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, 30 December 2014


The journalist kept pleading. But the security officers were adamant the law had been breached. The journalist explained there was no better way to tell the story. And the response was that a court of law would be the best judge of that. This did not happened. But it does describe a possible hazard for a scribe with a borrowed firearm, who is tempting the devil in daredevil reporting.

So, imagine a very brave and quite outstanding journalist seeking to highlight the security gaps in public places. She courageously straps a real and loaded gun on her back.

She manages to go past the security desk at the entrance of a popular mall and heads straight to a supermarket, and mingles with the shopping multitudes.

To further test the security apparatus in the mall, she positions herself next to CCTV cameras and daringly reveals the lethal weapon dangling on her back.

Nothing on Cam 1, not a bleep on Cam 2 and Cam 3 is not even functioning.

As she makes her way out, she gets this urge to turn and look back. What she sees are three heavily built security officers, who first floor her effortlessly, before rapidly frisking her and hoisting her shoulder high, after retrieving the firearm.

What follows in the back room is a ruthless interrogation, punctuated with actual bodily harm. The questioning is rigorous and furious:

"Have you been licensed to carry a firearm? How did you get past the metal detectors? What is your motive? Why did you scare our shoppers and cause panic in the mall?

"I'm a journalist. I'm an investigative journalist."

"Do you have a firearms certificate?"

"No. I briefly borrowed the gun from a licensed gun holder."

And then the journalist is told she will be charged with contravening the Laws of Kenya, Chapter 114 Firearms Act, Part Two, Section 4 (1), which states:
No person shall purchase, acquire or have in his possession any firearm or ammunition unless he holds a firearms certificate in force at that time.
Yes. This never happened. What we saw was a chilling, yet compelling reality check of how major security lapses continue to exists in public places, even after deadly terror attacks.

This may have made a great TV news investigative piece. However, things might have taken a dramatic turn to the detriment of the journalist, keen on delivering a public interests expose.

Journalism, indeed, is not a career for the faint-hearted. But journalists do have a heart, which needs to be preserved, even while chasing the greatest story.

Do have a hearty 2015!

Tuesday, 23 December 2014


It was arguably the stormiest session in the history of Kenya's parliament. And it's easy to say the chaos was a reflection of the society, or that we get the leaders we deserve. But I say this is the best time to impart civic education and show the impact of voters' decisions, in that August House of disgust.

The dishonourable conduct by supposed Honourable Members of Parliament is a direct product of the majority of ballot box decisions.

The power vested in the people is invested in representatives, who in turn enact laws that ideally should be in the best interest of the electorate. But that's not always the case, is it?

So, the acrimony we witnessed was largely made possible by using democratic means to create an autocratic National Assembly.

But all the local media gave us was mostly the drama, during the passing of the Security Laws Bill, and a heightened sense of how it limits inalienable rights/media freedom, while bashing the conduct of the Speaker, Opposition legislators and MPs from the government side too.

I think some analysis of how we got here could have added great value.

A comparison between the current parliament dominated by one political player, and the previous one, where there were persistent stalemates because no side could have its way unchallenged, could offer useful insights, to guide the electorate in the next General Election.

Below is the furious reactions in social media, during and shortly after the acrimonious passage of the now duly enacted Security Laws.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014


Perhaps it was one of those very remarkable coincidences. That two photographers clicked away from the same position, with the same subjects in frame, and other pictorial perspectives also being constant. Or maybe, it's a case of two photojournalists, one photo, but two newspapers.

It definitely is that classic portrayal of one significant moment frozen in time. And even a momentary glance offers ample evidence why the picture was splashed on the 'coveted' front page spot(s).

The subject in the foreground is just about to kick some bu...wait...the bu...hold on...yes, has kicked a ballot box... or presumably some other election/nomination related material.

And because the Kenyan press is possessed with posturing, such a photo had to be given prominence, so as to profit from pandering to partisan politics.

Now swiftly getting back to the two photojournalists, one photo but two newspapers-

- is it remotely possible that one identical scene can be captured simultaneously by two photographers, and be similarly framed but differently cropped?


Looks can be deceiving but deceptions can also look alike.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014


The news report says the man was drunk. The result of his drunkenness is a number of angry motorists lamenting about their damaged vehicles. The inebriated man is arrested. Then a news reporter on the scene, seeks the drunk's side of the story. Does this add any value? Kenyan newsrooms need to sober up.    

It's noble for the reporter to want to give a balanced account of what exactly happened. And perhaps the viewer could be in need of some proof that the 'culprit' was indeed intoxicated and justifiably linked to the mayhem on the road.

But is it necessary to attempt to know from the man, what it is he had exactly imbibed and in which drinking hole? Given his state of inebriation, is it plausible to expect a coherent response?

If the police officers were doing the interrogation, then it's understandable because their work entails gathering information to help their case, at the prosecution level.

However, for a journalist to take that line of questioning with a drunk, is in itself a not so sober approach.

And having the interview of a drunk in the final TV news story, shows a tipsy side of editorial decision making.

Thursday, 4 December 2014


Whoever pays the rent gets the master bedroom, right? That seems to be the thinking in newsrooms as well. So advertisers can get the choicest of spaces, because they help the newspaper to meet its bottom line obligations. Where commercial interests lord over public interest, emaciating editorial to fatten advertising fatcats is fine.

Many Kenyans have been calling for changes in the state security structures.

And when that finally happens, albeit after the tragic loss of many lives, does that story warrant front page prominence?

For all the major dailies, that was an easy decision to make. But one particular paper opted to seize the moment and pull a 'brilliant' marketing stunt.

The headline was there alright, just to show the editors were aware of the biggest news story then.

But it looked as if the single sentence was intruding on the space reserved for a 'glorious ' advert.

Why should even a good story, laden with public interest elements, come in the way of a full colour sales pitch, and ruin the chance for the audience to grab a great bargain?

Sadly, you can't entirely blame the paper for focusing on who butters their bread. Somebody has to pay their bills you know, and leave sufficient profit to excite shareholders.

Enter the reign of adverts, exit news content being king!

Thursday, 27 November 2014


It's becoming clear the Kenyan media is degenerating. The competitive nature of the news means content is now constantly being primed to generate profits, pageviews, viewership, readership, ratings, retweets, likes and online hits. I rebuke the local media for personifying the Kenya we don't want.

I rebuke the media for being opportunistic: 
Journalists conveniently overlook the fact that they are in a position of actualising positive change, given the nature of their careers. They instead choose to score points by posing as the conscience of society. And yet a glance at Westgate attack coverage, shows the shameful prejudices being castigated in the media, are frequently perpetuated by the same media.

I rebuke the media for being selfish: 
Laws become draconian mostly if they threaten the profit margins of media houses. For any other sector, the aggrieved are encouraged to move on.

I rebuke the media for being inept at portraying the big picture:
The President might have been away from the country, but the Presidency was very much around. If the Deputy speaks in the absence of the President, the Presidency can be said to have spoken.

I rebuke the media for being inconsistent: 
One moment the President is praised for being accessible to the public, then it becomes excessive PR, before selfies become despicable.

I rebuke the media for being shortsighted. 
Media representatives are invited to State House and despite very ominous signs, hardly anyone has the foresight of raising the issue of insecurity, preferring mostly to wallow in shameful soliciting for state appointments. How then does one transform into a latter-day saint for reminding the President to firmly deal with insecurity?

I rebuke the media for being a philanderer: 
Maintaining close links and benefiting from illicit relations with political and commercial interests, while public interest and editorial integrity wither in the background.

I rebuke the media for being insensitive: 
Reporting about a horrific tragedy, with the dominant image of a smiling face.

I rebuke the media for being incurably reactive: 
The strange irony of castigating the government for only scrambling to contain a bad situation, long after the diabolic event. Yet that's exactly what the media does, when providing coverage, in spite of the tethered hordes of resident analysts.

I rebuke the media for being gifted in parachute reporting:
Pretending to understand the underlying issues shortly after landing in a conflict area.

I rebuke the media for being quick to misplace priorities: 
Irresponsibly reporting about weapons being allegedly found in places of worship, and then wailing the loudest, when radicals use the skewed coverage to justify the massacre of Kenyans.

I rebuke the media for being allergic to reason:
The media allocate acres of space and tonnes of airtime to highlight maniacal and debased sexual assault in the guise of upholding decency standards. But ignores its own contribution, through its hyper-sexed news delivery.

I rebuke the media for allowing politicians to frequently set its agenda:
The relevance of an issue is many a times, inversely proportional to how many politicians have raised it, and directly proportional to the square root of nonsense!

Thursday, 20 November 2014


There has been an outpouring of intelligent discourse and at times emotional outbursts in the Kenyan capital. This was sparked by very unfortunate and criminal acts of stripping women in public. Is the press only capable of adequately covering this issue, if female journalists get the assignment? Is the stereotyping helpful?

The mainstream media latched on this story, after it generated quite a storm on social media. So when a major protest was organised, news crews were dispatched to capture all the possible angles, as offended women and men, demonstrated their anger at the assault of women's rights to dress as they please.

Remarkably, all the local TV news stations deployed a female journalist to cover the event. Was this a deliberate editorial decision and if so, what informs such stereotypical thinking? And has it got anything to do with the gender of the assignment editors?

For starters, those who were stripped of their dignity in public are like any other human being, before one looks at them as women, so any other 'sane' human being should be able to identify with their predicament.

In other words, this was not simply a case of women's rights being trampled upon, but a serious violation of human rights.

That's why I find it strange that locally, its female reporters who took up this assignment. And come to think of it, most of the TV stories by the international media also had a female voice.

Are we saying male journalists are not able to sufficiently connect with this issue? Or maybe in this case perhaps, any professional detachment with the subject matter was not required.

Incidentally, the men were more than adequately represented in one area, during the news gathering process.

Virtually all the people filming the dramatic footage were, well cameramen!

There's a demon lurking in every demonstration.

And justifiably perhaps, this is where the innate brute force of men in this profession comes in, as the women handle the delicate matters of reporting.

See how demeaning that sounds?

However, there are aspects of human nature that even the best of equality policies cannot help us transcend.

My brain, my thoughts!

Thursday, 13 November 2014


Cartoons found in the editorial page of a newspaper usually make useful commentary on social, economic or political issues. They are loaded with humour and satire, which undoubtedly offer lessons that linger after the laughter. But this is not to say they have an express licence to be licentious. The point need not be blunted by pointless voyeurism.

The above illustration, though probably making a poignant point, appears to have gone overboard as far as common decency standards are concerned, especially given that it was published in a national paper that purports to uphold family values.

Moreover, the artist, it seems, might inadvertently invite unwarranted introspection of the morals of the depicted characters, because parallels can be drawn between real life personalities and the context of the illustration.

Whether this can precipitate a lawsuit is very much debatable but what should not be objectionable is how dangerously close the cartoon is to descending into decadence.

The same message that the 'offending' editorial cartoon is trying to make, has been cautiously delivered in a rival paper, (very remarkably on the same day).

The setting is at the 'pre-honeymoon stage', which is much bearable than a 'post-coital' scenario.

Still, legal minds can help to evaluate whether this in injurious to the reputation of certain people within the Kenyan society.

It does take guts and other associated circular appendages from the human anatomy, to boldly publish evocative and provocative editorial cartoons, but not everyone in the intended audience will be having a ball, (oops!)

Thursday, 6 November 2014


Journalism and Mathematics in Kenya are at best suspicious acquaintances, or at worst sworn enemies. That's why it at times gets so hard to understand a news story involving numbers. Yes, your forte is dealing with words, but as a journalist, you need to get over any disappointing maths grades from yore, and be able to crunch numbers. Failure to do so can lead to editorial embarrassments.

The article above is premised on deficient numerical skills. Something has gone terribly wrong with the conversion of US dollars into Kenya shillings.

It's not a very 'complex' calculation, like say:

Unfortunately for the reader, the writer generously uses a heavily bloated figure, erroneously arrived at, to buttress the rest of the article and subsequently make an impossible analogy with the cost of constructing the Thika Super Highway.

But something more worrying catches the eye, other than the millions masquerading as billions, in the estimation of the article's author.

If this kind of writing is coming from a supposed senior person in a newsroom, what is to be expected of the overall standards in that media outlet?

So, it's no surprise that a very accomplished Kenyan can be described as a, 'Board of Trustee'!

Hey, people, and here I was thinking, "The best things in life are free."

Thursday, 30 October 2014


It is expected that public interest should be the top most priority in Kenyan news organisations. But if there is a slight hint that other interests are being projected, be they commercial or personal, then the value of a media outlet diminishes in the eyes of the public. A News presenter hawking products amounts to conflict of interest, by promoting self-interests and abusing newsroom privileges.  

It's mildly tolerable to see a thinly veiled product endorsement during the delivery of TV news. But to covertly make a sales pitch, by channelling the attention of viewers to what a news presenter is wearing, and later using social media, to indicate where such an attire can be purchased, is broadcasting narrow interests.

Are we saying the news presenter should also be looked at the same way one checks out a mannequin, while shopping for clothes?

To be honest, I would personally have no problem if the news presenter showcases outfits by underprivileged people in society, for example, struggling hard to eke an honest living, because the provided visibility will go a long way in uplifting lives.

Granted, using your access to newsroom cameras, to advertise products from a company you have vast if not controlling interests in, is deviously ingenious.

But the devil in the finer details of what a news presenter is wearing, should not be the primed focus of the prime time viewer.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014


It's amazing how many Kenyan media outlets just never seem to permanently want to deal with quality issues. Revise editors, sub-editors, news editors and any other similarly titled newsroom 'officers' tasked with cleaning up print or broadcast stories, need to 'grammar up' their gate keeping. Failure to do so amounts to scoring editorial own goals against their media teamwork.

So, if the publisher of the above 'starring paper' is to be believed, when Southampton scored eight goals against Sunderland in the English Premier League, one of the goals was called 'Wanyama.'

In other words, the captain of the Kenyan football team was not among the goalscorers of Southampton, because in the land of the semantically challenged, he was instead one of the eight goals.

Such carelessness raises credibility doubts because, if a newspaper or TV station mistreats the manner of transmitting or displaying information to the audience, then who knows if factual elements are also ill-treated?

Take for example, this 'gallant' attempt by a Kenyan TV station, to give rare prominence to news events happening elsewhere in Africa. Apart from the Nairobi studio analysis, there was also a live signal from Pretoria.

However, there was one glaring eye-sore of a mistake, during this particular duration of the live coverage. The name of the main subject in the story was spelt wrongly.

This court case had been attracting copious global media attention and yet a respectable local media house has the guts to get the spelling of 'Pistorius' wrong on air for so long!

But such shortcomings have become a frequent sighting in the local press. And, as captured by my colleague, some errors are too comical to be considered tragic.

But whether it was a slip or the editor was asleep, it remains awfully sloppy

Tuesday, 14 October 2014


To be in the glare of studio lighting, eyes on the prompter, ears bombarded with instructions and being able to flash smiles promptly, while always thinking on your feet, is no mean feat. The emotions of a TV presenter, however, have to be on a short leash, lest tears lead to ruined makeup.

For the longest of time, I've been hearing the fear of ladies ruining their makeup from crying, only being verbalised. Then comes this night, when a TV presenter actually sheds tears, while interviewing her guests.

It's true. Teardrops can cut through makeup from the foundation to the top layer.

So, what is a presenter supposed to do, when being human, combined with being passionate about one's job, yields tears in a live TV setting?

I will not even pretend I have an answer for that.

The presenter here, said she 'cries' when she laughs a lot. To be fair, she looked amused, although I didn't sense any particularly hilarious comment from her guests, which could have triggered her 'weeping' in studio.

Thankfully, the guest for the subsequent week's interview was an actual comedian. My anticipation was that after a few killer jokes from the funny-man, a stream of tears would gush from the TV presenter. I was monitoring the makeup.

Alas! Despite the comedian's best efforts, the tears were a no show in this show.

The closest it came to the tear zone was a cheeky reminder to self by the TV presenter, to keep her cool, now more aware of the need to keep the makeup on her cheeks region unscathed, by any outpouring of emotions of the laughing-crying type.

And so the mystery remains: crocodile tears aside, were the tears tearing through the TV presenter's makeup, tears of joy or tears of coy?

Feel free to tear me apart.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014


The Kenyan Constitution is widely and readily available. Yet, despite all manner of legal experts interviewed in the local press and frequently brought into TV news studios, no journalist or media house in the country, could make a wild guess as to what Uhuru Kenyatta's final move would be, ahead of his ICC summons. That is the bane of a backward looking, clueless Kenyan media.

The press, in this part of the world, chooses to be 'shocked' alongside the consumers of the information it distributes.

The media specialization it seems, is in churning out hordes of stories and endless analysis, exploring every available new angle, but only after a story has 'broken' then literally bombarding the audience with excessive information.

It might be a long shot, but I strongly believe that a closer look at the country's Constitution, 'ably' aided by the input of legal minds and 'all-knowing' analysts, should have made one gem of a journalist out there, consider the possibility of Kenyatta invoking Article 147 of the Constitution.

Yes. Thank you for the reminder. I'm part of this massive failure.

It's no wonder that national Agenda Setting is a very minor role of the local media, which lives and thrives on purveying the interests of political or commercial forces, camouflaged as public interest.

There's simply no capacity being invested in, to strategically empower the media to be able to see what's coming, ahead of the rest of the country.

At least it should be 'comforting' to know that if calamity strikes, the local media and its audiences will all be terribly caught unprepared.

Thursday, 2 October 2014


Coverage of children in the media warrants utmost of sensitivity. Their vulnerabilities should not be amplified, while seeking to highlight their plight. That's why it was almost absurd for a Kenyan broadcast station, to deem it fit to have a news item of children demonstrating against a 'rape' case. It's a case of the media righting wrongs against child rights the wrong way.

It's first of all an indictment of a society that cannot protect its own children, leaving the little helpless ones at the mercy of beastly miscreants, who rob them of their innocence, in the vilest of conceivable ill-manner.

The intention of the media may be noble, in covering such debased behaviour by adults, preying on defenceless tots. But even so, care must be taken not to worsen a bad situation.

Aside from the need to get (written) consent from parents or legal guardians, before filming and broadcasting the protest, it's highly likely the children were prompted by adults to participate in a public demonstration.

And the fact that they were demonstrating against sexual assault, means there is a chance this sensitive matter was discussed either amongst the children or with grown-ups.

Such a negative context is surely not the way to impart sexual education to post-toddlers and pre-teens, via the media.

The TV station erred in opting to broadcast the story, without even a care about concealing the identities of the demonstrating children.

Ethics should always apply in coverage of children in the press, especially because their right to privacy is absolute.

Abso-godam-lutely! (sorry).

Tuesday, 23 September 2014


Media outlets in Kenya like publishing or broadcasting 'wonderful' news. A feel good story helps to reduce the impact from heavy bombardment of negative news. But alas! Local TV news channels can also re-invent known inventions! Behold the 'inventor' of the aeroplane from South Sudan!

Inventors are known to have played a major role in transforming the world and greatly enhancing the quality of life. Take flying for instance, so much convenience has rarely taken to the skies.

It apparently is not common knowledge, however, that the aeroplane was 'successfully' invented in the early years of the 20th century.

If the lower third tag of this TV story is to be believed, the Wright Brothers had nothing to do with the invention of the first airplane flight, right?


The closest that the story comes to an invention, is either the TV station's decision to 're-invent' historical facts, or its spirited attempt to alter the meaning of 'invent' from:

"...to design or create something such as a machine or process that did not exist before."

Now let's drink to that. So, will it be whiskey or whisky?

Yet again, another local TV station felt it was proper to use the two terms interchangeably, when referring to a made in Scotland drink.

Let's toast to media mediocrity!

Tuesday, 16 September 2014


Long format TV features are gaining popularity in Kenyan broadcast stations. They accord adequate time for reporters to thoroughly interrogate topical issues. This came out in a well executed story on the encroachment of the Mau forest complex. But the coverage was ruined by the subtle media agenda in the Mau, courtesy of a tragic tribal trajectory.

The reporter did well in capturing nearly all the possible angles, and incorporating a multiplicity of views. This element was so exhaustive factored in that the feature ran the risk of losing focus on what it intended to highlight as the key concerns.

But for me, what one interviewee said stood out. He was convinced that it was perfectly in order for members of his community, (read tribe), to lay claim to swathes of the crucial Mau water catchment, given that other communities (tribes) were being 'allowed' by the state to plunder the forest.

The Mau Tragedy can't get more tragic!

If the water tower is destroyed, the serious consequences will not only affect particular communities/tribes. The impact of such a catastrophe will even cross the country's boundaries, and be felt by millions regionally.

And this is why the media needs to be cautious. This issue has already been heavily politicised. It should not be further trivialised by whipping up ethnic undertones.

My observations may be far-fetched. But I got the feeling that the TV station inadvertently perhaps, ended up giving prominence to partisan sentiments, with subtle hints of the editorial slant.

Yes. The media mirrors evils obtaining in the society.

No. The media must not always reflect the rot back to the society and deepen schisms.