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, 28 June 2016


The increase in the number of long-form news features in Kenyan broadcasting stations is great. The in-depth look at issues afflicting the society, affords the country an opportunity to reflect on the presented challenges and contemplate appropriate solutions. A recent feature on child labour put the focus on mining minors but almost ended up minoring in the major.

The scope of people interviewed was impressively wide, which brilliantly captured the conflicting interests at play, and how these ended up disadvantaging young children in that community.

However, the choice of what speakers say in the final story, raised more questions for the audience to try and figure out, in what emerged as a vicious cycle of poverty sabotaging efforts to vanquish poverty.

One of the 'poverty stricken' parents (hopefully not a minor), talks of the poor market prices of the product of his menial work. He is determined though, because he has to provide for his children...all 12 of them!

The other parent confidently justifies pulling children out of a public school, and enrolling them in a private learning facility.

But she just can't afford the switch and so it's back to the mining pit, in the interim, because there's no point prioritising education, over putting food on the table.

This parent also argues that the main problem with government-funded schools is that teachers seldom show up in class, thus compromising the learning process.

But what do school administrators say? There are fewer and fewer children to teach!

The issue of affordable education in the context of free primary education is somehow a major factor too. And the reason why many children are out of school is 'exorbitant' additional levies.

There's no mention of the possible impact of state-funded bursaries for needy children.

Local education officials, meanwhile, don't want to enforce laws that require parents to take their children to school, opting to instead 'sensitise' them first!

I could go on some more, but suffice it to say,  this feature raised pertinent issues about mining minors, but its delivery bordered on minoring in the major aspects.

Curiously, another rival station did a similar feature on child labour, three years ago, but in a different part of Kenya.

Some more creativity in crafting the title of the feature, could have been a useful 'minor' addition.

Friday, 24 June 2016


Kenyan newsrooms have a knack of recycling already tired phrases. It's almost as if there's already a default set of words for specific situations. Coverage of the death of a prominent person will most certainly include a 'fare thee well' reference. And in times of elections, it can almost be guaranteed that some people or a country will be deciding.

This predictable descriptions can really put someone off, especially because they go counter to the expectations of a vibrant and inventive media.

Is it that newsroom pressures predisposes journalist and editors to like short-cuts, making them easily raid their 'limited' vocabulary granary, at the slightest provocation?

Or are there certain pre-determined words that must be deployed during specific situations, to the exclusion of many other possibilities, even in international news channels?

Language is meant to be dynamic and communicators should likewise strive to enrich their variety of expressions.

There should be some limits though, when it comes to creatively engaging the audience.

Care should be taken before some editorial decisions are 'decided'!!

Friday, 17 June 2016


That the Kenyan broadcasting industry is competitive is not disputable. So, every opportunity to brag how your channel is doing better than rival stations, is most certainly going to be fully exploited. It's all fair and square, until coming second becomes the same as being in the lead, in the ratings rat race.

If a TV station is part of a wider multi-media enterprise, you are likely to see sister platforms trumpeting any perceived success of one of their associated outlets.

Admittedly, the exaggeration itch is often very difficult to ignore, and one is bound to see an overdose of gloating and showboating.

The context it seems, can be easily manipulated to create self-serving favourable content.

But fidelity to facts should not be in question, even when reporting real achievements or pseudo-accolades.

It therefore requires some stretching of the imagination, for one to believe that coming number two, justifies a headline expressly stating a channel:

"......leads in airing local content."

Even the first paragraph of the self-aggrandising article is alive to the fact that this particular TV station is only among the leading pack.

Such distortions of the truth in the ratings rat race, can never change the fact that being second is not exactly the same as being the leader.

The one who is first reserves all the rights that appertain to leading, being number one, the best, and other allied top drawer rankings.

Thursday, 9 June 2016


Editorial mistakes, however tiny or innocent are an eye sore. The annoyance-laden grammatical errors are often sugar-coated as typos, as if that lessens their sting. But at times the intended meaning becomes grossly distorted, courtesy of inattentive copy editors. How can the Kenyan government allocate less than two shillings to sports, in the annual budget?

That is the impression created in a sub-heading of an article appearing in the country's leading daily. There's a very glaring omission that renders this assertion nonsensical.

You see it...I see it...but apparently...the newspaper's combined editorial and production hierarchy could not detect it.

Who knew a 'b' could be that important. I'll try to let it be.

Hold on.

In another section of the same paper, a story is told of a bank that has embarked on a very peculiar quest.

Other than Sh 3 billion in equity from a strategic investor, the lender, it appears, is looking for a:

"... Sh800 million debt."

This Thursday edition was a gem of a publication for seekers of press peeves.

Lo and behold! The country's monopolistic electricity provider, is also pained by its own inadequacies.

It's maybe possible but hard to draw a different conclusion from the part of the highlighted article.

Oh well...we have survived worse instances of media incompetence.

Anyone remembers the 'super' man who hang onto dear life below an airborne helicopter?

He later resurfaced in a hospital and granted one of the local TV stations an interview, as a 'suicide victim'.

It's hard to tell if that was a functional oxymoron or someone was just being a moron.

Thursday, 2 June 2016


Divisive politics is generally frowned upon by the Kenyan media. It does,  however, appear like the press has divided political loyalty. And if one cuts through the pretentious projection of editorial neutrality, a disturbing underlying political bias is likely to be encountered. That's how angling of a story and apportioning of prominence can be so divisive.

One paper decides to scream out an admonishment by the government directed at the opposition, in the context of a 'snubbed' invitation to a national day celebration.

Granted, an invitation to the ceremony was not honoured.

And probably, some people can impute this to be disrespectful to the Head of State.

Another paper though, provides a different perspective, that prominently explains the absence of the opposition, in the national day event.

It's as if Paper 2 is deliberately trying to undo any potential political damage emanating from what Paper 1 has published.

Or Paper 1 is deliberately trying to downplay the point being amplified by Paper 2.

Yet somehow, readers are supposed to rise above divisive politics, because a divided press says so!