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, 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!!!

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