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, 25 June 2015


Attribution gives authenticity and authority to news stories. It plays a big role in determining whether the information is believable. It also crucially helps to separate fact from opinion. Attribution thus needs to be close to the information being published. The folly of a delayed attribution could make the views expressed being equated with the standpoint of a media outlet.

Enclosing the information in quotation marks obviously indicates the details should not be interpreted anyhowly. There could be need to accord a specific context, like merely reporting without shouldering the burden of proof.

Or it could signal there's some doubt with the information, and the details are being published with some editorial reservations.

But enclosing an entire headline of a news story in quotation marks, then expecting the reader to connect it with an attribution buried elsewhere in the body of the article, is living dangerously.

It's dangerous because the headline at times is all that a reader focuses on, and thus a wrong impression could be unwittingly propagated. (It could be subtly deliberate, though).

But in some case, the use of quotation marks does very little to salvage any meaning a headline writer hoped to convey, like in the above example.

Just whose suspension did the Nacada team call for?

And by using a definite article, isn't it expecting too much on the reader to be aware of the salient afore details of the story?

Such hanging headlines should not be allowed to survive the sub-editor's noose!

There are also instances, when quotation marks are missing, where they are badly needed, in a news story.

This particular newspaper has smartly decided that 'evil spirits' are empirically capable of haunting a girls' school, without any shadow of a dark doubt.

There's also a big hint of the reporter having had a first-hand experience of the torment unleashed by the diabolical forces, to warrant the direct reportage.

But don't quote me on this!

Friday, 19 June 2015


Is it a virtual deception? Then maybe all that is required is a computer-aided correction. Or is it a physical misrepresentation of facts? Then it's humanly possible for a set designer to mend the mistake. But if the broadcast station is in denial, then historical truths need not change the geographical reality. So in this TV news fail, let there be one Sudan, for the South never parted with the North.

That's the impression created and propagated for months, by one of the leading news channels in Kenya.

And this inaccuracy continues to be beamed authoritatively to the local audience, during the channel's prime time newscasts, and globally through various online platforms.

An untrained eye can hardly fail to see the graphical obliteration of the territorial integrity of an independent state.

For any single trained mind not to have noticed the discrepancy internally, it's a travesty of canonical journalism, reeking of professional negligence and editorial irresponsibility.

Attention to details, (demonic or angelic), after all, is at the core of the news business.

And if you can't even get your own station identity right, why should one expect you'll not go wrong with dissemination of information in the public's interest?

I'm not familiar with a channel called Kenya's Television Network. But I'm willing to be welcomed home to be schooled, and hopefully not miseducated.

Friday, 12 June 2015


There is absolutely nothing shameful about breastfeeding. Even in this age of formula milk, mothers ought to proudly carry on with raising the next generation, as they deem fit. But some sensitivity is in order, when describing that vital activity by gallant mothers. And if they happen to be still active in sport, the headlines need not be dehumanizing.

Yes. We are all members of kingdom animalia. Our biological functions are identical on some level. And even though basic instincts can be subdued by humans, maternal instincts still kick in powerfully, once in a while.

But to say a human being is lactating is downright degrading, mostly because it reduces her to the level of... er... well...a cow!

You see, the reason why I find such a description repulsive, is informed and affirmed by my belief that motherhood is sacred, and one of the most selfless acts, especially among humans, (no disrespect fellow animals).

So Mr. Sports Editor, (Mrs. I highly doubt), I would rather not have my appreciation of a nursing mother, used interchangeably with that of a lactating cow.

Come to think of it, sports headlines have an uncanny way of being 'creatively' twisted for a presumed extra punch.

And the resultant effect, given the slight chances of the headline being taken out of context, can be alarming. In the above example, the editor can easily be accused of glorifying violence.

And the one below can be a ripe candidate for a heavy dose of cleansing of the spiritual type, delivered by dedicated prayer warriors.

What is fun to sports headline writers is not guaranteed to always be funny to the rest rest of us. Stories of athletics, volleyball and football can easily end up being a daytime nightmare involving the devil's children, xenophobic attacks and COWS!

Friday, 5 June 2015


In Journalism, we have news sources, usually being pursued by the media, for the benefit of the public. This balance should not be needlessly upset, even if the intention is to be creative in news delivery. If a section of the local media asks the Kenyan presidency for mentorship, it raises non-public interest issues, as the watchdog role exits the stage.

Creativity in the news media is a much welcomed addition. It makes the stories memorable. It could also make the issues being addressed to stand out. But the fundamental and distinct role of the news media should not be compromised in the process.

Getting within the earshot of Kenya's president used to be such a massive achievement, and the few brave journalists, who managed to do so, most probably have framed pictures of that encounter, as a mark of their career accomplishments.

The best I could do was ask a former president a direct question, (from a safe distance at State House Nairobi), which never got answered anyway.

So I can imagine the thrill of an up close one-on-one interview with the Head of State.

But it should not escape the attention of a journalist doing a news story, that a line ought to be drawn between doing a professional job and being caught up in the moment, (perceived fame and beckoning fortune notwithstanding).

Imagine a young CNN reporter getting invited to the White House and asking President Obama to be his mentor. Or a BBC reporter asking Cameron the same, at 10 Downing Street. Just imagine a young journalist at State House in Harare, asking Mugabe....

...Okay...hey....let's not get carried away.

As the Executive exudes patronage, so does the media watchdog role begin to exit.