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Friday, 13 October 2017

MEDIA MARIONETTES AND UNSEEN PUPPET MASTERS

It almost seems like media outlets in Kenya have collectively conspired to be passive purveyors of election-related information. The press is often times now as clueless about key developments in this prolonged electioneering period, as the audience it intends to enlighten. The local media are thus behaving like marionettes, at the mercy of unseen puppet masters.


It's unusual for the same media described as being vibrant, to leave viewers, listeners and readers unsure about where the country is headed politically and legally, even after interrogating all manner of analysts.

Anticipatory aspects of news gathering and processing have been neutered and most of what is left is reactive coverage.

Clauses in Kenya's constitution appear alien in many a local newsroom, and not many journalists are astute enough to navigate through relevant statutes.

This leaves the media at the mercy of those touted as analysts or experts, but which then also leaves the door wide open for inherent biases, prejudices and partisanship that cloud the understanding of issues.


If the media can't arrive at their own underlying positions, backed by solid research, with which to test or counter-check with credible authorities, then it will be hard to know if they are being led astray, to serve extraneous purposes.

And there are plenty of nefarious puppet masters, well capable of manipulating 'media marionettes' to advance an agenda that's far removed from the public's interest.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

MEDIA MISEDUCATION

To inform, educate and entertain, is what a trainee journalist is bound to come across as the main functions of the media. There are also agenda setting and watchdog roles, among others. The media in Kenya at times appears to be blind to these important responsibilities. That's why the audience often encounters a lot of misinformation, excess entertainment and media miseducation.


Facts are stubborn. But some other types of facts have another layer of stubbornness: Historical facts!

This makes it quite foolhardy for a newspaper to publish glaring historical inaccuracies, like in the  article above.

The day Kenya gained its independence from British colonialists is well-documented, including the top dignitaries in attendance.


It should be a well-known fact that the Queen of England was represented by the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip.

And it seems geographical facts also present a challenge for the press, in this part of the world.


From Mount Kenya, a river is described as flowing:

North, then east, before settling, "in a south-west direction until it disappears into the massive Lorian Swamp in Isiolo."

Well, for international readers, this might not make much sense.

And for many locals, they might have no hint of a clue either, about the meanderings of this particular river.

But for area residents and those familiar with the geographical set-up of this region...the given description makes a lot of nonsense!

Yes, the river can flow north, and turn east.

However, there's no way it can then flow south-west.

That means it would be flowing almost in the opposite direction of the Lorian Swamp, where it's meant to end up disappearing.

And you would still expect Hargeisa to be somewhere in the semi-autonomous Somaliland, right?


How it was being referenced with Dadaab, in Kenya's Garissa County, will for now remain a mystery.




Thursday, 28 September 2017

DEAD END HEADLINES

Newspapers aspire to be above impeccable, when it comes to how they deploy information in their chosen language. And yet there are many instances that the same papers abandon conventional language rules. Those who craft headlines especially, often get away with blatant disregard of grammatical requirements. And this can lead to a dead end.
 

The headline writer is hard pressed to make the optimal use of newspaper space.

Brevity then carries a premium value.

And so it's no surprise to see headlines lacking grammatical elements like articles, which are deemed to have the undesirable effect of making the top lines lose their punch.

However, the underlying need of the headlines to communicate in a meaningful manner, remains ever important.

That's why the headline for the above newspaper article looks absurd.

Goes to show one should never underestimate the power of the diminutive form of the verb 'to be'.

Is that clear?



Thursday, 21 September 2017

PARTISAN COVERAGE OR PRODUCT DIFFERENTIATION?

Kenya's 2017 electioneering period continues. The date for the repeat presidential poll has been revised. This comes hot on the heels of the country's highest court giving full details of its decision to annul the initial presidential election. The local media coverage though, suggests the press is partisan on these political and judicial developments.


It's often stated that facts are sacred. And yet it has not escaped the notice of many that in some instances, the press appears undecided as to what exactly is factual.

The audience is thus confronted with variations in coverage, which raises suspicion about the media's accuracy and credibility, especially if a single event is accorded almost contradictory interpretations.

Granted, and as it has previously been pointed out here, product differentiation works better for competing newspapers, which means not putting the same content in front of the buying reader.

However, one would expect legal matters, especially pronouncements by high ranking judicial officers, would be reported with little or no variances.

Unless, marketing...nay...political allegiance also informs the coverage by the Kenyan media.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

OF TYPOS, SMALL ERRORS AND BIG TERROR

Putting together a newspaper is not an easy task, That's why a competent team is tasked with producing the publication. A lot of machinery and automation is involved. But humans retain control of these processes. Which perhaps explains the frequent typos, errors and editorial terrors in Kenyan dailies.


The shocking part though is that some of the mistakes are so elementary.

In the example above, it appears the paper's gatekeepers are not familiar with the correct spelling of the relevant day of the week.

And the fact that there's a team supposed to ensure high standards, before the paper is published, suggests that attention to details is not one of the strong points here.


A reader can rightfully question whether the publisher should be trusted with handling facts, if spelling of common words is a challenge.

Yes. Even a small error can be a big terror!

Monday, 4 September 2017

SCREAMING HEADLINES, LAUGHABLE SUBSTANCE, CRYING SHAME

The next chapter of Kenya's political transition is about to be written, with the announcement of the date for a fresh presidential election, after the Supreme Court invalidated the previous one. The focus once again is on the electoral commission. And the local media too, will be closely watched. Screaming headlines with laughable substance continue to be of concern.


At first glance, the front page story of the above publication shouts at potential readers/buyers that internal changes are in the offing at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries and Commission.

And this, the paper proclaims prominently, is on the authority of the IEBC chairman.


Quite a juicy story one would think.

But on turning to the article, there is no reference to the IEBC chairman as promised in the headline, with regards to the 'purge' at the electoral body.

The suggested changes are actually attributed to the opposition coalition!

 A paragraph in the article also seems to contradict the headline.

 The senior official that the IEBC chairman allegedly wants to exit the polls body, is the very same one that the same story says will lead the re-organization.

 Was this a ploy to sell the paper?

Was it a deliberate act to mislead readers?

Is this even ethical or legally acceptable?

This needless name-dropping should be dropped.



Wednesday, 30 August 2017

ELECTION PETITION AND PARTITIONED MEDIA COVERAGE

Kenyans are awaiting the verdict from the Supreme Court, after a marathon of court hearings. There are two main political sides in the presidential election petition. It thus looks mighty suspicious, when a section of the press chooses to give prominence to one side, without openly having declared any allegiance, beforehand.


The placing of the story above could easily create the impression that the selected party is the one that matters the most.

The content for the other side in this dispute can only be accessed by turning the page, in this particular publication.


And whereas the headline of the 'preferred' article has proper attribution, the other one is kept vague, almost as if it's taboo to make a direct reference to the petitioning side.

Notice too, the picture selection in one story depicts a lawyer engrossed in arguing the case, wheres in the other, we see senior opposition politicians concentrating more on their phones.

Gladly though, this apparent bias was note elevateldy reversed in the rival daily, as is 'normally' the case.

Articles of both sides in this dispute are placed next each other, (try and ignore which side comes first).


The treatment of this important story by the press perhaps would potentially affect how a particular media outlet is treated by the side that emerges victorious.

My lords and ladyships, it is my humble submission though, that it's in the public's interest for the press to accord balanced coverage in this electoral dispute.