kenya TV soap, which could either be bubbly and popular like foreign imports, or similarly boring to some people.

It seems those who hate soaps do so with a deep passion, whereas fans passionately follow the unfolding drama so religiously, so much so that their tears could flow freely just from watching a character's misery unfolding.

And men need not pretend any more that soaps are for dames and madams. A good number of avid followers come from the masculine side of the gender divide.

As a matter of fact, I have had the opportunity of answering a very late caller to NTV news desk, who was bitterly protesting that the soap being aired at that point was a repeat. A quick time check told me it was approaching midnight. And the voice was distinctively male.

So, will ' Kenya's first soap' continue to tickle the fancy of viewers, with the usual mix of people losing their memory only to gradually regain it to the detriment of the lead actor or actress, a glamorous wedding between people with sinister motives camouflaged as love, lot's of crying, and other staple soap plots?

Or will the interest wear out as the plot thins out?

Friday, 7 October 2011


It probably is not fair to say the Nobel Peace Prize comes home, back to Africa. But the 2011 women winners being announced just a day before Prof. Wangari Maathai, Kenya's and Africa's first female recipient of the coveted award, is accorded a state funeral, calls for a special exemption.

I also deliberately choose to overlook the fact that the Nobel honour was split between two daughters of Africa, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and peace activist and fellow countrywoman Leymah Gbowee, with Tawakkul Karman of Yemen.

I believe it is a befitting sendoff to Prof. Maathai, to not only have the efforts of women recognized but that they also come from the African continent.

Maathai's legacy will of course endure perhaps to the ends of times, and her place in global history is assured. But the fact that there are more women in her mould only makes the world a better place.

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, after all has at the moment the exclusive honour of being Africa's first female Head of State and becoming a Nobel laureate just goes to confirm her leadership and visionary qualities.

That selfish shout-out for the African continent aside, it goes without saying that it also took great courage for Yemen's Tawakkul to head the Women Journalist Without Chains and lead her country's push for women's rights and democracy.

Here's is a toast then to all the joint winners of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize.