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, 30 May 2012


Kenyans are getting increasingly sceptical about the ability of state security agencies to guarantee their safety. Those charged with protecting citizens seem to lack pre-emptive strategies, choosing instead to take a reactionary approach, after nefarious terror attacks. And Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere's error in assessing the cause of the latest blast is further raising the anxiety.

After Kenya's military entered Somalia, in pursuit of Al Shabaab militants, it was expected that there would be plenty of retaliatory attacks, as promised by the radical Islamists.

So why is there an almost obsession-like urge to associate every grenade blast or improvised explosive device attack with Al Shabaab? Isn't that an almost already established fact?

In any case, how does knowing the people, who carried out a terror attack, help the victims, especially given that the attacks have become such a regular feature?

The state security agencies should allocate more resources towards preventing future terror attacks, than investigating past ones, which have already resulted in loss of lives and damage to property and livelihoods.

Below is a sample of the anger and frustrations directed at Kenya's Police Commissioner, after another blast, this time right in the middle of Nairobi's CBD.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012


Once again I feel compelled to emphasise the need for Kenyan media houses to balance their reportage. Again, it all has to do with enabling the audience to see the complete picture. If you are comparing provision of public healthcare between Kenya and the UK, e.g., don't just dwell on the strengths of the National Health Service, as if blind to its renowned failures.


Granted, many Kenyans would appreciate a comparison of a working national social healthcare system, for them to get an understanding of what the NHIF plan to roll out the same locally, would be like. And there is definitely nothing wrong with highlighting the organisational or structural components of the NHS.

But I feel it would have been equally important to point out weaknesses or challenges that NHS has had to contend with. These are well documented, like the latest report, which suggests that, 'NHS failings lead to deaths of 24,000 diabetics each year.'

As a matter of fact, there's a webpage that has plenty of links in a, 'List of articles chronicling the failures of the NHS and other socialised medical systems.'

Incorporating some of the negatives of NHS, in NTV's presentation, would have added immense value to the local debate and unfolding scandal, as the NHIF, which is Kenya's equivalent to the UK's public health insurance provider, seeks to implement a social medical scheme.

It would have made it plain to see that no system is perfect, when it comes to deliverables, and that after dealing with the issues associated with 'corrupted' public tendering processes locally, the problems would be far from over.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012


Balance. Getting all sides, before publishing or broadcasting an accusatory news story. This is what any credible journalism should strive to do. But this is hardly ever the case, when the local press highlights the plight of Kenyans abused or mistreated, while working abroad.

Readers and viewers get to know in great detail, the ordeal of the locals, at the hands of 'beastly' foreign employers. But this is solely based on the information volunteered by the aggrieved parties.

Is it right then for the press to take the account of the 'victims' as the gospel truth? Is there no need for a semblance of a verification process, or cross-checking of the facts.

This brings to mind the book, 'Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, As Written by Himself.' Here was a fabulous story of the perils encountered by Frederick, as he escaped to freedom, from the shackles of slavery.

But because the narration was all his, the best the publishers could do was insert, 'As Written by Himself' in the title, as a subtle disclaimer.

In other words, somebody could be spinning an outrageous tale of how life was unbearable for them as domestic workers overseas. And if is there's no proper interrogation of their story by the media, then who knows where to draw the line between fact and fiction?

Of course it would be justifiable to argue that local journalists have no capacity to get the side of those being accused of perpetrating heinous human rights abuses, the 'culprits' being thousands of kilometres away, and all.

But even if the victims could be telling the truth, the reporters/editors still go wrong, in the manner in which they relay the 'harrowing experiences' of some Kenyans seeking to earn an honest living abroad.

And it has all to do with certain words like claim, allege, according to, etc, which are often conspicuously absent in such reports, and which could help transfer the burden of proof to the subjects in the story.

So please forgive me if at the end of such news stories, (not where death is involved), I'm quick to add, 'As written/narrated by himself/herself.'

Tuesday, 8 May 2012


Is ambiguity the new method being employed by Kenyan newspapers to show they are non-partisan? It's either that by a very long shot, or some writers of headlines for local papers have not been doing a good job. 

Going by the recent trend, the challenges of English grammar are proving to be more than a handful for editors, who normally have a mouthful of expletives for reporters with wanting language skills.

In the front page above, two scenarios are possible. One alludes to an answer from Raila, Kenya's Prime minister, to Mudavadi, Kenya's Deputy Prime minister, as a reaction to Mudavadis' exit, (from ODM: the political party)

It is similarly possible and correct to infer that the headline talks of Raila's answer to Mudavadi, as a reaction of Raila's exit, (from God knows what!)

So which scenario did the headline writer intend the reader to use in making sense of the paper's splash? Going by an understanding of local politics, the answer is obviously the former.

In this front page, the emphasis appears to have been placed on making sure the words chosen for the headline fit within the allocated two decks, as opposed to them making grammatical sense, which is a pity for a leading daily.

'To Defend,' simply hints at somebody doing an action. So the doer of the action here is Raila, I suppose. And the headline should thus have read, 'Raila plans to defend ODM's Western turf.'

Or going by the pattern of being ambiguous, it would also have been correct if the sentence was changed to, 'Raila's plan to defend ODM's Western turf.'

And a wild interpretation would be, the paper was 'urging' Raila to plan to defend ODM's Western turf.

And this last example is just a plain massacre of the English language, and a shameful violation of the noble role of any credible mass media outlet: to communicate clearly!

Where did the Ministers sends (sic) the NHIF chairman?