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 January 2012


Thursday, 19 January 2012


The welfare of 40 million Kenyans is about to be put on hold. And the interests of six citizens are about to dominate public debate and media coverage. The prospects of the six suspects at the International Criminal Court, have very much overshadowed the plight of IDPs, yet, these are two sides of the same coin.

There is no point apportioning blame for this state of affairs. If this becomes necessary, one needs only to look at the mirror, before dutifully pointing an accusing finger at what is reflected back.

But above all, may peace prevail, irrespective of the outcome of the ICC Confirmation of Charges hearings of the key post-election violence suspects.

Below, is a cross-section of views about the pending ICC verdict.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012


War. Journalism. When the worlds represented by these two words collide, there's a very high chance of the humanity in journalists coming into conflict with their professional responsibilities. And this became evident, when the crew of a Kenyan TV station covering the war in Somalia, was caught in the crossfire.

Reporting of the war on Al Shabaab, being waged by the Kenya Defence Forces, has largely been consisting of the weekly military briefings, statements by the military's spokesman and almost daily print and broadcast stories filed by the various journalists on the war front.

The news items have markedly been devoid of any real combat action accounts, and at times even difficult to distinguish real facts from war propaganda. The Al Shabaab militia after all, has also been issuing its own favourable casualty figures.

But this routine was dramatically shattered, when the Citizen TV crew got the full brunt of the implications of reporting war, after Al Shabaab militants started firing at the convoy of Kenyan troops they were travelling with.

Such is the moment many people perhaps had been waiting for, since this incursion started last October. Real frontline action. And the experience was made even more alive, courtesy of the brave cameraman, who kept filming amid all the shooting. This is a major risk, even in terms of it later being a source of trauma. In her important publication, 'Reporting War,' Sharon Schmickle observes with relief that:
"A former sense of 'macho journalism' is giving way to a smarter approach that is grounded in scientific wisdom about trauma and its costs to people and job performance."
But the way the story was told in the subsequent evening news, however, was to me disappointing on two fronts. One, Citizen TV found it a tad too important to bask in the glory of being in possession of the exclusive dramatic footage, to the extent, I feel, of watering down the impact of the encounter.

Much as that story was visually thrilling and warranting some chest thumping by the channel, it provided a window into the dangerous world of the soldiers, fighting hard to safeguard Kenya's national security. And not forgetting the possible mental anguish of the journalist covering the same.

It would thus have been appropriate for the station not to appear too excited for getting this scoop, especially given the way their reporter on the ground appeared so shaken by the day's event, because this was in conflict with the 'celebratory' tone used in delivering the story.

Secondly, I think mixing the facts of the story and the personal experiences of the crew in the main story did not work well. Both perspectives are extremely important and this is why I expected two separate stories.

Proper context has to be provided, for viewers to appreciate why the reporter is more of a human being than a journalist, when he is recounting the frightening details of being caught up in enemy fire.

Otherwise, it would be very easy to ask, 'What does a journalist covering a war expect, if not to touch fear, taste blood, hear explosions, see dead bodies or smell death itself?' Maybe, but this does not mean the journalist has to always react with professional distance. Sharon Schmickle says:
"Allow yourself some normal response. Sure you are a brave correspondent, but you also are a human being with deep-seated emotions that may startle the journalist in you."
So let's applaud journalists covering war and lessen their peril by allowing them to once in a while keep aside their professional responsibilities and be human in reacting to the dangers they encounter.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012


A television news crew on a New Year's eve assignment, stumbles upon a gang of youths, daringly robbing people in the streets of Nairobi. The crew keeps the camera rolling and the next day, the story is in the main bulletins. Did the news crew commit any moral crime?

According to some people, it was unfair for the TV crew to have just continued to film, as people were being mugged openly. Here is a sample of some of the complaints about this particular story.

'Seriously, am a big fan of NTV but after watching that clip, I realised you are only after news and you do not care about the common guy that was being mugged! Your editorial team is heartless.'
'Shame on the media for enjoying the miseries of the common mwananchi.'
'NTV crew says you trailed the muggers for 30 minutes, why didn't you alert the Central Police and you have their hotline numbers? Only to show Kenyans you are working and can't help them. Shame on you.'

It is during the coverage of such stories that one gets to appreciate just how complex the work of a journalist is, how difficult it is to meet perceived expectations from the public, and how easy it is to be vulnerable to all manner of condemnations, for simply doing you job.

This is what one of the NTV crew members had to say about this particular story:
"We were actually on our way to film another story, when we noticed a gang robbing people in the streets. As we trailed them, we kept warning people to avoid going in the gang's direction and urged them to stop using their cell phones openly. But sadly, some ignored our advice. The gang was violent and we too had to think of our personal security and that of the filming equipment.  We did try to inform the police officers on patrol that we came across, but it seems like they were a bit overwhelmed because the gang kept changing their movement from street to street."
So there you have it. The team did it's best in having the welfare of those being attacked at heart, other than just focusing on the unfolding crime story.

This story, perhaps reflects the eternal predicament faced by journalists globally. Do you detach yourself from the suffering of the people you are doing a story about, or do you put your professional responsibility aside and be human first?