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!