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.




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!