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.

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Thursday, 14 December 2017

EDITORIAL SAFEGUARDS AND ASTOUNDING ERRORS

Sensible meaning should be at the heart of any communication. It's really pointless for the press to share meaningless information. That's why it's common practise to have different levels of proof reading and fact checking. It's utterly astounding therefore, when these editorial safeguards fail to prevent embarrassing errors.


If the information does not make sense to the writer or sub-editor, chances are very high the same will be true for the reader.

The highlighted paragraph in the article above reads:
An institution that hires an unregistered teacher is liable to a fine of not less than Sh100,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or both.
The subject here is an institution. It's fine to say, '...is liable to a fine of not less than Sh100,000...'.

But it almost sounds absurd, when the article suggests that other than the fine, an offending institution can also be subjected to, '...imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years...'.

At times, all that is needed is re-reading the 'copy' or better still, reading the contents aloud.

This way, any lurking mistakes stand a good chance of being spotted and rectified, before a newspaper article gets published.

And this also applies also to those charged with crafting headlines.


To stay ahead in the news business, try and ensure readers don't lose their heads on account of your headines.


Friday, 8 December 2017

BORROWED CONCEPTS AND TV PROGRAM MISCONCEPTION

Yes, it is refreshingly engaging. Yes, the conversations are somewhat hilarious. And yes, the discussion topics are relevant. But not so new faces. Not a new channel. And definitely not a so new TV morning show format. Have we seen the last of original program ideas in Kenya? There's a misconception that borrowed concepts offer immediate traction with the audience.


This perhaps explains why creativity appears beyond dead and buried.

I shuddered on hearing two presenters animatedly alluding to the fact that they had raised similar observations in another 'platform' (meaning another similar program on another channel).

Very few program producers seem daring enough to venture away from the beaten path.

So, what viewers have to contend with are recycled program formats, and even presenters on a regular cycle of channel hopping.


If indeed familiarity breeds contempt, the current breed of program producers need to defamiliarise themselves with the tried and tested options, for the benefit of the target audience.










Friday, 1 December 2017

TV NEWS ERROR GENERATOR

Some media mistakes are unmistakable. However much you try to rationalise an editorial blunder, it still beats simple logic. And even if you successfully resist to pass judgement, it still remains a case of poor judgement. In many a Kenyan newsroom then, it appears there's a very dedicated error generator.


That perhaps is the only way to explain why armed with a set of clear facts and contextual information, a TV news station elects to feed the audience with utter nonsense!

A power generator goes missing in one of the counties. It is traced to a facility linked to a former governor of the same country.

But after a 'gallant' effort to condense these details, and craft a one liner story tag that would fit into the limited on screen space, the 'brilliant minds' at work bombard viewers with this textual horror:
"GENERATOR FOUND FORMER GOVERNOR HOTEL"
Yes. There's a generator involved. A former governor is also a significant detail. And there's mention of a hotel in the story too.


Even in the bygone era of the telegraph, this error would not be tolerated.

Keywords are important in summarising information.

It's supremely key for the chosen words to communicate meaningfully.


Thursday, 23 November 2017

OF SPLITTING HAIRS AND ON AIR HAIR

It might not be the most important element in TV news delivery. The appearance of news presenters, however, could be the tie breaker for many viewers, when deciding which Kenyan channel to watch news. It may seem like splitting hairs, but on air hair grooming is critical in making a newscaster to be easy on the eye.


You should want to avoid a look that gives the impression of being untidy, unkempt and generally unsightly.

Failure to do this has a direct impact on perceptions about a media house, because there's a valid reason why on air newsroom personnel are often reminded they are the face of the station.

Any credible broadcast news channel is thus likely to have an in-house grooming code, touching on acceptable on screen dressing, hairstyles, makeup, jewellery and many other details.


And significantly also, there ought to be budgetary support to enable news anchors, field reporters or program hosts to maintain the desired look and feel of the channel.

All these efforts might appear contradictory to the need to keep the attention of the viewer solidly on the news content.

Indeed, there have been numerous deliberate decisions to tone down what could amount to visual distractions, likely to make the audience deviate from the core purpose of watching news.


Apparently, the distraction can equally come from a 'strange' or 'unusual' appearance of newscasters or other on air talent.

That's why it is more desirable to be simple but not simplistic in the choice of wardrobe or hair styles, elegant but not eccentric, or classy but not flashy.


Watching news presenters need not be a hair raising experience!

Friday, 17 November 2017

THE REAL THREAT OF FAKE NEWS

A lot has been said and written about the negative impact of fake news. A robust verification process is often touted as the surest way of guarding against the so called alternative facts. But even the best assembled fact-checking mechanisms have been known to fail miserably. The real threat of fake news though, is how easily people believe the deception.


It especially seems like for the majority, any information posted on the Internet comes with a secret 'doubt-free' ingredient.

How else can one explain the incredible level of susceptibility, that makes even the most twisted story so believable?

Case in point, I was, queueing for hours to get essential Kenyan government services.

And despite gallant efforts to resist, I found myself becoming a very active listener of a conversation behind me.

A number of public personalities were given a not so private dress-down, with the discussion revolving around their ill-gotten wealth, perceived celebrity statuses, ruined relationships and even failed marriages.

I was tempted to intervene, when the name of someone I know personally was floated, and the chatter descended into outright falsehoods.

Now that's the real threat of fake news.

The kind of misinformation being exchanged at the hyper-local level is truly scary and the monster that social media has become is hugely to blame.

Indeed, online platforms have enabled those hell-bent to cause maximum damage, to have their own paradise on earth.

The fuel sustaining this gullibility could be the tremendously sophisticated way online information is packaged, that makes it hard to discern lies from the truth.

So now more than ever, is the time to sharpen one's internal truth-sensing instincts, for one to survive this onslaught of fake news.


Saturday, 11 November 2017

BEFITTING BEEF WITH PRINT MEDIA

The print media has been grappling with how to retain a diminishing readership, with most readers now being averse to paying for content that by and large can be accessed online, on demand and on the go. This has in turn led to more editorial experimentation. I have no beef with creativity, but more needs to be done to achieve befitting relevance, beyond eye-catching headlines.


It's quite ingenious to use the 'urban' equivalent of the verb denoting quarrelling, to describe a cross-border disagreement over mainly 'rural' livestock, in the article above.

And it almost appears like the headline writer found it irresistible to string together 'beef' and 'cattle' to drive the point home rather colourfully.

But the article's headline, however, looks a bit odd, because the parties involved in the 'beef' are identified by a country and a city.

You would ordinarily expect either two countries being identified together, or both being represented by cities, for a more evenly weighted delivery of the intended meaning.

That notwithstanding, this use of 'beef' is to a large extent befitting!




Friday, 3 November 2017

HIGHER EDUCATION AND MEDIA AS PURVEYOR OF IGNORANCE

A primary reason for tuning into a news channel is to be informed of significant happenings. But the content in Kenyan broadcasting stations can try one's patience. The delivery and presentation too, can be grossly abhorrent. Local TV news gets particularly revolting, if it becomes a purveyor of ignorance, in coverage of higher education matters.


Let's first take a few moments to frown upon the blatant disregard of elementary English language etiquette above, masquerading as an innocuous typo.

There are 'more serious' issues at stake here.

How the graphics below got to get on air in their sorry state, should be a big worry to the channel's media managers.


If the on screen information is to be believed:

- An Assistant Lecturer, at some undefined point in time, used to earn more than a Lecturer.

- The same Assistant Lecturer now earns a substantially lower amount in a new pay structure, as compared to the previous rate.

Now that's negative progress, but I digress.

This kind of ignorance is not bliss, it makes the heart miss a beat or two.