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.




Tuesday, 31 December 2013


It's time to bid 2013 goodbye. On the Kenyan media terrain, the year has witnessed exemplary news coverage, as well as very rudimentary mistakes. It gratifyingly means there's been plenty of lessons learnt and shared. Here now are this site's most popular blog posts of 2013, in descending order.

- One Dress, Three News Presenters, Three TV Stations

- Apology Not Accepted! The On Air Error And The Naivety Terror

- A Refund Policy For Faulty Newspaper Content

- Of Live TV And Multi-Tasking, Multi-Talented Reporters

- From A Scribe To A Senator

- The Anatomy Of A High Voltage Story - Dismissing Or Defending Dismissal?

- Joint Media Production: It Shouldn't End With The Presidential Debate

- Urgent Media Audit Required After Westgate Coverage

- TV Interview, Cum Cross-Examination Cum Police Interrogation

- Discontent With The Content Of TV Morning Shows

I'm eternally grateful to everyone, who has found time to visit this blog. The interaction has been amazing and the feedback most valuable in improving the site and its content.

May blessings, good tidings and all the fulfilment you desire come to pass in 2014!

Friday, 27 December 2013


It's been a digital migration process dogged with many vested interests, (some so well hidden). It is not in dispute that the shift is inevitable. But Kenya's state of preparedness has been called into question. But so have the motivations behind the push by leading media houses to delay the process. It does however, look like the epilogue of analogue transmission is on course.

And the first phase has just started, with non-digital TV sets, and those not hooked up to a set-top box, officially going blank in Nairobi and its environs.

The arguments of whether or not the set-top devices are affordable to the majority of Kenyans, could be valid, after all, just getting by these days, requires an economical miracle for many people.

But what must not be conveniently forgotten, is that a television set is a luxury item, not a basic necessity.

And it almost goes without saying that those in a position to buy one, will almost certainly not struggle much, in order to purchase an additional gadget, for them to continue accessing broadcast programming.

This is what conversations in social media circles strongly indicate. Chances are high that some of the sentiments captured below, approximate the true feeling on the ground, about this digital migration matter.

NB: The Kenyan Court of Appeal has temporarily halted the digital migration, ordering that analogue broadcasting in Nairobi and its environs to be reinstated for 45 days, pending the determination of an appeal by three leading media houses.

Thursday, 19 December 2013


It might be a case of unnecessarily splitting hairs. But the homogeneity in sourcing, packaging and delivery of news in Kenyan TV stations has entered a new phase. News presenters across various channels are now either sharing the same clothes, or are using the same stylist or stockist.

The same way the copy-cat syndrome is rampant, especially in the electronic media terrain, where one idea is quickly 'duplicated' across news stations, is perhaps what is happening to this particular outfit.

Indeed it is not unheard of, for a particular news story aired by one channel, to somehow be 'reincarnated' in another, (without even crediting the original source of the idea).

But in this case, the question of which news presenter was the first to don the outfit, and who then pinched the 'fashion statement' is unclear.

Incredibly, the 'popular' apparel design appeared on screen simultaneously in two channels, because two news presenters had it on the same day and time!

And so, it not improbable for two media outlets to at times be working on the same idea and labelling it as 'exclusive. A bemused audience will be forgiven for wondering whether the real meaning of 'exclusivity' is being appreciated and applied by the competing stations.

Back to the dressing style though, it later on re-emerged in yet another TV station. This, an indicator perhaps, of one, how the culture of recycling has taken root in the Kenyan media space, and two, how nobody at times seems to be monitoring what the competitor has already put out.

And that's how one similar dress can end up with three news presenters in three different TV stations!

Friday, 13 December 2013


The TV depiction of how Kenya's political landscape evolved through different reins of its presidents, is outstanding. Getting first hand accounts from a multiplicity of direct participants in the historical process, also borders on the genius. But is the end product a mere newsroom version of Kenya's history?

No doubt a lot of effort was put in producing Moi, Mwai and Muigai. And the mostly appreciative feedback, especially from the social media, is perhaps indicative of the documentary having resonated well with the audience.

However, I think it's still valid to question whether the series can pass the test of factual representation of Kenya's history. Extensive research through archival material, still runs the risk of repeating any hitherto uncorrected elements.

Yes. A number of sources were used. But No. Their views were not subjected to a robust interrogation mechanism, to ascertain their authenticity, (behind the scenes cross-checking does not count here).

For example, how can the veracity of the accounts about meetings at State House with former president Moi, be established? Should we take it as gospel truth that indeed Moi was being 'lied' to by some sycophants that as he spoke, a halo-like lighting effect seemed to surround him?

And should the description of how Kenya's current Deputy President started off in politics, (an errand boy?), be taken with a pinch of salt?

What about the circumstances surrounding the death and succession battles of Kenya's first president, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta?

The intrigues have been regurgitated ad nauseam. So what 'aha' moment was realized, from watching the 'informative' series? (especially to those over 30 years).

A valuable missing ingredient, in my humble opinion, was some intellectual interpretation from a historical mind, to either corroborate, correlate or conjugate the anecdotal accounts of the numerous talking heads.

In other words, the narrator's voice could have been interspersed with expert views, from those well-versed with Kenya's historical development, to infuse some well grounded analysis, in an otherwise brilliant piece of journalism.

And then, there would have been no distinction between that 'newsroom version of Kenya's history' and the probable verifiable version.

Friday, 6 December 2013


Nelson Mandela has left the world a much, much better place than he found it. And that is the essence of humanity. He exhibited such a refined sense of selflessness, with exemplary sacrifice to the entire human race. May his legacy endure till the ends of time. Rest in Peace Madiba.

Thursday, 28 November 2013


That mistakes in Kenyan newspapers come in high frequency, is hardly debatable. Even a committed media critic can drift towards apathy. But then a gem of a howler vigorously awakens the need to deconstruct and dish out some disgust discourse. If a paper's target is smart readers, then it better confine itself to smart mistakes.

The above story, appearing in a national paper, ranks among the worst articles I have ever had the (dis)pleasure of analysing. Right from the crafting of the headline, some not so well-meaning force seems to yearn for a fist to face encounter with the sub/revise-editor.

"Kibwana tells Makueni diaspora investment"...what?....to do what?.....what?......TO DO WHAT? Suspense is good, but not when it borders the bizarre.

And just what entity is 'Makueni diaspora investment' anyway? Maybe there's clarification within the body of the story. Maybe not!

The all important first paragraph takes the confusion to dizzying heights. There's truly an exceptional effort to annihilate the English language, if it's not a deliberate act of editorial sabotage.
Governor Kivutha Kibwana has told on Saturday met Makueni residents in the disapora to invest back home. 
That such gibberish got published, is a wonder to behold. So Kibwana, it has been established, is a Governor. Everyone knows of which county, right? And there's more serving of literary disasters.
Kibwana was addressing the residents in in New Jersey, US on Saturday.
In the same illogical pattern, does the double 'in' translate to an 'out'?

No doubt I'm out now, on the double!

Friday, 22 November 2013


Three years ago, I had the opportunity of being listened to by the CEO of a leading media house in Kenya. I tried to impress on him the need to venture into Internet service provision, to bundle it with TV content. Well, not much came out of the meeting. But the country's largest mobile service operator is now diversifying into TV content provision.

I had been especially concerned by the possibility of mobile service providers venturing into streaming television content and leveraging on their wide subscriber bases.

My argument then was that to remain competitive, the media firm had to invest in Internet-based real time audience participation and feedback platforms, now even more relevant with the switch to digital TV.

Even then, it was clear that the audience was getting more assertive in choosing what to watch and when to view, whichever content.

In the discussion, I pointed out the usefulness of venturing, (like in more developed countries), into the realm of video on demand, pay per view and red button capabilities. 

More certainly had to be done, than simply uploading content on Youtube, or a media company's websites and linking the same to social media networks, to widen access and open new revenue streams.

From broadcasting to narrowcasting

Indeed, it's increasingly becoming imperative for media houses to open up interactive channels that would enable listeners, viewers and readers to customize content to suit individual tastes or needs.

In other words, broadcasting to a mass audience has gradually been giving way to 'narrowcasting' to a segmented audience. So enabling the audience to choose what suits who, in what format and which time, has been a game changer.

Subsequently, a mobile telephony enterprise, already boasting millions of subscribers plus a successful money transfer platform, and already reaping profits from data services, will have a competitive advantage, when it seeks out the traditional TV audiences.

It is highly probable that soon, Kenyans might stop tuning into TV stations, to catch their favourite programmes at 'dictated times', because the same could be downloaded on demand, even if an amount is to be charged for accessing premium content.

And that is why the audience is now king and the content is queen!

Friday, 15 November 2013


Don't worry so much if your husband goes astray. You're the Mercedes Benz, and the mistress is an inferior ride. So let the man have his way, because he will still come back to you. That is what was spewing out of a Nairobi-based FM station. When will radio presenters realise they also operate in the realm of radio journalism?

The captains of the local media industry are on record acknowledging the need to equip every radio person behind a microphone linked to an audience, with media ethics and basic journalism principles.

If that is achieved, then the case for self-regulation for the media will be cemented even further. But to continue having 'rogue' musicians, comedians, DJs and 'sales people' on air, will sustain the negative perceptions about the media industry.

Granted, the great revenue generation speared-headed by the radio 'sales people' on air, is crucial in keeping radio stations afloat. But at what or whose expense, should also be taken into consideration.

Somebody needs to keep track of what is acceptable ethical standards, and especially ensure the media, does not lead astray young people with impressionable minds.

That's why everybody is in agreement about the need for media regulation. How that is to be realised is the bone of contention.

But if nobody cares about what is in the best interest of the public, because the focus is on profits, then the media will eventually degenerate into a destructive force upon the very society it's meant to serve.

Is anybody listening?

Thursday, 7 November 2013


It seems there'll always be a truthful truth and a not so truthful truth, as far as the Kenyan media is concerned. To those in the industry, this 'misnomer' can easily be explained by the underlying slant, when it comes to press coverage. But is this being fair to the trusting and even spending intended readers?

If for example, somebody purchases a newspaper with the above headline, there is a very high likelihood of them expecting what is stated in the splash to be a truthful representation of 'sacred' facts. But what if they first take a glance at another newspaper's headline and spot something else like:

The same story is given prominence, but in not so certain terms, as the earlier one. I can bet at this time, some doubt would have begun to form in the mind of the newspaper buyer. Improbable as it may sound, at this point, the 'truth' is clearly beginning to assume another form.

Perhaps to get a clearer picture, the newspaper purchaser decides to have a third opinion. And a look at yet another paper's coverage of the same story, incredibly appears to stretch the 'truth' in another direction.

Let's narrow down the different facets of this 'true' story:

1. Drama as MPs seal Ngilu fate
2. MPs put Ngilu on the spot over illegal jobs
3. MP's ask Uhuru to sack Ngilu over irregular appointments

Tough choice indeed for the readers. Just which paper should be trusted as a bearer of  the most 'truthful' interpretation?

Well, perhaps that is for the readers to figure out, from the presented facts. And in any case, this multiplicity of views is not necessarily harmful, is it?.

But one thing is for sure, 'truth' can be damn confusing. And that is the truth.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013


Denials about officers from the Kenya Defence Forces engaging in looting, during the Westgate Mall terror attack, have now been dissipated. For a while, the Kenyan authorities had trained their negative energies on the media, for bringing to light this atrocity. That's why due apology to the Kenyan media is now overdue.

In an exemplary fidelity to truthful reporting, local scribes, and later the international press, showed the devilish operation of some security officers, in the course of carrying out angelic duties.

But questions still abound as to whether the entire truth has come out, or is KDF just doing some damage control.

This, after the public outcry that greeted their explanation of troops captured by CCTV cameras, as having only been 'looting' bottled water.

Sample below, some reactions from the social media:

Monday, 21 October 2013


It probably is a high voltage story. Especially for one particular Kenyan media outlet. But in an apparent editorial stunt, the same news outfit has put out a misleading online update. It perplexingly appears to justify that which is being so vehemently fought against.

The recently ousted Registrar of the Kenyan Judiciary, has been on the war path, in a spirited attempt to clear her name and salvage her reputation, in the wake of impropriety accusations levelled against her.

"They proceeded to carry-out their own Kangaroo investigations, the process of fair trial had not began yet they terminated my services."

So how, some one please explain, can she abruptly be purported to defend the decision by her accusers to send her packing? That is what... "defends Friday dismissal..." would imply, right?

The content of the media briefing being alluded to, is clearly contrary to the heading that is being used to disseminate the video clip via the Internet.

And if this is proved to be erroneous, it could be quite embarrassing to the said media house.

More so, given the manner in which the current flowing through this 'high voltage story' is perhaps being felt right to the upper echelons of the same establishment.

Thursday, 17 October 2013


The reporters on the ground were not clueless. The journalists, who drafted the initial script had a major hint. And the editors, who approved the final version definitely had the right idea. But the final product reeked of a herd mentality, spewed by media of mass misinformation.

In a worrying case of Kenyan media sinking into speculation territory, with careless abandon that possibly spread panic, there was a remarkable collective effort to showcase witless journalism.

Tales of devil worship paraphernalia being discovered in a recently shipped container, were given prominence in all the major broadcast news channels.

Local residents were even interviewed to supposedly lend credence to the sinister plot being woven by the media, and the juiciest sound bytes were picked, as if to help viewers conclude that indeed 'dark forces' and their perceived emissaries were at play.

Yes. There was an official from the Kenya Revenue Authority, narrating about the 'shocking' discovery. She was probably just doing her job of enlightening the public, the prudence of it all being still debatable.

But it isn't such a wild assumption that from the pictures being splashed on all the channels, a good number of viewers had from the onset linked the 'intercepted' cargo with a certain occasion in October, which thrives on horror and its associated evil or diabolic manifestations.

HALLOWEEN. This word did feature in some reports. But for some reason, a cacophony of coastal superstitions, blended with purported satanism rituals, was combined with phantasmagoric gory images, to portray a non-existent cause for concern.

Not one media house thought it wise to first probe further. And it was only days after, that reports emerged of the rather obvious intention of the importer of the 'bizarre' or 'weird' cargo.

Almost predictably, it was much a do about a planned Halloween event, at an upmarket Nairobi mall.

For a few days there, the herd mentality of the local media shone through.

And truly, elements of media of mass misinformation, reigned supreme.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013


I'm a self-proclaimed vanquisher of any sighted journalism faux pas and media-malpractices. But in the process, I have created a dangerous facade of infallibility, misguided by my supposed years of professional experience and solid academic accomplishments. Which explains my horrendous mistake and the lessons for a media Mr. Know-It-All

True, nothing beats the altruistic quest to spur superior media coverage, through constructive criticism. The lofty feeling borne out of sharing and exchanging ideas, to help others grow and become better media practitioners, is undoubtedly an uplifting experience.

That somebody somewhere appreciates the 'editorial guidance' embedded in this blog, and finds it worthy of sharing it out in their individual circles, elevates my spirit to dizzying heights.

But unbeknownst to me perhaps, pointing out others' mistakes calls for an even greater responsibility on my part, to serve as a good example of being beyond the very reproach that I seek to castigate.

Human I am though, and erring I will.

However, despite my acceptance of the inevitability of my own mistakes 'exhaling', I still find it deeply shocking, and psychologically unsettling, (not to mention intellectually disenfranchising!), that I can entirely be to blame for even elementary errors in my place of work.

Such was the case recently, when in my exuberant zeal to showcase my 'superior' grasp of matters editorial, I ended up crafting a heinous graphical eye-sore, in tandem with Taban's lexicographicide.

And this was displayed on an international media platform! And noted with a reprimand, from a gatekeeper stationed thousands of kilometres away.

Repeat with me:

I will not assume my English language competence is above average. 

I will not stop refreshing my grasp of journalism skills and command of canonical media tenets, through copious intakes of relevant literature and audio visual tutorials.

I will strive to point out any noted language mishap but not from the pantheon of linguistic gurus, but from a position of equally learning from identified mistakes.

And finally...

I will forever remember there's only one 'S' in the word 'ASYLUM' not two, like the ass I was momentarily transformed into.

Thursday, 3 October 2013


The build-up was frenetic and the buzz around the anticipated comeback of a popular talk show host, left many Kenyans in a frenzy. The country after all, still yearns for answers, after the Westgate Mall siege. But, in the end, it confirmed the futility of smoking out state officials, even in a show that is smoking!

It has become increasingly clear that government officers are not interested in giving 'wholesome accounts' of what exactly happened, when terrorists attacked one of Nairobi's premier shopping outlets.

There are just too many versions of events, and variations of key facts being disseminated. And the more the media keeps prodding, the more the confusion that is generated.

Local media houses go to great lengths to try and secure 'exclusive' interviews with top authority figures, and in all honesty, great effort is also put into coming up with questions that matter.

But there just doesn't seem to be a sufficient will to divulge 'non classified' crucial information. Whether this is justified or not, is arguably debatable.

So by now, journalists should have realised the near-non existent possibility of milking coherent information from government big shots. Attempts to put the officials on the spot, only serves to spur more contradictions.

Instead, investigative desks in the various media houses should seize the opportunity and do their own undercover probes, cross-check with relevant multiple sources and piece together comprehensive reports about the deadly Westgate Mall attack.

Note, however, that this should neither be a race to unearth the most goriest of details and footage, nor an ill-advised sprint to divulge too much 'sensitive' information.

In other words, the findings should not be used to further compromise the safety of Kenyans, but should help the country deal with any gaps in its security structures.

Thursday, 26 September 2013


Kenyan media, undoubtedly, went above the call of duty, to relay information (some misinformation too), regarding developments around the deadly Westgate Mall siege. But the coverage did expose serious gaps in both sensible and sensitive reporting. Hence the need for an urgent media audit, in tandem with probing the country's intelligence and security apparatus.

For starters, some media houses elected to do phoners with some of those trapped or hiding, after the gunmen struck. The outrage directed at the news anchors (see below) is evidence of this journalism faux pas.

It is now only human and professional, to also call the same people to establish if they made it out successfully.

If so, then they should be recipients of an apology from the reckless media houses, who put their lives at grave risk, while pursuing 'their' story.

If, unfortunately, the people called died during the siege, then the media houses should take responsibility for compromising the safety of those they called, in spite of the unfolding hostage situation.

A boot camp should also be organised for local journalists, to instill in them the necessary skills of effectively covering war, conflict or serious crimes, to be infused with a heavy dosage of attendant media ethics and security concerns.

The English language skills exhibited during live reporting, have also been measured and found to be wanting. It might not be one's first language, but that's no licence to kill its grammar and semantics.

And this, in my opinion, is exacerbated by the 'needless' need to have reporters on location and anchors in studio continue talking, long after they have made their points, and recycled them in numerous repetitions.

The good thing to note is that the audience is ever vigilante and alive to the erring ways of the media. This remarkably forced the CEO of the largest media house in the region to issue a public apology, after a horrendous and distressful choice of their newspaper's front page picture.

As depicted below, nowhere was the criticism more scathing than in social media circles.

Thursday, 19 September 2013


Oddity as an element of news is acceptable. But it helps to restrict the coverage to realistic, proven, verifiable or probable occurrences. For a national TV station to lead its prime time news with a story of how a young girl had allegedly been 'discharging' metallic objects in her stool, is a a good example of how not to masquerade hearsay as news.

For starters, there was no evidence to suggest that this unusual episode did actually happen, other than the parading of the alleged metallic objects, (which onlookers generously handled).

The entire story, it seems, hinged on the claims by the girls mother, that she actually witnessed the bizarre phenomenon. But what happened to the journalism tenet of using multiple sources?

And more importantly, did the need to seek an expert's opinion not arise? Is it even biologically possible to excrete sharp implements without suffering from internal bleeding, or other health risks?

The TV station did attempt to seek views on this story. But alas! The target was the general audience.

Time and time repeatedly, news producers delight in bringing in studio guests to analyse stories or provide expert opinion. But for this particular one, it was deemed fit to augment the apparent gaps in the story, with more uninformed reactions from viewers.

Indeed, there has been a disturbing trend of debasing news by dwelling on sensational reporting, as opposed to sticking to the factual elements and rational observations.

And that, is how not to masquerade hearsay as news!

Thursday, 12 September 2013


A while back, a newspaper used to be revered as a useful tool for improving English language skills. Schools strived to get fresh copies regularly, which students would devour rapaciously. But presently, any school will be well advised to reconsider how frequently its students are exposed to local dailies, because good grammar, no longer lives in Kenyan newspapers.

Indeed, without beating about the bush, chances of encountering harrowing incidents of the massacre of the English language in the papers, have greatly augmented. And this worrying trend, it appears, is set to continue being on the card, in most, if not all Kenyan newspapers.

It is all well and good to keep the citizenry informed, whether statistics is their cup of tea or not. But in so doing, newspaper editors should take care not to 'miseducate' readers about elements of the English language.

The opposite of import has been, is, and will likely continue to be export. The creative effort above, of coining 'emports' is noted but severely rebuked!

Similarly, no linguistic resolution has ever been passed to alter the past tense of seek from being sought. Editors need to properly sort their tenses.

And, users of the English language are not into the habit of 'magically' transforming the gender of a person, in one sentence.

It is pretty much evident that Helen Obiri is one of Kenya's fine 'female' athletes.

Moreover, readers run the risk of getting confused, if two English newspapers differ syntactically, in crafting identical headlines.

The small matter of whether or not FBI joins, or is supposed to join, could present a big headache to a learner of the English language, never mind both sentences could be correctly constructed.

It is also appreciated that titling the wife of a prominent leader has its challenges. Prominence, after all, is one of the recognised news values.

But, 'Deputy President William Ruto's wife Rachel' is a mouthful in a convoluted way.

Never underestimate the power of the comma!

Thursday, 5 September 2013


Who said Investigative Journalism has to be centred around unearthing the vile, despicable, deceitful, hidden atrocities or malpractices? Must the exposes focus on matters to do with crime, scandals or injustices? Kenyan media outlets need to also churn out investigative pieces with a happy ending.

A recent undercover story, heavy on dramatic narration and liberal use of shocking (unethical)? footage, indicates just how much resources can be put at the disposal of journalists, to very much facilitate their 'detective' work, so much so as to 'rival' that of official law enforcement agencies.

If this challenges the police, for example, to up their game, then it's largely agreeable. However, investigative journalism should not just be confined to 'comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable', in my view.

Compare the intricate, time consuming preparation and the elaborate delivery of the print and broadcast series on terrorism, with the rush to break and move forward the story about the identity of the father of the 'Namibian' winner of Big Brother Africa, and his Kenyan roots.

Going by the precedent set by the same media house, why wasn't a team from the investigative desk dispatched to Namibia, to talk to the mother of Dillish Mathew, and Dillish herself, after establishing contact with the Kenyan man claiming to be the father of Dillish?

The interviews in Kenya and Namibia would then be recorded, including the initial online chat between the Kenyan man and the mother of Dillish, where she puts the man's assertion to the test.

Then the journalists would find a way of exclusively covering the upcoming birthday of Dillish, and the resultant reunion with her hitherto unknown father. Imagine the drama from Dillish's denial of her 'Kenyan father' until her mother intervenes and intercedes to finally bring the two together, as the cameras role.

Then the investigative desk weaves the tale, tying up all the loose ends and ensuring their is a coherent flow and maximum suspense build-up, with all the trappings of TV exposes, like an arresting sound track.

And then creatives will be tasked with crafting an effective promotion across various media platforms, as a teaser, aiming to generate a deafening buzz about an upcoming family saga like no other, featuring the winner of 300,000 dollars, at this year's Big Brother Africa, and the surprise Kenyan twist.

Then on the chosen transmission date, the story is broadcast either in one piece or in instalments, within the usual newscast, or as a stand alone program.

But, my dreams aside, what did the TV station decide to do? Step one: 'exclusively' air the story of a man claiming to be the father of Dillish, and capture the denials from Dillish on social media.

Step two: hurriedly arrange for an Internet video chat between the supposed father of Dillish in Nairobi, and the mother of Dillish in the Namibian capital, and also broadcast this. Less than 5 days and the deed is done and dusted!

While its efforts are commendable, the allure of a short-lived glory, derived from breaking the story, denied the media house a wonderful opportunity to potentially present an investigative masterpiece, (with a happy ending).

That is why I strongly feel there was an ill-advised dash to dish out a delicious Dillish expose!