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, 27 June 2014


A Kenyan media house has once again captured the struggles of administering mandatory vaccinations, to people, who don't believe in modern medical practises. To some, this highlights the retrogressive nature of some religious faiths. While to others, the 'dramatic' news provided comic relief. But does this amount to the media preying on the prayers of such believers?

First of all, the fact that this Kavonokya story involves children, calls for special considerations. They after all, have a right to absolute privacy. So, was consent granted by parents or guardians of those children, before the TV news crew started rolling away?

Secondly, as argued by my friend Rukwaro, is it fair for the media to capitalize on the plight of the terrified children just to get a news story?

But thirdly, isn't it justified to let the general public know the state will enforce its immunization targets, regardless of a people's religious faith?

Or fourthly, is sensitising the public about the need to have all children vaccinated against polio, in conflict with an 'insensitive' media, trying to raise awareness about the importance of such a noble government goal?

Fifthly, there's hardly any chance of reaching a consensus on all these issues. And the sample of reactions from the social media below, reflects this state of affairs.

Thursday, 19 June 2014


Is it possible for the media to invent facts and project them as actual reality? Very much so, it seems, when it comes to the press in Kenya. It is becoming increasingly difficult for consumers of media content to separate the truth from half-truths and non-truths, partly due to the ignorance of journalists. The mix-up over the marking of the Day of the African Child, in one local daily, aptly illustrates this.

According to the writer and/or editor of the above article, the 'world marks the International Day of the African Child.'

This, on the face of it would be such a worthy cause to generate maximum awareness around. But unfortunately, the 'International Day of the African Child' simply does not exist.

June 16th was the date set aside in 1991, by the OAU/African Union, to mark the Day of the African Child, in commemoration of deadly protest by schoolchildren in Soweto, South Africa, in 1976.

It should thus not have been merged or confused with the 'International Children's Day, usually marked on June 1st in many countries, or even the 'Universal Children's Day', which falls on 20th November.

It seems like this particular paper fell into the trap of trumpeting the agenda of International Day of African Childhood, IDAY, a network of civil society organisations, riding on the 'Day of the African Child' theme, to probably boost its visibility.

Such editorial missteps greatly water down the credibility of news organisations, more so because relevant and verifiable information often reside a click or two away, in the Internet, (which unfortunately is also a great source of misinformation).

In the wake of the heinous attacks in Kenya's Lamu county, local and even the international media exhibited similar behaviour of mixing real facts with 'official facts' and 'invented facts' in their coverage of the senseless killings.

On a different scope, the noble goal of packaging news in the present tense, to suggest freshness of the information, should not lead newspaper editors into the terrain of absurdity.

So yes. To say, 'The giant male elephant named Satao has been killed', denotes this beastly act (pardon the pun), happened not so long ago. But if the information is being published on June 16th, and the next paragraph states:

'He was felled by a poacher's poisoned arrow in Tsavo East National Park on May 30'.

...then, Wayaki Way, we have a problem.

And as for the eyesore below, you are on your own.

Only you can explain this mouthful of a non-erudite headline.

And this particularly 'smart' paper appears to be on a roll, when it comes to churning out howlers.

Now this is one expensive editorial disaster!

Thursday, 12 June 2014


The World Cup is upon us. This top global sporting spectacle has a lot of history and rivalry behind it. And the 2014 edition in Brazil will dominate newspaper pages and broadcasts across the planet. Sadly, there are already signs that the Kenyan media might lead their audience astray.

How can a script from a journalist be edited, sub-edited and revise edited, and the article published, with such errors? The fact that it's a direct quote is inconsequential (there's no 'sic' even). The embedded facts remain as repugnant to any lover of the beautiful game. The vile section above reads:

"I must watch Suarez play Rooney in the match between England and Manchester United, and Ghana verses Portugal..."

It's unbelievable how mismatched facts can be stitched together, to yield such irrelevancy.

Manchester United...featuring in the World Cup? Match between England and Manchester United?

If the local media propels ignorance about the World Cup to such dizzying heights, what terrible fate awaits the not so knowledgeable readers, blindly trusting the veracity of such a story?

And it does not end there. Broadcast coverage of the World Cup is already sinking in the sea of uninformed news.

Maybe we should blame it on the erosion of institutional memories in Kenyan media houses. The rate at which youthful personnel are being thrust into the TV limelight, definitely has its downside.

Having a few 'old' hands capable of individually recollecting significant events of the 1970s, might be a tall order. But the discerning viewer has a right to feel short-changed, if a TV presenter appears unaware of salient facts about a World Cup held in the mid-1980s.

Broadcast news production being a team effort, it means the news producer, director, editor, and the graphics guy on duty, are also clueless about when exactly Diego Maradona wowed the world, with his 'Hand of God' goal.

Imagine the agony of those who watched that memorable match in 1986, and were tuned into this particular broadcast..especially on hearing the presenter verbalise the mistake, repeatedly!

But to err is human, and the dwindling pool of perspicacious local journalist notwithstanding, we should all enjoy this massive experience that is the World Cup.

NB: The presenter in question did acknowledge his mistake at the end of the newscast, after it was pointed out by a keen viewer. (I'm not sure if it was a 'valid mistake' though!)

Thursday, 5 June 2014


Agenda setting is an often forgotten role of the media in Kenya. The bigger emphasis is mostly on entertaining news, at times cleverly disguised as being educative or informative. The watchdog role shines through once in a while, but has not been proved to be immune from external or even internal interference. Local journalist thus delight in having a news agenda pre-set for them.

This probably explains the spectacle that was witnessed, during the coverage of the return of Kenya's former Prime minister, after his sojourn in America.

The local press was awash with details of the 'highly anticipated' return, prior to and after the event.

And right on cue, what the former premier spoke about has continued to dominate the local news agenda, days later.

Is there not the slightest of chance that the local media, in it's seldomly donned agenda setting garb, could have picked up on the need for national dialogue, or must this only have originated from the political sphere?

If indeed there is need for such dialogue across the political divide, it's Kenyans who will continue to suffer from the political posturing that has since ensued, which represents another missed opportunity for the press to drive the national agenda.

But the real tragedy for local journalists, is being caught up in the whole hero-worshipping of politicians malaise.

The first paragraph in the article above states that:

"...a group of journalists also eagerly awaited Kenya's leader of official Opposition to say a few wise words."

Eagerly...Wise words! Has there been an empirical study that solidly established that this politician always speaks wise words, before a newspaper editor hazards such a 'highly educated' guess?

Wisen up scribes. Don't ascribe what's not. Just describe what is.