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.




Friday, 12 July 2019


Influential people often get extensively featured in the media. Politicians definitely get more than their fair share of coverage. A number of such Kenyan leaders have multiple roles and attendant titles. Is it too much to ask that when captioning such personalities, their identities be put in the relevant context? Continental titles in a local news setup is clearly a mismatch.

It's all good to recognise important roles or status of newsmakers, and in the process, also help a viewer to appreciate why the views of the person appearing on TV are significant.

A Special Envoy of the African Union in a broadcast, is likely to add value and also help sustain attention in a news story.

But how is this even remotely related to...wait... not even a national matter...but a very local county governance issue?

The editorial competence on display here, I suspect, is suspect!

Friday, 5 July 2019


A journalist or any writer must know that the interpretation of what's already published is likely to be beyond their control. As such, care should be taken to ensure any semblance of vagueness is dealt with, to narrow down the chances of misinterpretation. A headline can be loaded with many call to action words, but end up causing an unintended reaction.

The headline of the newspaper article above, can lead to a very 'dangerous' interpretation, which the writer and many a reader would be quick to frown upon.

What are people being urged to do?
"Embrace, encourage and support female genital cutting warriors"
Say that again slowly....but now with emphasis on the part that says:

'...female genital cutting warriors.'

What are we talking about here?

A warrior is a skilled fighter...so here...it can be somebody who is experienced in...female genital cutting?

Notice that it's not clear if the warrior is fighting against female genital cutting.

But, a warrior, in contemporary usage, can also be a reference to somebody engaged in a defined struggle or cause.

However, note again that the headline does not directly imply this warrior is against female genital cutting.

The constraints of space notwithstanding, the headline would have better communicated the message if it read:

"Embrace, encourage and support ANTI-female genital cutting warriors"

A good sub-editor should strive to panel beat the copy to make it as close to the intended meaning as possible.

Simply put, avoid being vague like the plague. And it's better to be obvious than ambiguous!

Friday, 28 June 2019


Media coverage can revolve around current issues, past events or even future occurrences. The reader, viewer or listener would not find it hard to follow a story framed on whichever time frame, especially if the context is logical. This is achievable as long as editors don't get tense, to the point of mixing-up tenses.

A news story can begin with the anticipation of a future happening, dash to past events, before settling on present issues.

This would still make sense, if the reporting tenses don't imply an element of time travel is required.

The date of writing this post is June 28th 2019.

This newspaper article was published on 26th June.

The story states the winner of the contest to replace Theresa May as UK prime minister will be announced on July 23rd.

But the headline states:
'New British PM named on July 23'
A reader has every reason to get tense, with this lack of attention to tense matters.

Or is this a prime example of a future, past impossible tense?

Cue in the tension headache!

Friday, 21 June 2019


Kenyan television can be a fraud. If you tune in, you're not sure whether you are adding to your level of knowledge, or if what you have is being subtracted from. The broadcasts have many learning opportunities. But there's also a real danger of eroding one's intelligence. A viewer can feel defrauded, by on air fraudsters, under the guise of content editors, or disguised as program producers.

In the above screenshot, it's not clear what was the intention of using the 'word':
- Is it a proper conjugation from the root word 'fraud'?

- Does it even correctly convey the sense of somebody doing something wrong?

- Is it a legitimate verb? Or an illegitimate noun?

So many pertinent questions...one obvious answer.

It's either there's a false self-confidence by media practitioners in their ability to make up words, or more accurately, perhaps, there's a need for more English lessons in that newsroom.

It's a fraud, I tell you... and I hope you don't trust these frauds!

Friday, 14 June 2019


A reputable media house has internal editorial guidelines, to achieving a standardised approach in gathering, processing and publishing or broadcasting content. Such a stylebook acts as a critical reference point. The rules can be borrowed from established journalistic enterprises, and customised to suit specific requirements. But some editorial decisions defy logic.

In the above live broadcast story tag, there's a rather strange looking word contraction.

There ought to be a sensible way of optimising the use of limited space, because the need to communicate should never-ever be sacrificed.

Shortening of words should thus be done in a way that the audience can still decipher what the full word is.

And, there are certain rules that still need to be observed.

An apostrophe, for example, indicates that letters are missing in between...but the last letter retains the logical sequence of the full word.

The word 'international' can be shortened to: INT'L.

But...what is one to make out of: NT'L?

Saturday, 8 June 2019


The content across Kenyan media outlets can be very monotonous. You tune in to one news channel, and most likely stay there, because if you see one, it's like you've seen all of them. But nothing shouts lazy journalism more than when one publisher regurgitates what another has already put out. That's when media monotony morphs to media moronity.

The story of how Kenyan cars are registered using differentiated number plates makes quite a fascinating reading.

But, does it mean other media outlets should just copy what has already been published?

New angles can be used to add value to the original content, and still make the replicated read relevant.

You get a sense that this was not the intention here, because someone even decided to use the same photograph to illustrate the lifted story.

The take home lesson?

The biggest fan of a Kenyan media house...is a rival media house!

Thursday, 30 May 2019


The term 'billion' has been quoted frequently in reference to misappropriated public funds in Kenya. It's a huge figure that elicits shock, probably until the mentions became one too many. That a billion has now become a common-placed phrase, is, however, no reason for the press to casually bandy it about.

The headline of this article makes that 'magical' reference of billions, to perhaps immediately grab a reader's attention.

But, this reference becomes farcical after going through the content of the story and finding no supportive facts.

A mention is made of a somewhat vague figure of 'more than Sh1.3 billion', which hardly equates to billions.

Either some details were edited out from the original draft of the story, or, it's a classic case of a screaming headline and whispering substance!

Saturday, 25 May 2019


There ought to be a semblance of factual unity in the information a media outlet is pushing out. And if accounts of the 'truth' are in conflict, then a balance in coverage is essential. However, the media consumer should not be left with different versions of the same truth. Somewhere therein lays some lies.

In the above newspaper publication, the reader is confronted with contradicting interpretations of what is seemingly one policy from the Kenyan government.

One article in the newspaper states that the government will not relent on implementing a supposed ban on the importation of some used care spare parts.

Here, the relevant government agency is said to have started enforcing the ban.

A number of pages, later on in the same newspaper, the very same standards agency is quoted denying its enforcing a new directive seeking to ban importation of car spare parts.

Whether the two articles are differing on whether it's a new or old statute, is besides the point.

And neither is it of much significant consequence here, if the said ban targets all or some car spare parts imports.

The concern here is the failure by the newspaper publishers to provide a common context for these two related articles.

In a reader's mind, this media outlet could be laying different versions of the same truth.

Who do you think is lying?

Saturday, 18 May 2019


That opposites attract is true for magnetic poles. But in communication, contradicting information is repulsive. The media risks confusing the audience, if news stories are two-faced in nature, or the meaning is delivered in a double edged manner that doesn't gel. Ambiguity is an enemy of editorial agility.

There ought to be a sense of unity in the message being conveyed, unlike in the opening paragraph of the article above, which seems to be pulling in different directions, sense-wise.

The story states that two international airports in Kenya:
'...have retained a new...'
Let's just pause right there.

Retaining conveys a sense of continuity, or keeping on with something already started.

So, how does one retain something new, after dropping something old?

According to the story, Total Kenya has been dropped from a list of suppliers, so it's incomprehensible to purport to say a new oil dealer has been retained.

Unless editorial rigour is totally dropped!

Friday, 10 May 2019


It's refreshing to see Kenyan newspapers deliberately try to balance hard news content with human interest stories. It is also a welcome break from the routine heavy dose of politics. If, however, the aim is enticing readers to visit interesting places, why publish wonderful descriptions, without location details?

The article above highlights a scenic attraction, which is likely to make one to want to visit the area, after reading and checking out the accompanying images.

But where exactly is Mount Suswa and how does one get there?

And if it could be a familiar location to many Kenyans, how about potential international visitors reading the article?

Indeed, the underlying noble objective of showcasing the country's breathtaking landscape, is rendered almost ineffective by leaving out location details, especially for readers interested.

You don't write about a 'Hidden Gem' then hide the location details!

Saturday, 4 May 2019


To share knowledge, one has to be in the know. Many media outlets try to appear-all-knowing. Then it all falls apart, when the apparent knowledge gaps gets blatantly exposed. And to think that all it could take to make a big difference, is a little reggae-inspired research.

The writer of this article does well in capturing many facets in the evolution of reggae music.

However, there are a few details that would raise credibility concerns, especially among those familiar with this subject matter, like yours truly.

The ban of reggae music in Kenya was much evident after the 1982 coup attempt, and this is linked to the fact that this is the type of music that was being played on air, before the national broadcaster was secured.

It was also widely being mentioned at the time, that this genre of music glorified and promoted the use of proscribed drugs, (of the Jamaican flavour).

Unlike what is reported in the article, reggae made a comeback in the public broadcaster in the later part of the 1980s.

I still remember how refreshing it was to hear from the radio, Burning Spear chanting down Babylon in Mek We Yadd.

And, the Grammy Award for Reggae started a bit earlier than what the article purports.

Again, I should know, because the first recipient was, and still remains my favourite reggae band, Black Uhuru, in 1985, for their phenomenal album, Anthem.

Granted, the press covers a lot of ground to keep its audience informed.

It could be about current affairs, future events or even past occurrences.

Present events could be hard to process correctly and, well, the future can be unpredictable.

But historical facts should not be that hard to relay, if you know where to dig them up from.

That's the beauty of research in journalism. Details from eons ago can easily be woven into modern-day articles, for depth add contextualisation.

For the umpteenth time, the media should not underestimate the capacity of the audience to discern between facts and fictitious accounts.

Friday, 26 April 2019


The press should aspire to be regarded as a credible chronicler of major events and significant occurrences. But if simple information proves hard to handle, the perception created could be that complex details are likely to be mishandled. So, here's the case for having an editorial director of directions.

In a rather discomforting quick succession, the local dailies have done a terrible job of helping readers get a clear picture of the physical location of a specific place in a news story.

Again, it's greatly distressing for someone familiar with a particular place to see it's location being described in ways that are grossly inaccurate.

The area around the building that housed what used to be called Kenya Cinema, is or should be well-known to those who work or grew up in the Kenyan capital.

It's pretty much in the CBD of Nairobi, and for a long time, used to be a favourite meeting point, especially for those active in the dating scene.

The way this article yet again gets the street reference totally wrong, makes for a strong case for local newspapers to have an editorial director of directions!

Friday, 19 April 2019


In the news business, the information being disseminated ought to be accurate or factual, and essentially, this needs to be verifiable. And in a world of real time digital communication, the media would be ill-advised to assume its audience does not have the capacity to cross-check details of published stories. The standard should be to ruthlessly deal with media misinformation.

Details like where a road begins and ends may seem unimportant in the above article, but that's no justification to deviate from accurate reporting.

If the writer or editor is casual, when it comes to attention to details, there's a very good chance of upsetting an attentive reader.

And there's no telling if some media consumers can be well-versed with such a 'little' matter like the layout or meandering of a road, (hint...hint...ME!)

The article above says:
'The 6.1m kilometre Enterprise Road...stretches from the junction shared with Bunyala Road and Commercial Street...'
That's not where Enterprise Road starts from.

The stated spot has a roundabout, where Bunyala Road, Commercial Street, Workshop Road, and I believe, Dunga Road intersect.

This may be hard to believe, but on the grass growing inside that roundabout, is where some 'epic' intra-estate football matches used to go down...many decades ago!

Yes, the ball would frequently get kicked into the surrounding busy roads. But I guess dodging the traffic to retrieve it, was an inevitable hazard.

Let me now take you to where Enterprise Road actually starts from.

From the 'Roundabout Pitch', wait...it's so unbelievable how a bunch of kids would gallop at full speed in such a small space, and score spectacular 'long-range' goals!

Right, let's take Workshop Road, and then branch off, where Factory Street begins, (why do I feel like I'm going home?).

Further down Factory Street....the side with Kenya Railways staff quarters...just before where that white trailer is parked...the first house on that block.... well, it looks very familiar. But let's move on.

When you reach the first junction on the right, along Factory Street, from the direction we've taken from Workshop Road....taraaaah!

That's where Enterprise Road starts from ladies and gentlemen.

And, very close by is a popular 'Big Shop'

Next to this vibrant social joint, is what used to be called Sanford Road Nursery, where someone you now know, started his formal education from.

Back to Enterprise Road, (which also can be accessed from Commercial Street, being somehow parallel to Factory Street), is indeed, a major artery in Nairobi's industrial area.

And it was such a joy back then, discovering the alphabetical system of naming the roads branching from it, from Addis Ababa, Bamburi, Changamwe, Darkar, Funzi, Gilgil, Homabay, Isiolo, Jirore, Kampala, Likoni, Mogadishu, Nanyuki, Olkalou, Pate, Rangwe, and there's probably a road starting with letter S and T, too.

In so many words and precious memories, the stories covered by the media could be so well-known to a section of the audience, that any misreporting of facts could be excruciatingly painful.

Another equally obnoxious element in the axis of editorial evil, is manufacturing facts, which augments the damage of media misinformation.

The presence of a non-existent sub-county here, indicates an absent-minded sub-editor!

Tuesday, 9 April 2019


The attention of a TV news viewer is hard to maintain, if you manage to get it. The brain's attempt to be locked in, easily gives way to itchy fingers on the remote, ready to switch channels at the slightest provocation. The quest for attraction by a news anchor, should not amount to a distraction. It's not easy to simultaneously wonder if the news is authentic, or the hair is synthetic.

Television being a visual medium, the presentation of the news can indeed be inter-twined with the appearance of the news presenter.

But the audience should primarily tune in to a news broadcast to get significant substance, not to have the brain pondering over secondary issues like the physical features of a news reader.

In this era of millennials, station managers may opt to be liberal, when it comes to what a news broadcast should look like.

If this is allowed to go too far, however, it may be far too risky.

In-house grooming style guides ought to be alive to the general expectations and sensibilities of the average viewer.

Yes. An element of showbiz is acceptable to enhance the look and feel of a news broadcast.

But No. A viewer's concentration should not be sacrificed at the alter of aesthetics!

Friday, 5 April 2019


Journalists are among the few privileged people, who get to witness significant history unfolding, while chronicling news of the day and major events. This requires a logical sequence of covering and publishing stories. That's why it's strange to see an article that bears a post-dated time stamp, being reported in a newspaper bearing an earlier date.

Quite confusing, admittedly.

The highlighted article makes reference to a study published in the June 2019 issue of Cancer Epidemiology Journal.

This could potentially be unsettling to a reader, simply because the article is appearing in a newspaper published in March 2019!

It could be a simplistic interpretation, especially to those well-versed with how scientific publications are done in volumes.

But to an average consumer of media products like me, (and hopefully you), a June 2019 issue of a journal, being quoted in a March 2019 newspaper is unusual, (and creepy).

A quick check online, confirms that the issue being referred to does appear in a June 2019 volume.

(And this post is in April 2019, in case you didn't notice).

The writer of the article should perhaps then have dedicated a short explanatory paragraph, to provide context that would enable any reader to make sense of the apparent dating anomaly.

A post-dated cheque can't work before the stated date. A 'post-dated article' also needs to be checked!

Friday, 29 March 2019


The media can report on every subject, as long as it's in the public's interest. And its journalists or news editors, are given the significant task of determining the newsworthiness of a story, interpreting facts, and repackaging them for the audience. But it's hardly safe to conclude that media practitioners have adequate or uniform capacity to discharge this noble duty. Media lunacy especially, can thrive in a statistical fallacy. 

Statistics or stories with a lot of mathematical details can be quite a challenge to many scribes, and once in a while, you can come across 'shocking' interpretation of raw data.

The lead story in the Kenyan daily above, could be an example of how strange stories can 'purportedly' emanate from concrete research.

Admission to local universities, one would like to believe, is strongly based on merit, the limitations by factors such as good facilities or superior teaching staff notwithstanding.

It is therefore a bit perplexing to see university enrolment being directly correlated with variables like population size, in a not so 'meaningful' context.

How can a region having the lowest number of university students recently, be linked with population statistics from 10 years ago?

The processing of information from the same set of data, appears to lead the writer/editor into making very confusing interpretations, like:
'In the six counties, female students make up less than one-tenth of one per cent of the total state-sponsored number of 455, 515.'
What would such convoluted facts really mean to the average reader?

The 'shock' element so desired by the publishers of this article, leaves a lot to be desired!

Friday, 22 March 2019


Some content that gets published in Kenyan media outlets can be quite astonishing. And this is not always linked to the substance of news stories. Unchecked creative language use, or misuse of English can give rise to strange expressions like 'cartographic Githeri'.

Anyone familiar with the dishes of central Kenya, will be quite perplexed by the highlighted section in the article above.

It may not be lost to many others that the term 'Githeri media' has often been used to ridicule the 4th Estate in Kenya, for its perceived penchant of focusing on 'trivial' matters, or to disparage media content that is deemed to be of poor quality.

This, of course,  has to do with a certain 'overhyped gentleman' who got copious media attention, after being spotted with a bag of that dish mostly associated with central Kenya, while waiting for his turn to vote.

Even though the article has to do with Kenya, the context in the identified section is far removed from Kenya, taking us as far as the Indian sub-continent.

And the writer of this opinion piece appears not to be a native of central Kenya.

So what exactly is this 'cartographic Githeri' or is it another reflection of a catastrophic 'Githeri media'?

Friday, 15 March 2019


A newspaper's editorial space stands out from the rest of the publication. It is where the paper expresses its position on topical issues. And for very good reason, therefore, not just any staff member can craft this highly regarded article. That's why it's so shocking for a newspaper to allow a poorly written article to occupy its editorial page.

And poorly written, in this case, is not in terms of how the article has been laid out, or even grammatical inadequacies.

It is an alarming congruence of inaccuracies and fallacies.

A stupefying display of ignorance and detachment from historical facts.

And a shameful portrayal of journalistic flaws.

The articles seeks to rally one of Kenya's most successful football club, to achieve even more success in an Africa cup competition, after registering successive losses.

These are the main highlights of the article about Gor Mahia:

- 4.0 humiliation at the hands of Egypt's Zamaleck

-during the CAF Confederation Cup quarter finals

-when Algeria's NA Hussein comes calling

- they are the only team in the country to have won the continental tournament then known as CECAFA in 1987

- Thirty years is a long wait

How is it possible for the editor not to know that the Egyptian team is Zamalek, the tournament is still in the group stage not quarter finals, Gor has already played the Algerian team at home, and the next opponent is Angolan side Petro Atletico de Luanda?

The most horrifying misinformation is that Gor is the only team in Kenya to have won a continental tournament, then known as CECAFA in 1987.

How does one even begin to confuse a continental tournament with a regional one?

Even the said long wait from 1987 to 2019 is certainly not 30 years.

And that is how not to go about editorial writing, my not so learned editor!

Friday, 8 March 2019


One of the core function of the media is to inform, enlighten or educate. But sometimes, an encounter with the editorial content in Kenyan outlets, can leave you none the wiser. The risk of being confused is so high, you couldn't know whether you need therapy or physiotherapy.

The newspaper article above is about a group of teachers, affected by alcoholism, completing a rehabilitation program.

But then then the horrendous first paragraph alludes to the odd fact that the teachers:

"...were enrolled for physiotherapy."

How?...Why?....Because who said?

To further compound this puzzlement, there's mention of psychiatrists being involved in the rehabilitation process.

In other words, professional psychiatrists, (do we have amateur ones?), were providing physiotherapy services, to recovering alcoholics.

In the public's interest, the media may need some editorial rehabilitation, from this kind of ignorance.

Friday, 1 March 2019


Newspaper articles use different approaches to first grab a reader's attention, then sustain it with useful or information or interesting details. Repetition of information is frowned upon, not unless its necessary to emphasise a point. But a reader need not be reminded that brothers are brothers.

At first mention, there's no harm in stating that the key subjects in this particular story are related.

For what it's worth, the writer should perhaps not be heavily faulted for establishing who is the younger or elder brother of the central figure in the story.

But to shortly afterwards re-state that the younger, elder, and key person in the story are brothers, is pushing it too far.

Oh brother! We get it, they are brothers.

Friday, 22 February 2019


A viewer of a TV news broadcast expects certain elements. Video or moving images is a basic expectation. And so is sound or an audio component. Pictures, whether still or animated, are also acceptable. Alternative visual aids like maps and other graphic presentations help to illustrate stories. But the screen should not be littered with additions that don't add value to the viewing experience. 

In the example above, there are some graphical details that have nothing to do with the story on air.

Imagine visiting a website, only to encounter the back-end...with all the coding 'gibberish'?

That information could be mighty useful to the webmaster or coder, but to a user on the site, it's unsightly and on the extreme end of the useless scale.

The same applies to tuning in to a news channel, only to be met with irrelevant information like 'video converter'.

Again, it could be a technical error.

But yet again....there ought to be editorial mechanisms of minimising the impact of the resultant visual terror.

Friday, 15 February 2019


A Rapid Response Editorial Unit would be a welcome addition to newsrooms, to be always ready for deployment, especially during a live TV news broadcast. The job description will mainly involve swiftly correcting mistakes that find their way to the on air content. Erroneous TV graphics should not just attract a thumping, but a thumbs up for a quick recovery.

Before a budget line is availed for the rapid response editorial unit, all that is needed is a high sense of alertness for the news production crew, as illustrated above.

How long did it take to amend the typos?

Less than a minute!

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, parrots and parakeets...it is very much possible to transcend editorial embarrassments, and get a thumbs up, instead of a thumping from media critics.

Friday, 8 February 2019


To err is human. But so is to amend errors. This is what minders of on air TV graphics should constantly be reminded. And this courtesy should be extended to other personnel involved in the production of a news broadcast. Sometimes the mistake is so glaring, yet the editorial crew is just staring at a visual aid cue.

In the sport story above, the fixtures for that particular weekend's club football in Kenya, are straight-forward and easy to follow.

But the lower third tag blatantly renames one of the teams involved.

In the newsroom, the habit of doing a spell-check for all scripts is greatly encouraged.

Ironically though, such a highly desirable standard operating procedure could perhaps have yielded the graphical blunder.

It's strange though, that Mathare Utd could transform into Mother United, but Vihiga Utd cannot become Vicar United!

Friday, 1 February 2019


Television is a visual medium. The eyes are fully engaged, while the ears take in the audio component of the content. Besides the science of how a broadcast is perceived, there are also artistic elements in the presentation that enrich the viewing experience. But any major deviation from what the natural expectation is, can be problematic. Like a face on the knees.

The studio set designer above, probably thought everything checked out, in positioning the news presenter on the side, to allow for a large video wall space, for contextualising the specific news about to go on air.

And looked at with the naked eye in the studio, the set-up probably meets all the required standards.

However, graphically inserting another video of the translator, and positioning it on the bigger image captured by the camera, could bring in some unintended consequences.

Here, the viewer is being asked to accept that it's natural to have a news presenter standing, with the sign language interpreter fixed somewhere on her knee region, and her legs appearing to be joined with the upper body of the interpreter.

These kind of visual distractions undermine a viewer's focus on the substance of the news content.

It's not easy on the eye and it's hard to mentally process the creative miscue.

Thursday, 24 January 2019


It's normal for TV news mistakes to happen and find their way to a viewer. But it is far from normal to make it look like its near-impossible to make corrections. It makes a mockery of journalism for a media outlet to have a story about the president possibly being misled, while at the same time misleading the viewers.

The mix-up above is therefore downright perplexing

Some news sources or analysts, it is expected, should be a little familiar in newsrooms, and news circles at large.

The bigger tragedy though, is the apparent helplessness of the news editor/producer/director and allied TV gallery personnel.

The moment the error was spotted, something ought to have been done, instead of letting the same mistake go on air repeatedly

The CG team could have switched the name tags while the story was being aired, or keyed in new but correct identities of the speakers.

And if the names were embedded in the video clip, then the story could have been faded out, and an apology issued, with a promise to re-air the cleaned-up version.

But no...the minders of this particular news broadcast...opted to have the story run it's dirty course

Then it was left for the news presenter to offer possibly one of the most awkward apology, since the invention of the Daguerreotype camera.

It was something like: ...'The advocate is actually the economist and the economist in that story was the advocate...'

I don't advocate for name-calling, please be economical with your insults!