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, 29 May 2014


The conversation continues. Conversation this...conversation that. The narrative...interviews... and more talking, is what you're likely to find in abundance in Kenyan news broadcasts. Good old news you can use is evidently preferable to a bottomless Bottom Line. And one local channel might be onto something good.

It was quite refreshing to watch a very informative segment, ensconced within an 'oddly' named newscast the other day. Either out of pure curiosity or even serious interest, many Kenyans are likely to be keen on knowing the inner working of the matatu industry.

It was thus a viewing pleasure to watch and learn so much from, 'That's what it takes' especially due to the simplicity in the delivery of key elements that drive the public transport sector.

And the producers were not done yet. What followed was another example of how news can be empowering. The story laid bare the secrets of successful farming of onions.

In these days of scarce employment opportunities, it is indeed vital to disseminate viable income-generating alternatives.

Moreover, the important role of capital or credit facilities in such ventures cannot be gainsaid. It was immensely appropriate to then have a studio discussion about interest charges in formal banking.

I again applaud this particular brand of responsive journalism.

This sharply contrasts with another channel's 'gallant' effort to have all voices heard, with regards to a perceived pressing problem.

The concept of bringing together a multiplicity of views in a TV platform, to interrogate an issue from a broad perspective, is not entirely bad. Great ideas can emerge and the engagement can yield possible solutions to problems afflicting the society.

However, I have misgivings about letting people only express themselves in front of cameras, and hoping by so doing, their problems would be magically solved.

After all the talking and the TV crew packs up, claims of healing rifts and fostering reconciliation, remain just that...CLAIMS!

Thursday, 22 May 2014


The Kenyan media never disappoints, when it comes to 'delighting' the audience. Every so often, one comes across interesting editorial creations that not only 're-invent' the English language, but also craft astonishing 'intended' meanings. Cue in the magnificent three-bench judge.

So, we are actually looking at two things here: a bench and a judge. But the sentence is alluding to three benches and a judge. Or is it a judge who sits on three benches? See what I mean? Some meanings are hard to comprehend.

But hang on. There was another story, in the same newspaper, on the same day, which used a similar expression.

It says here, 'a three-judge bench' meaning, three judges, probably sitting on a single bench. This, in both legal parlance and everyday speak, does make sense, as opposed to three benches sitting on a judge!

Story: present. Reporter/Writer: present. Editor: absent!

Once in a while, a day is slow in terms of generating news, and it can so happen there's not much of unused stories or timeless pieces. It thus become quite a challenge to fill up the pages of a newspaper.

And in the ensuing pressures, a story might even look misplaced, as per the exhibit above.

But. It shows little respect to the readers' intelligence, if a story is prominently repeated, especially, if attempts are made to pass it off as a different article, while the content loudly says otherwise.

Story: present, present. Reporter/Writer: present. Editor: absent!

Then there are language skill matters that simply annoy, and in some cases, even destroy the original meaning conveyed in an article.

Who is the 'him' implied in the paragraph below?

For those who've been following this story, it is so apparent that the subject is not the one unwittingly being indicated in that section of the story.

Story: present. Reporter/Writer: present. Editor: Absent!

In addition, it is widely speculated that numeracy skills of many journalists, are wanting at the very least and shocking at most.

In the sample above, the mix up of figures is atrocious. 320,000 shillings in four months cannot be of a lesser value than 768,000 in four years! You seriously can't prefer making 16,000 per month, to raking in 80,000 every month.

Story: present. Reporter/Writer: present. Editor: absent!

Sadly, there is not much interest in publishing apologies for grossly misleading readers, unless the potential consequences are grave.

However, mixing up the names of leaders of an esteemed country, is one editorial mistake that's likely to make a newspaper publisher consider doing the honourable thing.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014


The experience of motherhood is very special, to many women. A newly-born baby is a source of so much joy and cause for celebration. There's nothing wrong with wanting to share the good news with all and sundry. But...at the prime(st) of time...in a live news broadcast...on national TV? That's far from taking it too far. It's nearer to near-self-interest.

The questions to ask are very simple. Was it in the public's interest, to dedicate the time before the actual dissemination of the day's main news, to laboriously let Kenyans know why a certain news presenter has been missing from the airwaves?

And was it of urgent necessity to then delve into the whys and wherefores of maternal throes and thrills, or the balancing of careers and family life, for women in the media?

How justified is it, to similarly splash pictorial snippets of one's private life, in a very public sphere, while regaling the audience with very personal accounts of what motherhood means to one particular individual, who other than being a public figure by virtue of the occupation, had nothing remarkably close to constituting part of the day's news agenda?

Yes. Words cannot even adequately express the motherhood phenomenon. The fact that it's extraordinary can hardly be disputed.

But though it may be miraculous and differentially special, to every individual involved, one thing will always remain constant:

It is not, and forever will not be the first time for it to happen!

This piece of good news as is, I beg to move, is not newsworthy.

Thursday, 8 May 2014


It's been a tragic period in Kenya. The local media has been awash with stories of death and anguish, attributed to the consumption of lethal brews. The press has also tried to give some analysis. But it being a familiar calamity, the media should go further in demanding corrective and even punitive action against the culprits and culpable state officials.

Unlike what is stated in the newspaper headline above, I think there's really nothing major to reveal about the, '...poison that killed 76 brew victims.'

Indeed, from the nature of the deaths and particularly the fact that many survivors had reportedly lost their sight, an almost obvious clue is evident from the very beginning. It has happened more than one time before, remember, and so there was hardly anything new to report about the cause of the deaths.

At times I think such stories reflect some symptoms of lazy journalism. Lazy because it's like the journalists have just chanced upon an event, and have the not so difficult task of working backwards, in piecing the details together and infusing comments, quotes or expert opinion.

We need a more forward looking approach. That's our best shot in preventing a re-occurrence of these killer brews tragedies. And follow-up stories need not wait for calamity to strike again.

The Sisters of Death expose was a real eye opener, but sadly, it apparently then was reduced to a mere TV news edutainment, after the initial shock wore off.

However difficult, relentless attempts should have been made to rope in concerned government officials, at that time, instead of asking why action has never been taken, two years later.

Prior to the illicit liquor deaths news, a broadcast news station aired a story of some men spending all the money earned from doing menial jobs, in dingy drinking dens. No effort was made to try and establish the nature of the drinks being consumed.

In other words, the media needs to do more than just mere reportage, (and saying death seems to be the least of their concern).

We pontificate about the underlying issues that drive people to partake of unlicensed brews, as if we truly can feel their subverted inspiration or desperation.

But a greater service to the country will emanate from a sustained effort to prevent a repeat of such tragedies, by ensuring the lessons that need to be learnt, need not be relearnt again.

The Kenyan government has now interdicted 52 officials. The minister concerned has also announced a raft of measures, which hopefully, will prevent a repeat scenario of illicit liquor claiming the lives of Kenyans.

Not surprisingly, Kenyan media outlets have started to headline this development. The fact that it has taken 4 days for the state to issue an official response, over 80 deaths later notwithstanding, seems not to have appeared odd for the local press.