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.




Wednesday, 30 March 2016


There are days in the newsroom, when a scarcity of stories begets strange editorial decisions. Newspapers after all, still have to be produced daily, and the costs of production recouped, preferably at a profit. But the number of views of a video clip in social media, hardly constitute a front page story in mainstream media. A social media buzz does not automatically set mainstream media abuzz.

Okay. If we are talking about a billion views, a la Gangnam Style, it's justifiable to have such a story dominate the entertainment sections of any paper, globally.

Several million views? Perhaps still worth some prominent coverage locally, (inside pages of the entertainment section, don't you think?).

But a mere 200,000 views?

And we have a front page teaser, followed by a more substantial article that significantly amplifies the irrelevancies.

How can such a low number of views in social media be the news peg, in mainstream media?

If a prominent Kenyan politician takes a tumble, while addressing a public gathering, that agreeably, is newsworthy.

Very disagreeable, in my opinion, is to purport it's in the public's interest to know that:
"The incident elicited comments, with more than 50 likes and only 4  dislikes..."
Somebody enlighten me... we care about that because?

What's buzzing in social media circles, can be fuzzy in the mainstream media.

Thursday, 24 March 2016


Kenyan newspapers published in English are expected to uphold high linguistic standards. That's why even one misspelt word can cause quite an uproar from readers. And many learners of English expect the press to help them master the language. But often times, the local media leads them astray. A little sermon about summons and summonses will suffice.

One national paper, recently carried a story that had a headline with the word 'summonses' meaning reference was being made to more than one summons.

Confusing? Probably.

A rival paper had the same story, but instead opted to use the word, 'summons' in the same context as the first newspaper.

Clearly, one of the papers is guilty of breaking grammatical rules of the English language.

And if you think the correct plural form to use is 'summons', then you better pay closer attention.

You see, the final 's' in 'summons' can easily deceive one into thinking the word is already in the plural form.

But actually, it's perfectly in order to say, 'a summons' because the word is in singular form.

So, to summarize this sermon, the plural of summons is summonses.

Don't summon me for a refresher English course, however.

The verb summon is not the same as the nouns summons or summonses!

Friday, 18 March 2016


The focus on the evils of corruption has commendably been maintained by Kenyan media. It seems there's just no easy way of eradicating this friend of individual progress and fiend of national development. It does appear, however, like a section of the press is being selective on who to expose, with which dose of energy. Still, there's a thin line between public and private fat cats.

Remarkably, two alleged big scandals were unearthed almost simultaneously a couple of days back.

But in the country's leading daily, the one that grabbed the front page coverage was the one involving a publicly listed company.

Curiously perhaps, the second story was buried deep inside the business sections.

And yet it too, unearthed colossal amounts that were lost through an elaborate tax evasion scheme involving state revenue agents and employees of one of Kenya's biggest banks.

Was this a deliberate editorial decision, or were there external factors at play? (Notice the positive spin).

Would it have been too embarrassing to the government, if both scandals were given equal prominence? (the state apparently, could be a key stakeholder in newsroom decisions).

Or more outlandishly, could there have been a gentleman's agreement with the newspapers's main competitor, as to which paper should give what story maximum prominence?

A product differentiation can after all translate to better sales for the two newspapers.

Carrying identical content could indeed make the overall purchases of the two dailies to diminish.

Why should a major newspaper splash a story, almost painstakingly buried in the inner sections of its rival paper?

Whatever the case, there's a thin line between public and private fat cats.

In the Kenyan context, we now ought to be describing these shameless looters as 'obese cats'.

Friday, 11 March 2016


One can easily think the local media has a split, nay, multiple personalities disorder. A particular issue can be positively thrust into the limelight, only for the same issue to be castigated in subsequent days. A big chunk of what is reported as news appears to be episodic. On the issue of VIPs protection, the media flips are not helping the audience to contextualize the factors at play.

So, a governor insists his state-provided security has been withdrawn, while the central government alludes to the need to cut down on security officers seconded to high ranking public officials.

The media's attention is unfortunately scattered in different directions, and even political angles come into focus, with claims made of punitive action by the state to frustrate the governor.

There is even suggestions that the security agents of this particular governor could have engaged in dishonourable conduct, during a recent by-election.

Perhaps, this can pass, in the spirit of fortifying a news story with a multiplicity of angles, and voices from diverse sources, (then hopefully expect the public to make an informed conclusion, from the confusion).

But what is telling and not being told, is that just a few days earlier, there had been genuine concerns raised about VIPs getting allocated many security officers, at the expense of the collective safety of the masses.

The press highlighted this potentially dangerous trend,

But when the government supposedly moves to rectify the situation, the media's 'sympathy' suddenly shifts to one individual, (who by any modest estimate, can afford superior private security).

I don't get it. Someone please explain, but not immediately. I'm still dizzy from the media flips and episodic news reportage.

Thursday, 3 March 2016


The editorial piece represents the voice of a media outlet. It's meant to be authoritative, and designed to be forceful in articulating the issues raised. In Kenya though, one could encounter other small considerations, like the procedure used, not just the substance. But there's really no need to spell it out: editorials must be accorded extra scrutiny, before publication.

If even a single word is misspelt in an editorial, it's very tempting to draw not so flattering conclusions about a publication:

- The editorial department is sloppy

- Proof readers/revise editors are incompetent

- Gatekeeping structures are weak

- A don't care attitude is prevalent

- Professionalism is not taken 'seriouly' I mean, seriously

- There's internal sabotage of the news product, and other allied payback schemes

Suffice it to say that a tiny spelling mistake can deliver a giant blow to the reputation and credibility of a newspaper!