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, 30 July 2015


What or who exactly is the government? Has it got three arms? Yes. Does it exercise power on behalf of the people being governed? Maybe. Is it a person? No! So its strange that a Kenyan mainstream newspaper would confidently publish a story suggesting a Nominated MP can be equated to 'the government' or that he speaks as government.

It's widely believed that the said politician can wield influence by virtue of being the Chairman of the party that sponsored the sitting President.

But he wasn't elected by the people to parliament. You guessed it...he is a nominated Member of Parliament.

Is that enough to earn executive powers to represent the government, and its three arms?

Apparently so, if this particular story is to be cited as an authority on matters central governance.

From the article's headline, one gets the impression the story is anchored on the views of one person.

And indeed it is.

Right from the crucially important first paragraph is where things start to go wrong.

The Intro, ably supported by the second paragraph, partly states that:

 'The Government has come out to strongly defend its institutions and agencies...'

But it's not clear yet, how this ties to the name indicated in the headline.

It's made to appear as if there was a central entity that had the capacity to speak as government, much in the same light as the president talks of 'my government' in his speeches.

But as more details get revealed, the lofty expectation of an authoritative voice being quoted, comes crashing down to the level of a Nominated Member of Parliament.

He so happened to have spoken to the paper, 'after a series of meeting' if you can understand what that means.

So maybe the nominated legislator was delivering an agreed upon government position. But from the way the article is crafted, it seem like:
Either by design or editorial default, the story content is delivering way more than its lightweight headline.
And just who is the 'Johnston Sakaja' being referred to in the article, and could he be related to Johnson Sakaja?

Wednesday, 22 July 2015


Kenya is preparing to host a very important visitor. US president Barack Obama is coming home. And the local media is seizing this moment to churn out copious stories, disguised as providing extensive coverage. Not surprisingly, editorial lapses continue to amuse and astonish, as gatekeeping deficiency demons torment the audience.

Every angle is being explored, and every exploration is being angled, for the media to feel it has exhaustively covered this historic visit.

But the pressure of seizing the moment can lead to unintended editorial embarrassments, especially if the focus is on sideshows, and not the substance of the US president's visit.

So, a story is told of how elderly women are trying very hard to learn Engish, pardon me, English...now wait for the clincher:

'...to be able to communicate with President Obama'

At what point will this happen, during the visit of the US president?

Even if Obama makes a dramatic unscheduled visit to his ancestral home of Kogelo, in western Kenya, will the same grannies be guaranteed to be at a tobacco sniff distance, to converse with the most powerful leader on the planet?

Granted, Kogelo has been receiving a lot of foreign tourists, after one of its sons began occupying the White House.

Naturally then, that would have been a better way of highlighting the need for local grannies to learn Engish...sorry...English.

Hey, members of the press, there's an old rat, (last sighted near Burma market), which lost all its whiskers, while foraging at the then Cameo Cinema, that now has an uncanny resemblance, to the sole of the shoe, worn by a neighbour, of Barack Obama Senior.

Sic 'em...news hounds!

Thursday, 16 July 2015


A media house should develop its own editorial house style. This subsequently informs how its products will be consistently expressed. In its absence, you are likely to end up with a patch work of different styles. So a story about life in prison, comfortably uses warder and warden interchangeably, which to the not so erudite, might appear to be erroneous.

The main article was a brilliant and if credible, a chilling account of how certain levels of comfort are financially inducible in Kenyan prison.

But a side bar story almost 'ruined the impact' of the supposed expose.

The headline alludes to prison wardens. But further down the body of the story, reference is made to prison warders.

My immediate reaction was that there was a linguistic mix-up.

(Yes, I am one of those not so erudite).

A warder is more likely to be found in a prison, while a warden should be spoken of in the context of wildlife or forest rangers, so I thought.

It turns out that:

- A warder is a guard in prison, in British English.

- A warden is the head official in charge of a prison, in American English.

So now you can appreciate my British-American headache.

The cure of this malady is for media outlets to adhere to a defined editorial house style.

Thursday, 9 July 2015


Television is a visual medium. The audience can be glued to their seat, if the content is gripping. The uninteresting broadcast can make mouths to yawn and fingers itch and reach for the remote. And due to delivery pressures, a TV presenter can be on the hot seat. But if she's on the edge of her seat, either she's tense or the audience is missing the suspense.

You see, a lot can be going on behind the scene, that the audience is not aware of.

But the 'scene behind' the presenter's seat, in the above studio set, has got this particular member of the audience spell bound.

Research that mainly features regular checks on this morning show, has revealed that sections of the screen left seat, unusually remained disconnected from the 'usual occupier'.

In what can suffice as the control experiment, it has been observed that another occupier of the same seat manages to fill up the 'scene behind' quite sufficiently.

Furthermore, when the said 'usual occupier' occasionally moves to the screen right seat, there are no neglected sections, in the 'scene behind.'

A number of questions thus arise:

- Just what is it about the screen left seat and the chosen posture of the 'usual occupier'?

- What inspires the 'usual occupier' to constantly assume the edge of the seat approach, when sitting screen left?

- Is it natural? Is it comfortable?

- How is it possible for the 'usual occupier' to exhibit different engagements with the screen left and screen right seats?

- Why my unusual concern with the 'usual occupier' and the screen left seat?

- If actors are told to make use of the whole stage in a theatre production, shouldn't presenters fully occupy the 'scene behind' a seat in a TV production?

- Why?

Well, this member of the audience is always tense...there could be a studio mishap... of the falling type...and the suspense is barely bearable. #Occupythescenebehind

Thursday, 2 July 2015


Writers of articles in a newspaper can be credited directly by having their names published, usually at the beginning or the end of the piece. Bylines are a much coveted element in print journalism. The publisher after all, can decide to use non-specific labels to indicate the writers of stories. But even these 'non-names' ought to be linked to the media organisation.

And if not, the use of such orphaned or ghost writers can be indicative of, but not limited to:

- The publisher not being comfortable with being associated with the content of the article.

- The publisher not ready or willing to take ownership/stand by the substance of the article, (legal suit evasion?).

- The writer not having contributed sufficiently in crafting the article, to deserve either a direct credit, or 'privilege' of being associated with the publisher.

- The subject matter of the article being too hot or potentially explosive, to warrant such distancing between the 'anonymous' writer and publisher

- The article being malicious or not having been published in good faith.

- An honest omission or dishonest commission.

In other words, there would be no need for such 'wide and wild' speculation, if there was the familiar pattern of using either a byline, Reporter or Correspondent of this or that media organisation, or even an external source providing the story

Not unless a general Reporter, with a visible general email address, adds hidden general news value.