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, 31 March 2012


A sacking in the Kenyan Cabinet has precipitated a fallout that has sucked in religion into the already dirty field that is politics. The trend has for a long time been to link top political appointments to ethnic or tribal extractions of the beneficiaries. So is religion the next frontier of tribalism?

My belief is that if one deliberately sets out to pin-point instances of tribalism, one is going to encounter so many cases of the same. Why? If you are looking at the world with tribal lenses, all you will see is tribalism everywhere.

And therein lies the danger of dragging religion into this dangerous way of playing politics. Beware. Be warned.

Thursday, 22 March 2012


A TV screen in Kenya, during news time, can have a station's logo, a clock, two lines of lower-third story-tags, and below it, a scrolling ticker. The viewer is expected to follow what the news anchor is saying, despite all these distracting elements. I have no problem with a relevant still image behind the anchor, but having a live video feed of a busy night street is stretching it.

How is one expected to keep the concentration going, if right behind the news anchor, there is all manner of tiny movements, as vehicles keep passing by with their headlights on and some even flashing?

'Caring stations' go to the extent of warning viewers if a clip they are about to see has flash photography, which has been known to trigger inherent medical conditions. So you can imagine the agony of such a patient, watching news on this particular studio set.

And what really is the aesthetic value of having such a 'horrid' background as a news set? I find it too busy and a major hindrance to following what the anchor is saying.

I wonder how many people, who like me, have noticed there is even a greenish neon sign that keeps lighting up and switching off, on one side of the anchor.

In the end, the eyes gradually begin to get fed up with this visual assault and the itch for the remote becomes irresistible.

NB: a colleague just mentioned to me he also gets uneasy watching the streamed video on this studio set. His source of discomfort however, comes from what he says is the lack of a sufficient depth of field. This he says, always makes him anxious about the possibility of the news anchor falling down, backwards!!

Thursday, 15 March 2012


The rate at which Kenyan media are adopting the latest technology is painfully slow. Forget the Third World identity or the 'non-fairness' of expecting local stations to measure up with their counterparts in the developed world. If you think 'villagized globe,' then outracing the snail is still a fail.

So yes. It was pleasant to see a Kenyan TV station 'spicing up' its news presentation with an anchor having a live link to different locations like South Africa, Uganda and the United Kingdom, albeit using a Google-based platform.

But the quality was a bit on the not so pleasant end of the scale. Admittedly, such a live cross connection was inherently fraught with technical challenges, that at times made the segment look amateurish.

More resource and technology-endowed media companies would perhaps have insisted on getting the basic broadcast benchmarks right, before going on air.

That is perhaps the reason many news stations have been reluctant to use Skype, for example, its relatively cheap set-up notwithstanding.

I just can't but however wonder, why one of the participants could not have been properly briefed about where to look, when giving her views. The way she was looking off-camera/screen and unnaturally craning her neck almost obscured her passionate contribution to the debate.

But at least the conversation kept going and the sharing of views from multiple international locations, made this particular coverage of the International Women's Day to stand out, when compared with what other local channels had to offer.

Thursday, 8 March 2012


A week to the release of the 2011 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exam results, I argued the local media needed to get an assurance from the Kenya National Examination Council that everything was in order. And now, we have riots over cancellation of some exam results, which the local media is happy to highlight.

Based on past monumental errors linked to how KNEC had been discharging it's duties, I had urged the media to be proactive in seeking to smoke out any irregularities, and among other issues, help ascertain:

"That all cases of cheating and other malpractices have been validly identified, cross-checked and the fate of the culprits justifiably sealed."

It has since emerged that no KNEC official was present in Northern Kenya, to supervise the 2011 KCSE, and yet the cancelled results that sparked off riots, happen to be from the same region.

According to Capital FM, KNEC's Chief Executive says lack of security and inadequate staff prevented them from monitoring exams, which led to widespread cheating. In a way, does it mean  the dishonest candidates were encouraged by KNEC's shortcomings?

But back to my bone of contention, these are some of the issues the local media should have sought to expose, before the release of KCSE results, instead of only waiting to give immense and reactionary coverage to the aftermath of cancelled exam results.

And for that, the local media scores an F.

Thursday, 1 March 2012


"He said, she said" isn't journalism. Throwing your reporting at the page and hoping that the reader figures it all out isn't journalism. Journalism demands judgement - decisions whether a story is newsworthy, and judgements about the truth of information included within that story.

These words by Robert Niles ring so true. And a good way to test this profound journalistic wisdom is by applying it to the much hyped 'Justice for Cherono,' feature, recently screened by a local television station.

The content and treatment of this story appears to have irked many critics, some of whom questioned the inability of the reporter to fulfil their heightened sense of expectation, which was fuelled by the heavy promotion the feature had  received.

The debates even went to the level of people questioning the manner of dressing of the said reporter, especially when she was interviewing the mother of a rape victim.

But sticking to the core details of the feature, which was delivered in two parts, a number of other salient sores stick out. The first has to do with the re-enactment story-telling technique.

Established standards of media practise require that whenever the details of a story are acted out, then that needs to be clearly identified as such, even if they are rendered in black and white to sublimely indicate they are not real.

Rules for Re-enactment

So other than just dramatising the sequence of events surrounding the sexual assault of the girl, those parts of the story should have been clearly carried an on-screen re-enactments label. I wouldn't be surprised if some souls out there remain solidly convinced that a television crew was present, as the girl was being assaulted.

But more importantly for me, I expected the story to provide new insights, fresh revelations or at least something out of the ordinary to make this feature to be more compelling to watch.

Instead, it was flat and unlike Niles's wise counsel, the story was thrown to our screens, hoping that we figure it out. And that is not Journalism.