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, 31 December 2012


It's that time for reflections again. On this platform, the content has been posted at a regular weekly interval. Should this be improved on, in the New Year? Yes. Will this be part of my New Year resolutions? No. The following is a list of the most popular posts of 2012, and the least favourite. 

First, the biggest hits, in descending order:
And now.......drum roll please.....starting with the least likeable.....presenting the 2012 miss-hits or misfits:
I'm most grateful though, to all my readers for the support, criticism and engaging debates. 2013 is another open and exciting invitation to keep the interaction and discussion going. May the New Year bring amazingly good tidings to everyone.

Thursday, 27 December 2012


It's not entirely unusual. But it's a very bold endeavour. That the owner of Kenya's most dominant media enterprise has chosen to be publicly associate with a coalition of political parties, ahead of a General Election, is either tactically brilliant, or brilliantly tactless!

Do spare a thought for staffers of a such a 'compromised' media entity. Try as much as they can to be neutral, their coverage of the country's political developments will be perceived to carry the bias albatross.

But by and large, most of the mainstream media houses in Kenya have been known to editorially lean towards a particular political persuasion, if ever so subtly, or at times even blatantly.

You can't therefore expressly criminalise a Kenyan media outlet for overtly identifying with, sponsoring or even supporting a political party, like in other parts of the world.

In the event that the political side being backed by the said media house emerges victorious in the Kenyan polls, then undeniably, it will be viewed very favourably by the incoming administration that it actually helped to propel to power. Brilliantly tactful on this account.

However, after antagonising those opposed to its chosen political stance and strapping the employees with an identity crisis, borne of disregarding the journalism principle of balanced reporting, it would be brilliantly tactless, if the media house is on the losing side, after the March 2013 elections.

Friday, 21 December 2012


A leading gaming provider sends out a brand awareness campaign centred on the act of killing. The killing of animals or zombies in the virtual world may look harmless. But is it so hard to figure out that such gaming realities can leap into the realm of real life, and leave America reeling from senseless killings of innocent citizens?

This has got to be the most annoying case of a country setting itself up for needless grief. Unbearable torment repeatedly being dished out to families. Enough of the right to bear arms argument. America needs to seriously disarm its breathing killing machines.

And if preservation of life is not a game, how come popular video games are fashioned around making life extinct?

Moreover, the twisted thrill that comes with exterminating virtual enemies, isn't that like target practise? Combine that with the availability of all manner of weapons in the US and you got yourself a 'ticked ' time bomb.

It's almost like a sick game, where everybody from innocent shoppers in a mall to children in a school is viewed as a 'zombie' in the gaming world, to be wiped out for maniacal points?

So then, is the US going to do something to stop the tide of death, whose foot soldiers are deranged people with no semblance of appreciation of the dignity and sanctity of human life? Holding of one's breath at this point is greatly discouraged.

Thursday, 13 December 2012


It's shocking. But very indicative of the misinformation informing perceptions about voter registration in Kenya. The fingerprints captured by the Biometric Voter Registration kits, it's wrongly feared, will be used to pursue criminals. This is one of the reasons feeding voter apathy sentiments.

Others include misconceptions that the BVR kits could lead to infertility or cancer-related ailments. Assurances from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission seem to be futile in turning this worrying tide.

But analysts would be quick to also point out that the scars of the 2007 bungled General Election have not yet healed, dissuading many potential voters from wanting to actively participate in Kenya's electoral process.

Still, IEBC in my books, could have done a better job of preparing potential voters to the workings of the BVR kits and establishing existing realities and myths, while at it.

It would then have been easier to identify and rectify any untoward beliefs through appropriately designed intervention strategies, (do forgive the NGO parlance).

Without resorting to the initial funding, tendering and procurement hurdles, is there a credible reason as to why there was no community diagnosis or baseline survey done to establish existing perceptions about voter registration?

So now we have a discomforting situation and as usual, a reactionary local media is trying its best to put the issue of voter apathy high up in the daily news agenda.

But again I ask, is there no forward looking media outlet that would have been capable of correctly anticipating the situation the country now finds itself in, as it hurtles towards another national election?

Ooh. I know. It is always juicier to focus on the politicians, right?

Thursday, 6 December 2012


Issue-based politics has got to be one of the most misunderstood or alien concept to Kenyan politicians. Instead of a congruence of national ideals bringing together politicians obliged to sign pre-election coalition pacts, it has boiled down to the painfully familiar politics of personalities.

So forget about the issues being heartedly bandied in political gatherings. Of utmost importance to Kenyan politicians, it appears, is either self-preservation or using the power of tribal-based voter strengths to the disadvantage of the opponent.

Pawns of personal political permutations. This is what the Kenyan electorate has been reduced to. Just sample the reactions below from social media circles.

Friday, 30 November 2012


What legal landmines come with hosting a 'sharp' lawyer in a TV talk show? I hardly thought this was any different from hosting any other person. That is, until Kenya's Education minister told one of the panellists, in a recent show, ' If you continue that way I will sue you!'

This obviously came as a bit of a shocker to the visibly shaken panellist, keen to pursue his line of questioning, after appearing to be on to something big.

But that sharp rebuke resulted in fading hopes of pinning the minister, on his alleged link to the transfer of Sani Abacha's loot from Nigeria.

So, this does raise an interesting scenario for journalism as a whole. Aside from the known journalism privileges, are journalists or programme panellists culpable, based on the kind of questions they ask?

In other words, was it in order for the Education minister, who also boasts of being the first person in the region to have attained a First Class degree in Law, to have threatened the panellist to desists from a particular line of questioning, or risk litigation?

I have heard cornered TV talk show guests, warn the interviewee not to raise the matter outside the studio discussion or they would face legal consequences.

But a direct 'I will sue you' is raising a scary proposition. The path to unearthing truths in the interest of the public, might just be too risky, legally speaking.

Friday, 23 November 2012


"As you can see behind me..." This has got to be one of the most annoying statement by TV news reporters. And it's made worse, when the reporter physically turns to face what it is, he or she wants us to focus on. News Flash: The viewer is likely to have seen what is behind you, the moment you popped up on the screen.

It does add value if the reporter provides information to help the viewer understand what is happening in the background.

It is useful indeed, to try and explain, even by turning to look behind, if what is in the viewer's line of sight, is significant and enhances the comprehension of a news story.

But. A mere allusion to the fact that there is something happening behind the reporter, is redundant if not useless entirely, save for the aforementioned annoyance.

Television is obviously a visual medium. And it's perhaps foolhardy to try and direct or dictate to the viewer what to see across their TV screen, at any one particular moment.

"As you can see behind me..." No. No. No!

"What you see behind me is..." Yes. Correct. Approved!

Friday, 16 November 2012


It first looked frivolous. The return of a prodigal journalist, not just being marked by merry-making. It actually became a news story, slotted among the major happenings and big events of the day. But looked at differently, it spoke volumes about branded journalism. 'Jicho Pevu' is a brand, right?

That argument can go either way, which renders it inconsequential anyway. But such is a pointer to the power of an increasingly discerning Kenyan audience. They are likely to follow their favourite journalist, more than their favourite news channel.

So when the journalist behind the popular 'Jicho Pevu' shifted to another station, it was assumed that he would be moving with his followers. And small wonder then that, when he made an about turn, and sprinted back 'home,' the elation went to the extent of yielding a top tier news item.

The intention probably, was to signal to the audience that they needed to realign their channel of choice, perhaps even send a note to ratings researchers and even advertisers.

This is the kind of 'media magnet magic' that another Kenyan channel is trying to use, in bringing on board a renowned and presumably polished personality.

And what do you know, he will even have a show, so branded to directly reflect the persona behind it, as opposed to the 'osculatory' station hosting it.

This is the real challenge to the Kenyan journalist. Specialise and be a brand. Don't be content with being branded an all rounded 'excellent' journalist!

Thursday, 8 November 2012


A Kenyan TV station has been running an innovative talk show, which directly taps into new media. To fit in with social media parlance, it's called 'The Trend.' And it inadvertently could have set off a new trend: allowing a journalist from a competing channel to fire a question at one of its guests.

The 'stray tweet' from the external journalist certainly turned up the heat in that discussion, succeeding in putting the guest on the defence, and perhaps helping the programme host to raise an issue that probably would not have been covered.

It indeed drew a sharp rejoinder from the guest, who did manage to identify the 'stray' question was from a journalist, (from another station?).

But what made the programme producers to pick out this 'stray tweet' knowing very well it was unusual to give a platform to a journalist from a rival station to make any contribution in their show?

That particular move, is by all means daring. And it serves to indicate how social media can easily tear down the walls put up by rival or competing traditional media outlets.

Should this trend be encouraged?

I think so. The conversation never ends!

Thursday, 1 November 2012


Kenya's leading daily newspaper has demanded that the Rwandan judiciary must accord the country's jailed opposition leader an expeditious appeal. In a very unusual departure from tradition, where such strong reactions are clearly labelled as editorial commentary, the paper stated that Victoire's Ingabire's trial fell short of international standards.

This is a classic scenario depicting the folly of failing to attribute. It's especially invaluable to journalism students. In this front-page story highlight, who is saying, "Victoire must get prompt and fair appeal..?" Take a closer look, if you please.

In the absence of any attribution, a reader can rightly conclude that it is the Nation Media Group, the publishers of the Daily Nation, which is articulating its position as an institution.

This, it goes without saying could be catastrophic for the largest media organisation in East and Central Africa. By taking such a stance, there could be very grave legal, political, commercial as well as diplomatic consequences.

And if this danger could have eluded the many levels of gate-keeping in such a reputable media outlet, it is indeed worrying, in my opinion.

This is more so because on turning to the page carrying the actual story, you clearly get to see that it is Amnesty International that is making the demands, in the aftermath of the jailing of Rwanda's opposition leader.

And to recap today's lesson: Attribute. Attribute. Attribute!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012


Political talk shows, embellished with voter education undertones, are all the rage now in Kenya's media landscape. No doubt they play an important role. But great care should be taken by those hosting the shows. Make any undue value judgement and the audience will start looking at you questionably.

In a popular show aired on 24/10/12, for example, the guest was at some point addressed in racial terms. And he was told to his face that some of the problems of landlessness at the coast, were partly because of, 'you people.' 

He painstakingly had to explain that he is first a Kenyan, that his racial extraction was secondary, and I volunteer to add, immaterial in the discussion.

I have no problem with a little aggression in the talk shows but this has to be sensibly tempered. The choice of word must also not be tainted by prejudicial, stereotypical or derogatory insinuations.

And if, for instance, a member of the panel looks at the guest with a lens of racial, tribal or ethnic affiliation, that is the same lens the audience will start looking at the panelist with.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012


Kenyan politicians have heightened their vote hunting strategies, with a General Election just months away. And the local media is now inundated with daily campaigning reports of the various aspirants. But is this 'excessive coverage' adding value to the electorate?

Yes. There is all that talk about empowering Kenyans to make an informed choice at the ballot box. That the media is being used as a conduit of the political ideas at play, which are then unpacked and 'formatted' for the consumption of the general public.

But how about the now near obsession of conveying 'news' about which politician is forging what alliance with which politician? How is it helpful to know which politicians were in a secret meeting?

In my opinion, the media needs to step back and let the politicians do as they wish in their individual capacities and only report on political matters that are of weighty significance to Kenyans.

It has become too confusing to keep pace with reports of politician A one day holding talks with politician C about defeating politician B in the coming polls, only for the following day to watch or read about politician B meeting with politician C, to strategize about joining forces to frustrate politician A.

In the end, it can very well turn out that politician A, B, and C all end up on the same side.

So, spare the audience the agony of trying to understand the plots and sub-plots of political posturing, in the build up to the next General Election. Let issues and ideologies dominate the coverage in the press.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012


Many Kenyans have been asking for it. An opportunity to gauge the qualities and capacities of those seeking to lead the country after the 2013 General Election. Media houses have now set in motion plans for live presidential debates. But are the aspirants ready? Is the media ready?

Any presidential candidate not willing to participate will be seriously denting his or her chances with the electorate. But let it not be forgotten that politicians in this part of the world, generally, are not so mature professionally. (Will tele-prompters be allowed?)

Then again, there is bound to be more than two presidential candidates, (or can parties form pre-debates coalitions or do joint nominations to identify the strongest debater?)

And for the media houses behind this grand idea, which 'miracle moderator' will be able to satisfactorily lead the debates? And logistically, how will the issue of time management be addressed?

Small issues these are, compared to the greater good of empowering citizens to make a well-informed choice of their president. And the sample of views below, is an indication of the importance of this collective media project.

Thursday, 4 October 2012


What will it take for Martha Karua's presidential campaign to be accorded favourable media coverage? Is she not worthy of a slice of the prominence the press dishes out, disguised as objective coverage? And is it a coincidence that the leading politicians in the seemingly predictable opinion polls, also regularly get copious media attention?

On 30th September 2012, for example, majority of the politicians were captured in the media, selling their political agenda, which translates to 95% pure rhetoric, inundated with promises to do this or the other, if the electorate votes for them.

But Karua, the Narc Kenya presidential, was visiting the Pumwani Maternity Hospital. She not only gave a statement on the on-going strike by doctors, but also cleared the fees for some mothers.

Definitely, it can be argued that this was a calculated public relations stunt and the Kenyan media houses did not fall for that trap. But nevertheless, how can this noble act be relegated to a mere by-the way-mention, ensconced in a round-up of other 'weightier' political stories of the day?

I am not trying to agitate for fair coverage on behalf of the Karua campaign team. I am just pointing out my misgivings about how the local media is inadvertently propping up certain politicians, at the expense of others, on a not so objective platform.

It would be a different matter if, say a media house is to declare their support or endorsement of a particular presidential aspirant, and then proceed to give him or her coverage ad nauseam.

But it is foolhardy to do the same, while pretending to be non-affiliated to any political party, and still expect Kenyans not to see through the media charade.

Thursday, 27 September 2012


Children. Media. This combination presents a challenging proposition to journalists. Thrown in trauma and matters get really dicey. That is why one news reporter was recently navigating through very choppy waters, when she elected to tell the Tana River tragedy from the perspective of child victims.

Whereas thinking out of the box is often something that should be applauded, using minors to depict a very complex web of deadly violence was, to some extent, pushing the barriers towards intolerable territory.

One kid was actually being quoted saying something close to, 'then they started killing each other.' How, pray tell, is a child expected to accurately process such mentally disturbing scenarios, before even relaying the same to a journalist?

This is where I think, the best interests of the children caught up in the Tana River violence, override whatever novel and noble intentions of the news reporter.

And because children enjoy absolute privacy, then it is in their interest that their identity is protected and their trauma is not exacerbated by undue media exposure, which essentially makes them relive their horrifying experience.

After the news crews pack up and go, these kids have to continue with their life, the misery notwithstanding, and it's really unfair to only look at them as subjects of a good TV report.

Thursday, 20 September 2012


If asked what I can remember about the latest by-elections in Kenya, my answer will not be anywhere near the details of who or which party won, which parliamentary or civic seat. It will entirely have to do with one elderly man and his simple desire from the whole electoral process. Shoes.

Courtesy of a most refreshing television report by NTV Kenya's Pamela Asigi, the monotonous coverage of the mini-polls by Kenyan media outlets, did not leave an ever-lasting obnoxious after-taste.

Just check out the sampled reactions below, for a confirmation of the sterling job that Pamela did.

Thursday, 13 September 2012


Surveillance video footage, as captured by CCTV cameras, is increasingly being used by Kenyan TV stations, to illustrate crime reports. But there is need to get over the excitement of seeing the criminals at work and basing entire news stories on this factor. Why the element of surprise and yet the CCTV cameras were designed to do exactly that?

Such is the weaknesses of such news stories that opportunities to probe the 'captured crime' further, are painfully allowed to pass, which reduces the news to mere visual entertainment.

Take for instance, the Citizen TV story, about how a major supermarket chain was losing a colossal amount to 'thieving Kenyans' masquerading as customers.

The management availed CCTV footage, which the reporter used to 'great' effect, describing with military precision, how the rapacious 'clients' were going about with their diabolic activities.

What was lacking though, after one sifted through all the descriptive narration, was some bit of much needed interpretation of the situation, apart from quantifying the loss the supermarket was making.

For such a reputable chain store, one would want to believe that all the products on the shelves are barcoded or that at least the pricey items are electronically tagged. Moreover, it would also be safe to expect that sensors have been placed at the entrance of the supermarket chain in question. These would in turn easily set of an alarm, should any item leave the premise, without passing through the cash tills.

And if all these 'basic' security measures were missing, then that is where the news story was, given that the supermarket involved is not your ordinary corner-shop. But this 'obscure' angle, never seemed to have warranted any attention from the TV reporter.

Yet another similar crime story was featured by another Kenyan channel, Kiss TV. Granted, the footage had some dramatic ending. But in terms of asking hard questions, it fell into the same trap.

The pattern of 'suspected' criminals staging daring thefts, most probably in the full knowledge that CCTV cameras are in operation, raises pertinent issues that journalists need to help address, even as they strive to give some professional depth to their stories.

Instead of being as reactionary as the owners of businesses that have fallen victim to 'smooth operators' in the crime underworld, the reporters should especially, in my opinion, start making this often over-looked point.

It's all well and good to invest in CCTV cameras. But it makes a whole world of a difference, if a deliberate effort is made to ensure somebody is monitoring the footage, as it is being recorded, so that any 'captured' suspicion is promptly interrogated or apprehended, in real time!!!

Thursday, 6 September 2012


It's in the public interest, especially for Kenyans to realise just how low one of the country's renown female athlete has sunk. But in highlighting her plight, the media should not abandon ethical considerations like upholding her right to privacy, as an ailing person. The press should help Conjestina Achieng' get help but please, don't ridicule or make a mockery of her condition.

It was disturbing to watch one channel over-emphasise Conjestina's most recent case of mental instability, despite it having already been established, courtesy of another local TV channel.

Was it that necessary to air the 'extended' clips of the one time champion pugilist, primarily to showcase the fact that she's incoherent in her speech and actions?

Is this not being insensitive to the thousands of others afflicted by the same condition and debasing an already dire situation faced by Conjestina? The media should not add to the already heavy burden of those caring for or struggling to get support for mental health patients.

I honestly hope that journalists will back off and probably just concentrate on assisting Conjestina to get all the help that she requires, whilst safeguarding her inalienable rights as a human being.

And just like it one day dawned on the Kenyan media that it no longer served any useful purpose to give copious coverage to politician Stanley Matiba, after his health became an issue, Conjestina should now be allowed to recuperate with dignity and privacy.

Friday, 31 August 2012


It was a brilliant and well-told piece of investigative journalism. But the Sisters of Death went overboard in one aspect. After the shocking expose of how illicit brew was now being laced with ARV's, there was a strong element of leading others, especially the criminally inclined, into temptation.

There is almost always an underlying danger, when the media over enlightens the masses about a vice, to the extent of appearing to glorify the same vice, by elaborately empowering others to execute the very same vice.

So yes. The NTV Investigate piece unearthed the very chilling business of concocting illegal alcoholic drinks, using ARVs and other dangerous ingredients. But a step-by-step depiction of the process involved, I feel, is veering off into dangerous territory.

This is a commercial venture and somebody is making some money, albeit illicitly. There's no telling if any other desperate soul, and those who are out to profit by whichever means, could have been nefariously inspired to carry out a similarly diabolic scheme.

All they needed to do was note down, the ingredients and processes, before applying the same, or making their own equally devastating variations. And in case they missed out on some 'gory' details, there was a repeat of the Sisters of Death, ironically due to popular demand.

An attempt was made to ward off potential legal suits by blurring out the labels of the alcoholic drinks. But sadly, it appears no thought was given to the domino effect of thrusting all the minute details of the harmful trade into the public domain.

Then there is the small 'non journalistic' matter, of wanting to know just how did the reporter manage to convince the Sisters of Death to open up, under the glaring eye of the camera. There was no indication that the expose was filmed undercover.

Who would willingly allow the media to highlight an illegal activity that could well put them on the not so rosy side of the law? Thankful, the press is professionally compelled to protect sources.

Thursday, 23 August 2012


KASS TV recently celebrated one year of broadcasting. I once in a while tune in, intrigued by the audacity of a media house to venture into TV transmission using a vernacular language. But Kenya has largely been unable to harness its ethnic diversity, allowing the differences to fuel divisions. And it's this curse, which KASS FM has been associated with, that KASS TV needs to guard against.

It was interesting to follow a KASS TV discussion recently, (which unusually was in English), about the role of the media in ensuring the Kenyan nation remains a cohesive unit, especially in times of elections.

Perhaps I was expecting too much, but I hoped the discussants would touch on the pending case involving a KASS FM journalist, at the International Criminal Court, in relation to Kenya's 2007/8 post election violence.

That was clearly a long shot and a wild expectation, as the host and the guest steered well-clear of this hot topic, understandably due to contractual pressures and its attendant spirit of self-preservation.

However, this to me was a missed golden opportunity to re-assert the media house's commitment to proper journalism practise, in the full realisation that any credible media outlet should not allow itself to be (mis)used to attain narrow, selfish interests at the expense of the greater public interest.

So, can KASS TV discharge its envisioned mandate, in an environment that is still poisoned by tribal-based politics and other elements of negative ethnicity?

I think it's possible, but with a strong rider that its editorial policies need to be sober and alive to the potential dangers of being used to antagonise Kenyans, especially those that fall outside its target audience.

Thursday, 16 August 2012


Visual assault. Highly distasteful and insensitive. That does not even begin to describe the disgusting clip aired by a popular Kenyan television station, in an early morning broadcast. What the producers of the show or the editors were probably thinking would be hilarious, turned out to be very nauseating!

I can stomach, (with difficulties and regular bouts of indigestion), the numerous grammatical mistakes and elementary spelling errors, common on local TV stations. But not when the channels disregard their audiences' sensitivities

There I was trying hard to multi-task by taking my breakfast, while at the same time concentrating on the morning show of this particular TV station.

And just as I'm about to swallow a thoroughly chewed piece of peanut buttered bread, the person on the screen, pours out the contents of his guts on this poor lady he was conversing with, and follows it up with a truly despicable encore.

Now, it is all well and dandy to try and liven viewers' mornings, using hilarious and at times bizarre YouTube clips.

But before you decide to broadcast a video clip involving vomiting, please hold that thought, pause and reflect.

Are tolerance levels that universal, when it comes to watching somebody launching an inter-intestinal, stomach to mouth puke nuke?

As for me and members of my household, that will be a polite, 'Hell No!!'

Friday, 10 August 2012


Kenya's 800m Olympic champion and world record holder over the same distance, will be remembered for a very long time to come, following his heroic exploits at the 2012 London Olympics games. He single-handedly made Kenyans' hearts to beat together, as the rest of the world watched in awe.

And even if Kenya's performance is not as impressive as in the previous Olympics, Rudisha has done some serious redemption of the country's proud record in athletics, that had seemingly taken a nose dive, after a largely below par return, initially.

Below is a sample of what Rudisha's fantastic run means to both Kenya and the world at large.

Friday, 3 August 2012


Jamaican reggae star Tarrus Riley is scheduled to perform in Kenya, this August, alongside songstress Etana. Fact: They're highly accomplished artistes. Fact: I attended a Tarrus concert in London. Fact: I interviewed his father Jimmy Riley in Kingston, Jamaica. Fact, I interviewed Etana in Kingston too. Fact: I met saxophonist and Taruss's producer Dean Frazer, in Trelawny, Jamaica. Fact: I have an unshakable link to reggae music, which has pretty much defined my world view and philosophy of life.

I have carried along my decades old passion for reggae music into my nearly decades old career as a professional journalist. Has this prominently featured in my working life? Yes. I wiggled my way into covering concerts by the likes of Morgan Heritage and Burning Spear, during their tours of Kenya, (not that it was debatable in the NTV newsroom then!).

I'm sure I would have been assigned (or self-assign myself) to cover the concert by my all-time favourite reggae band, Black Uhuru, when they had a concert in Kenya in 2008.

To my utter dismay, I did not even attend the show, it having cruelly coincided with an assignment I had in Germany. I had earlier interviewed the lead vocalist Mykal Roze, when I visited Jamaica in 2007.

That self-sourced journey to the Caribbean island, as part of my TV reporting duties, I readily admit, was very much like a pilgrimage to the birthplace of Bob Marley.

And just like hip-hop, turned reggae artiste, Snoop Dogg, (now Snoop Lion?), professes, there's something almost hypnotic about the Caribbean island of Jamaica, and not necessarily ganja inspired.

But life can be kind and does at times favourable smile on someone. Having missed Black Uhuru's concert in Nairobi, in 2010, I did manage to attend a memorable show by Mykal Roze in London, which also featured the outstanding performances by Andrew Tosh and the Rasites.

So, back to the Tarrus Riley concert, Kenyans have been promised it will be a night to remember and there has been a tremendous buzz already created, in both mainstream and social media, with many bloggers hyping the Jamaican's visit, days ahead of his actual performance.

Sure, the concert has all the ingredients of a fantastic outing. But it just doesn't cut it for me, largely because, well I unfortunately ascribe to what can be accurately described as 'old school reggae.' 

And to be honest, what made me attend Tarrus's concert at Brixton's O2 Academy in East London, in 2010, was purely because he, alongside Capleton, were the opening acts for Bunny Wailer.

Now this is a true reggae legend. His performance was mystical, and as much spiritually uplifting, as it was aesthetically appealing and intellectually engaging.

And as for the Tarrus set then, the only outstanding act I can remember is his cover version of Michael Jackson's 'Human Nature.'

Etana 'the strong one' struck me as a very intelligent and an alluring conscious woman, with an almost overpowering feel of freshness, when I had a one-on-one interview with her, back in 2007 in Kingston.

But of course, I would be lying, if I don't mention her stunning smile and general physical beauty, which perfectly complemented her pure, level-headed reflections about reggae music and life.

Looking back, it's been and will continue to be a fulfilling reggae inspired journalism journey for me.

Friday, 27 July 2012


So the European Union says sanctions it imposed on Zimbabwe might be lifted, if a credible constitution referendum is organised. The US on its part says its restrictions would be removed only if there is a peaceful election. My question is, 'Who cares?' Zimbabwe has survived the worst that these sanctions could have been envisioned to bring.

So why should an African media outlet just rush to publicise what new conditions the western powers have given, for lifting the sanctions against Zimbabwe, without at least inviting discussion on whether there could be other hidden reasons, or if actually it's a realisation that Zimbabwe can as well trod on without EU or US support?

In my opinion, there is a fatal folly of the African press, reporting these developments, in the same vein as western media houses, which reinforces the domineering practise and attitudes towards Third World countries.

Similarly, is it fair for a media house in Africa to report widely that the American government has warned its citizens against travelling to the same country, where the same media house is based, due to an imminent terror attack?

That question is usually examined as an afterthought, long after the contents have been published or broadcast.

Such rash editorial decisions are mostly hinged on a blatant commodification of news, without the benefit of dissecting underlying factors or related implications of disseminating sensitive information.

Double edged travel advisories

If, in the above example, the media house is owned by Americans or caters for a clientele that is significantly American, or with substantial interests in American affairs, then it can probably not be faulted for rushing to the press, with 'gory' details of negative travel advisories.

But a media house based in Africa and majorly serving local consumers, must re-examine the elements of public and state interests, as it crafts news stories from travel advisories from 'external powers.'

It's contradictory for African media houses to deliberately seek to champion local, regional or continental concerns and at times even boldly pointing out cases of these western powers lording over developing countries, only for them to be among the first to pander to strategic interests of the same powers?

It will be interesting to examine in retrospect, how South Africa's decision to still import crude oil from Iran, will be covered by African media outlets.

I indeed at times see journalism and patriotism, as being two sides of the local currency coin.

Thursday, 19 July 2012


A book released recently is causing a storm in Kenya. The author makes some very unflattering 'revelations' about the Kenyan Prime minister, which are energetically being 'rebutted.' But it no longer is about the author and the senior politician, or his handlers. The whole nation seems to have been caught up in the ensuing cyclic brouhaha.

Mainstream and social media, blogs and other online platforms, are inundated with various shades of reactions. Check this out:

Friday, 13 July 2012


Do news sources have a right to turn down an interview request? And if they decline to comment on an issue, should they in turn be vilified or even ridiculed, when the story in question is published or aired? This has been my experience, stemming from my previous blog post. And if that's what news sources at times go through, then please, accept my apologies for all the times the media has been nasty and vindictive.

Perhaps I invited such coverage I can live with that. But this experience is eye-opening in the sense that it has brought to the fore the way the media can be manipulative. This is something, which as a journalist, I might have or even inadvertently continue to perpetuate. Hence my apologies.

It all began very politely, after this blog generated quite some interest. I received a formal request for an interview.

My reasons for declining the interview had to do with contractual obligations. But I guess the person pursuing the interview with me did not see it that way.

Notice the sharp change of tone from, when the interview was first being solicited, to the reaction after I declined the offer.

Maybe I erred by turning down the request and I have no business complaining about the contents of the published story, since I turned down a request to have my input incorporated.

I strongly felt I had said all that I needed to say, and I didn't wish the matter to unpredictably progress any further.

Pertinent question indeed. If Expression Today had approached me soon after the NTV incident, or shortly after the Media Council of Kenya magazine came out, I probably would have elected to talk to them, if I had not already put my version of events in the public domain.

I had only one bullet to use, without compromising my contractual obligations!

Thursday, 5 July 2012


T'was the night before February 4th, 2012. I was awoken from my slumber, at about 11pm, by a call from a senior editor, (whom I then reported to). For the record, (and the good folks at a leading mobile services provider can attest to this), information was passed to me, conclusively pointing to the demise of a former Cabinet minister, (now deceased). Being the duty editor the following day, and also designated to manage the online platform, I released the news to the public, via the company's social media accounts.

It was clearly a mistake. But should the blame have been entirely apportioned to an individual, or was it the company's news gathering and verification process that had failed, and hence the need for the responsibility to be borne collectively?

It became increasingly clear that my neck was squarely being put on the chopping board, going by the contents of the suspension letter handed to me, later that day. And up to this day, Bob Marley's words keep coming to mind, when I think of this incident.

Would you let the system make you kill your Brotherman?... No Dread No!

Unfortunately for me, it appeared like I was destined for sacrifice at the alter of betrayal, perhaps predictably, deserted by my colleagues, who very much precipitated my predicament.

Rather than prolong the pain from the apparent denial of fairness or justice, and the mental anguish of seeing personal professional principles I believe in, looking like they were non-existent to my senior colleagues, I resigned.

Yes. The erroneous information was sent out at about 7.30am that Saturday, retracted after about 30 minutes and an apology commendably published, suspension letter issued to me at around 3pm, before I tendered my resignation the very same afternoon.

After this dramatic exit from a company I had worked for, for nearly a decade, I opted to move on and close that horrid chapter in my career. Thankfully soon after, another opportunity elsewhere, came my way.

This episode did generate some rapid and at times rabid discussions, especially on social media platforms and the blogosphere. But I opted to keep my peace, and just watched from the sideline.

But now comes some discussions at a level that I simply cannot ignore, given the inaccuracies being propagated. My experience has now, it appears, become a case study of 'How not to practice bad online journalism.' 

In it's latest edition, a magazine published by the Media Council of Kenya, uses my example in two articles, (pardon the bad grammar), and even mentions me by name.

This presents a clear and present danger to my professional reputation as a journalist, on account of the misrepresentation of some of the facts espoused in the said articles, and more, so because the magazine is being distributed to the media fraternity in the country, from by and large, the local industry regulator.

The contradictions in the articles in question are glaring. One speaks highly of the need to captured all sides of a story, but 'conveniently' failed to seek my comment on the matter.

Moreover, there's this fixation with insisting I was sacked, which by omission or commission, suggests the company did the right thing by getting rid of an incompetent journalist, (me?)

As earlier pointed out. The information I pushed out was provided by somebody senior to me at the company. Furthermore, another senior editor did corroborate the details shortly afterwards. So, when did it become a professional crime to follow the lead of one's superiors at work?

If that information had been passed to me from somebody junior to me in the newsroom, I can guarantee that I instinctively would have cross-checked its veracity, with multiple sources and/or by counter-checking with my seniors.

Innocent but costly assumption

My assumption was that before the person I report to decided to call me, when I was asleep in my house, he had done the necessary background check and taken this sensitive information through the due diligence.

To make matters worse, I have reasons to believe that my seniors had already been made aware that the former Cabinet minister in question was then still alive, by the following morning. But none of them thought it wise to call me, to at least negate the discussion we had had the previous night.

Still, I took personal responsibility on account of having been the last gate-keeper. However, I strongly believed in this instance, there was a very necessary need to view my actions as a failure of the company's internal system, not as an indication of individual irresponsibility.

Had all these arguments been captured in The Media Observer articles, I think it would have made the content not only fair to me, but also more engaging, in terms of exposing the weaknesses of news gathering, processing and dissemination, in Kenyan newsrooms.

Friday, 29 June 2012


A new touch in news presentation in Kenya, has finally seen the entry of touchscreen monitors, to spice up the delivery of broadcast news. Yes. It is a milestone by K24. But woe unto them if they think they have reached the promised land of news broadcast innovation.

For starters, a number of other Kenyan stations have been toying with the same idea, especially in preparation of their coverage for the coming General Election, and so it's just a matter of time before other stations follow suit.

Then again, such is the copy-cat syndrome locally, that even the stations that had not considered having a touchscreen monitor in their news set, will not require much persuasion to place an order.

The good thing though is that the likes of Citizen TV, will now think twice before trying to simulate a touchscreen effect in their video wall presentations. The relaunch by K24 seems very much centred around this supposed 'new' technology and therein lies the danger. 

Just like some people always wonder, why there is so much hype around the Thika Super Highway, given that it cannot even be compared to decades-old roads, in more developed countries, that excitement could appear misplaced.

The news set, in my opinion, looks too flashy and very much like what you often encounter in a discotheque, with all the dazzling/blinding lighting. Make no mistake. It is a very big improvement on the part of K24, but I insist that for news, content will forever remain king, no matter how hard a station tries to work on the look and feel.

So, other than trying to fit in all manner of numerical or financial details in that 'wonder screen,' why not isolate a few important ones to focus on? Just like a good director of a play would advise, make more use of the entire stage.

That is what makes the touchscreen presentation by DSTV's Super Sport team look so professional and is easy to follow and understand. Get over the 'high' of fingers dancing on the screen and concentrate on the content.

Don't over-do it though, because it looks contrived. What value is added for example, by the sports anchor literally trying to place a football team's players in their individual positions, instead of interpreting how effective the chosen system is likely to be? 

Like the folks of Super Sport, keep it simple and more informative, and move away from the showing off trap. And beware of an over reliance on the touchscreen in studio presentations or discussions.

It was no joy to watch the morning show host struggling to turn newspaper pages on the monitor, as she went about reviewing the contents. What would have happened had the touchscreen malfunctioned entirely, or if God-forbid, she was unable to properly operate it then?

And just to re-emphasise the point, concentrate on the content. I instantly forgot about marvels of K24's touchscreen monitor, when the morning show host and her guest discussed a story in the paper they were reviewing, which was painfully so stale. Hours had since passed after the US Supreme Court ruled on this subject.

But to be fair, K24 has made major strides in modernising their news presentations, and what I'm pointing out could very well be dismissed as teething problems. Compared to this news set of Kenya's national broadcaster:

...K24 indeed has raised the bar. And here is a toast to their progress!!