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Wednesday, 28 December 2011

2011 BLOG ROLL: THE TOP TOPIC TREAT


2011 has been, to use a retired cliche, a very eventful year. Going through all the blog posts for this year, also has its own revelations, about what interests readers the most. There's no prize for guessing because the most popular topic is an obvious one. SEX.

And as we see off the year and prepare to usher 2012, here now is a run down of the most favourite posts of 2011, in descending order, based on page view counts.


Big revelation of the year for me: I need to cut down the number of full colons in my blog titles.

May 2012 grant you all your desired wishes.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

CAN ATWOLI ATONE FOR MISFIRING STRIKE BY TRANSPORT UNIONS?


From the onset, calling for a country-wide strike with Christmas looming large, didn't sound like a bright idea. The country has been treated to a not so jolly ride of one strike after another and it seems apathy or fatigue has set in already. But Francis Atwoli  and a bunch of unions in Kenya's transport sector saw things differently.

Atwoli had a day before the intended industrial action, delivered an inspiring speech that was televised live, in which he did somewhat managed to pass out as a darling of the down-trodden.

But the the lukewarm reception of the strike call, and the reality of attempting to organise a 10-day general strike in the middle of what is probably the most profitable period for the public transport sector, finally yielded some common sense in COTU.

Here is a glimpse of how this matter was perceived by Kenyans on social media networks.

Monday, 12 December 2011

HELP! A REVISE EDITOR TO ARREST ERRORS WANTED



Revise Editor. Quality Controller. The importance of either of these titles or holders of these positions in a newsroom should never have to be justified. Automation or the loftiest of technological advancements just seem incapable of eliminating 'human errors' in finished news products.

With TV news, the level of alertness required from an editor is probably more taxing because, well, whatever is being processed, be it news highlights, lower-third story tags or titles, sometimes have to go straight on air.


And matters get complicated if it's one person doing this wonderful example of high pressure multi-tasking. The result: the hideous spelling mistakes you see in your evening TV bulletin, the humongous grammatical howlers or simply put, a very dedicated 'mission possible' to massacre the English language.

The solution: a revise editor or quality controller. A fresh or last set of eyeballs to go through the finished news product, especially its textual or graphical elements.


Call me a division of labour junkie but at times you really give your best to ensure the product is error free, only to be made aware of some very embarrassing albeit elementary mistakes, just when it's impractical to redeem your grammar soul.

Now here is the funny part though. Most local newspaper or magazine publishers I know of, do have somebody designated to do the work of a revise editor or quality controller. And yet grammatical or even factual errors do abound in finished products.


There is usually an elaborate chain of people, nay, 'journalistic 'experts or gatekeepers, strategically placed in the assembly line of a newspaper, from the reporters, to the news editors, from the sub editors to the managing editor. And oh yes, somewhere along the line is often a revise editor.

It thus beats me, why a newspaper story should pass all these checks and publishing pit-stops and still hit the newsstands, stating that Uganda is among the major East African cities, like Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.


Neither is it that easy to comprehend why a 'famous' football team from Germany should be referred to as 'Hamburger!!' (Oh the horror, given it's the team I have been supporting for donkey years).

But then again, as a fellow error-prone journalist, I shouldn't be too quick to pass judgement.




Saturday, 3 December 2011

ODE TO MEDIA INTERNS: AWAY WITH RECYCLING OLD FACES



There's something unnerving for many people, whenever they hear or see a new face reporting news on television. But for me, as long as the new talent has the broadcasting basics covered, it's quite refreshing to encounter a new personality delivering news. So hail media interns and down with recycling of old hands or is it faces?

Granted, the vast experience and professionalism possessed by veterans in the media industry, is a major asset. But it should always be remembered they too, have a shelf life that will one day approach the expiry date.

And this is the more the reason why media houses should invest in unearthing more journalists to keep the assembly line going, it being more expensive in terms of time, energy and finances spent on training, notwithstanding.

In actual fact, because of their deep knowledge of the industry and hands on experience in the news business, it is the veterans that might actually cost an arm and a leg to contract and maintain.

But this is not to say the budding journalists full of zeal and determination to succeed, but lacking a name or brand recognition, should be exploited by being overworked and underpaid.

Far from it. Prevailing market rates should ideally be reflected in any compensation packages, because it is quite diabolic and shameful for a self-respecting news establishment to take advantage of vulnerable interns, who are eternally grateful for having been given a chance, to the point of being blind and insensitive to their own welfare needs or fair rules of engagement.



And of what use is it for a media company to help nurture this fresh talent only to let it go, especially on the not so rare circumstances, where it could be letting something special slip away?

Not every intern can or should be absorbed into full time employment. But a professionally done assessment should be able to pinpoint the future gems, just by evaluating their growth potential.

Like the Jamaican crooner, Winston Hussey, musically observed:
"Long cut draw sweat. But short cut draw blood."
So enough with the musical chair business in the Kenyan media scene. Let's give deserving fresh talent a chance.






Saturday, 26 November 2011

NEWSROOM NONSENSE: WHY CONFIRM THE OBVIOUS?



Confirmation. A very important piece of detail that every serious news establishment should try to get, before publishing or broadcasting, especially potentially controversial issues. Stories from the newsroom have an uncanny way of at times finding their way to courtrooms and confirming facts could be a legal lifesaver. But confirming the obvious is over-stretching it.

A television news item, for example, shows images (at times graphic ones) of a shootout between suspected criminals and the police. There are a couple of bodies, firearms and spent cartridges being alluded to or shown directly.

Then you hear the reporter saying something like, 'The police have confirmed the incident..."

Is it that the images just splashed and the reporter's account of the incident are not to be believed initially, or is it that for them to be believable, somebody in 'authority' has to confirm them first?

Using that annoying statement of 'Confirming the incident,' even for a print story, adds no value whatsoever in the overall reportage, not unless perhaps there was a denial of what is being reported, in the same story.

So if the Kenya police, for example, deny there was a grenade explosion  somewhere, in the on going war on Al Shabaab, and the reverse is true, it would be perfectly alright to mention the Kenya Defence Forces, as having confirmed the incident.

Why then confirm that which has not been denied in the first place, like what is witnessed in many a Kenyan news story? I just don't get it.

Perhaps it is a hangover from our political past, when information meant for public consumption, had to be dispensed with all protocol observed, lest one found oneself on the foul side of the dictatorial divide.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

GREAT ANTICIPATION, UNFULFILLED EXPECTATION: A NEWSPAPER'S IAAF NIGHTMARE



It would have been a great story. Celebrating another fine run by a Kenyan long distance athlete. All indications had showed Vivian Cheruiyot was going to be crowned the world's finest 2011 female athlete, and an article had been written in advance. But alas, the IAAF declared a different winner, just as the earlier story was about to appear in print.



The result. Embarrassing, yet almost inevitable. The highest selling newspaper in Kenya hit the stands with two contradictory stories. One proclaimed Vivian's win and explaining in great details, her exploits in 2011and the elaborate award ceremony in Monaco. It was the centre pages' main attraction.

The other story, tucked in the sports pages at the back of the Sunday paper, had a totally different and more accurate account of what had transpired at the IAAF award ceremony. Vivian had been vanquished.


The honour of the best female athlete was bestowed on Australia's Sally Pearson, with Jamaica's sprint sensation Usain Bolt running away with the finest male athlete title.

So, it was almost practically impossible to completely change the content of the Sunday paper's Lifestyle magazine, carrying the erroneous story of Vivian winning the title, that was all set to appear just as Pearson was being declared the winner, on the preceding Saturday evening Kenyan time.

And the situation was made worse by the fact that both stories were written by the same person.


Should the popular paper have shelved the inside section in light of the latest development? As aforementioned, this was probably not practical.

Should it have withheld the new input to avoid contradicting the now misleading anticipatory article? No. otherwise it would have no business being in the news business.

But I strongly feel there should have either been an apology or explanation, even if as a footnote, somewhere in the Sunday paper, because that would have helped minimise the confusion to readers and speculation and castigation thereafter, especially on online social platforms.

Friday, 11 November 2011

POWER OF INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM A LA KTN


It has become a television news phenomenon, widely praised for its bold and courageous reporting. Rarely do you find the public expressing fears about journalists exposing themselves to serious potential harm, in the course of their work. And that goes to show KTN's investigative team's recent expose on Kenya's biggest drug haul was top-notch. 

Dennis Onsarigo and Mohamed Ali's painstakingly undertook to piece together information touching on sensitive issues regarding what they allege to have been an elaborate government cover-up, in the wake of the largest narcotics seizure in Kenya.

Critics can point out the stories were more of personal accounts or opinion than unconfirmed facts, or that even the narration style of the two reporters was irksome, but there is no denying the expose was stinging, focused and incisive.

I salute the KTN duo for a job done exceptionally well. Below is a sample of the reactions about their story, in the social media.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

INTERNEWS DIGITAL JOURNALISM WORKSHOP

Thursday, 27 October 2011

SOLUTION JOURNALISM FOR DEPTH AND PURPOSE



Journalists are chroniclers of major occurrences that are measured against the yardstick of known news values and found to be worthy of bringing to the attention of their audience. A new model of Solution Journalism seeks to transform media coverage to make it have more depth and purpose.

This would especially be helpful in Africa, where both local and international media coverage is always often dominated by negative news about this and that problem, with a very heavy dose of doom and gloom-inspiring content.

Very rarely do you find a lead story that is positive, one that would make the audience smile, laugh or cry...genuine tears of joy. I know for example, if Kenya wins gold in a major global competition, that nowadays is guaranteed of commanding the number one TV news slot.

This shows that in such moments, there is recognition that the feel good factor carried by such stories is beneficial and more important than the deaths, disease, conflict and other calamities, including what the politicians have been up to, that regularly hog the airtime and newspaper front pages

Solution Journalism would thus be a welcome addition in our situation, because where a problem is highlighted, (and there are always very numerous), a deliberate attempt will naturally be made to point to a way out of whatever predicament, disaster or misfortune being captured as news.

As eloquently argued by Ann Babe, writing for the Centre for International Media Ethics :
"The media, when solution-oriented, can actively function as a platform for social innovation and positive change."
Moreover, most local media outlets do try to balance the good and the bad sides of an issue, but often they are treated as separate stories, e.g., famine in one part of the country and surplus harvest in another part.

The challenge then is to make one story out of the problems and solutions. I've for example received many calls, after a needy case is highlighted in a TV news story, full of inquiries about how help can be channelled to the person in need.

But if this detail was also captured in the news story as well, then the impact and subsequent assistance pledged would be greater.

Like the name suggests, Solution Journalism is a gem that can bring back the glitter in news coverage.







Friday, 21 October 2011

GADDAFI: FROM REPORTEDLY KILLED TO DEAD


Muammar Gaddafi is dead. He was formerly reported killed, after first being said to have been captured and wounded, in his hometown of Sirte. That was how this story was covered by the international press, with every care being taken not to appear too certain, about the fate of the ex-Libyan leader.

Whereas it is commendable for the media to want to first confirm its facts, it reaches a point, in my opinion, when making reference to unconfirmed reports throughout, ceases to have its original value.

Why would CNN for example insist on first having a confirmation from the US government about Gaddafi's demise, and keep mentioning this fact over and over again in their coverage, while acknowledging that Libyan sources had confirmed Gaddafi's death?

In my part of the world, waiting for a confirmation from the government on any issue, would take close to forever, and you might end up getting the complete opposite of what actually happened. That could perhaps explain why the CNN modus operandi astounds me.

Below is a sample of how this story was first covered by the global media, in the initial stages.



Sunday, 16 October 2011

MADE IN KENYA TV SOAP: BORING OR BUBBLY?



It is no longer a secret. Television soap operas are some of the most popular programmes in Kenya, which explains why every local channel has a catalogue of them. Along comes a made in Kenya TV soap, which could either be bubbly and popular like foreign imports, or similarly boring to some people.

It seems those who hate soaps do so with a deep passion, whereas fans passionately follow the unfolding drama so religiously, so much so that their tears could flow freely just from watching a character's misery unfolding.

And men need not pretend any more that soaps are for dames and madams. A good number of avid followers come from the masculine side of the gender divide.

As a matter of fact, I have had the opportunity of answering a very late caller to NTV news desk, who was bitterly protesting that the soap being aired at that point was a repeat. A quick time check told me it was approaching midnight. And the voice was distinctively male.

So, will ' Kenya's first soap' continue to tickle the fancy of viewers, with the usual mix of people losing their memory only to gradually regain it to the detriment of the lead actor or actress, a glamorous wedding between people with sinister motives camouflaged as love, lot's of crying, and other staple soap plots?

Or will the interest wear out as the plot thins out?

Friday, 7 October 2011

NOBEL PEACE PRIZE COMES HOME: AFRICA



It probably is not fair to say the Nobel Peace Prize comes home, back to Africa. But the 2011 women winners being announced just a day before Prof. Wangari Maathai, Kenya's and Africa's first female recipient of the coveted award, is accorded a state funeral, calls for a special exemption.

I also deliberately choose to overlook the fact that the Nobel honour was split between two daughters of Africa, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and peace activist and fellow countrywoman Leymah Gbowee, with Tawakkul Karman of Yemen.



I believe it is a befitting sendoff to Prof. Maathai, to not only have the efforts of women recognized but that they also come from the African continent.

Maathai's legacy will of course endure perhaps to the ends of times, and her place in global history is assured. But the fact that there are more women in her mould only makes the world a better place.

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, after all has at the moment the exclusive honour of being Africa's first female Head of State and becoming a Nobel laureate just goes to confirm her leadership and visionary qualities.

That selfish shout-out for the African continent aside, it goes without saying that it also took great courage for Yemen's Tawakkul to head the Women Journalist Without Chains and lead her country's push for women's rights and democracy.

Here's is a toast then to all the joint winners of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

THE NEWS DIAMOND: A KENYAN NEWSROOM EXPERIENCE



The News Diamond model comes highly recommended for the 21st century newsroom. It still being an uncharted territory in this part of the world, I set out to find what new experience the model offers, within the confines of a Kenyan newsroom.


In the morning hours, shortly after been assigned to do a TV news story about plans to legally allow Kenya's intelligence officers to eavesdrop on private telephone conversations, I sent out an Alert in NTV's Facebook and Twitter account, with the aim of soliciting comments on the topic.


And the almost instant response, with some very compelling arguments for or against spy agents being allowed to tap people's phones, made me realise how involving the online community can favourably shape a news story, in its formative stages.


It is a pity that the NTV website is still an old-fashioned static one and so for the Draft stage, I wrote a quick-fire blog post that was hosted here in my personal blog, anchored by twitter comments harvested by a Storify article on the same subject, which I had earlier published. This elicited more comments from the blogosphere.

At this point, which was well into the afternoon hours, I could not do a proper Article or news Package, as recommended in the News Diamond model, because I had to schedule and follow up on TV interviews with a couple of experts.


I had in the meantime again linked my blog post on the subject to the NTV Facebook page, thanking the followers for their comments and inviting them to tune in that evening to watch the TV story. This again spawned more reactions on the subject.

And later that evening when I did the TV news piece, I had hoped to incorporate some of the rich online comments into the story to be aired, but was unable to because of time constraints. I did give it a mention though.



The Analysis or Reflection and Context stages thus were all hinged on that television story. And as for interactivity, I can quote the SMS, telephone and twitter messages I received after the story was transmitted.

Customisation stage could be covered by having the news clip posted on Youtube, and this blog post, which should possibly enable users to tailor-fit the information contained in my story, according to their respective needs.

And that is my energy-sapping but wonderful experience of the News Diamond model in a Kenyan newsroom.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

ALLOWING STATE SPIES TO LEGALLY TAP PHONES: SHOULD KENYA GO THE PATRIOT ACT WAY?



A draft of the National Intelligence Service Act seeks to legally empower state spies in Kenya to listen in on private telephone conversations. Similar to the Patriot Act in America, the aim is to proactively seek to contain crime. 

Human right activists are likely to raise a storm especially given that the Bill of Rights in Kenya's new Constitution safeguards rights to privacy from being infringed, even by state organs.

But there are those who feel that if the proposed surveillance will help keep citizens safe and curtail criminal activities, then that is a greater good, and the intrusion their privacy is a minor detail.

Will the needs of state security override individual's right to privacy in this instance? Opinion is somewhat divided as shown below, from a selection of views by Kenyans.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

PROF. WANGARI MAATHAI: THE SPIRIT LIVES ON



The world is mourning the passing of a modern day Kenyan legend, a champion of environmental conservation and fierce fighter for social justice. And even these words cannot begin to describe Prof. Wangari Maathai.

My first personal encounter with her was in 1997, while working for a local NGO, when I was tasked with monitoring her then campaigns for Kenya's presidential elections, as well as the Tetu parliamentary seat, which she both lost.

But despite such setbacks on the political sphere, her trail-blazing global fame soared, buoyed by her zeal for matters environmental. This was to culminate in her clinching the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.



Prof. Maathai continued to scoop accolade after international accolade. I vividly recall attending one of the occasions to bestow her in absentia with an honour in Cape Town South Africa, and the awe that struck me, when she expressed her gratitude via a recorded video link, to clapping invited guests in a foreign country.

As her television reporter, I did interview her a number of times, the last of which was at the sidelines of an African Union conference in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Her clarity of thought, when discussing pertinent issues was amazing and her steadfast focus on protecting mother nature was always a joy to highlight.

Farewell Prof. Wangari Maathai. The world is so much greener because of you and your spirit, legacy and inspiration will endure till the ends of time.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

MORBID FASCINATION WITH DEATHS: LESSONS FOR KENYAN MEDIA FROM AMERICA



How many people have died? That's a very common query put to sources or reporters by news editors, whenever a tragic incident occurs. And the number of those killed religiously becomes the most important element in the subsequent story. Isn't this morbid fascination with deaths by Kenyan media out of line?

Most unfortunately, the past few days have been full of tragic news in this country, ranging from loss of lives in a fire tragedy, to deaths from consumption of illicit brews, multiple road accidents and even a collapsed building that was still under construction.

Whereas it is the role of the media to report such occurrences, I just find the manner in which this noble duty is being carried out to be very wanting, because of what almost amounts to an obsession with giving tragic news a hyper treatment.

And such reportage is very often made worse by the seemingly inability of the local press to get facts right, before splashing the number of those killed in this or that tragedy. It's therefore not surprising for one  media outlet to quote one figure of the fatalities, while another states totally different numbers, about the same news story.

The lesson from America I'm suggesting, comes from the way the air race exhibition crash in Nevada was reported. That piece of horrifying breaking news first only indicated there were 'mass casualties,' and a couple of deaths.

Lessons for Kenyan media from America

Compare that with how news of the Sinai fire tragedy in Nairobi was initially clogged with all manner of confused estimations of the number of those who had perished.

Apart from spreading panic and possibly exacerbating the trauma of those affected or their relatives, let alone the gory images that were carelessly being screened on TV and later published in the papers, such news coverage depicts a media with very dubious ethical standards and warped sense of patriotism.

It's almost as if the local media prefers to nonchalantly give as much gory details as possible in a sickening misconception that this will deliver higher ratings/ readership or circulation figures.

What about the damaging perception about our country that such mishandled tragic news can potentially create in the global arena? How can this boost investor confidence? How about credit ratings for the country?

And it really makes no sense to always be quick to condemn the western media about their overtly negative coverage of news from Africa and then continue in the same vein, when telling our own stories.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

SEXUAL HEALING ON KENYAN TV: CONNECT AND GET CURED?



Sex sells. That has got to be one of the most tried and tested concept in mass media circles. But ironically, a lot of effort is also directed towards maintaining acceptable decency or modesty levels in society, apparently to protect the public from getting too much of what they crave for.

In comes a daring television show, co-hosted by Getrude Mungai, which seemingly is succeeding in bringing down the remaining bastions of television taboo.



The interest generated by the K24 show has generally been quite healthy, and once one gets past the initial shock of hearing 'bedroom matters' being discussed openly and unabashedly, one begins to appreciate indeed, there is a pertinent need being addressed.



But predictably, this boldness in highlighting sexuality issues is raising morality and ethical concerns that in the end lead to that eternal question: just how much is too much?

Below is a cross-section of views from social media networks.


Monday, 5 September 2011

NEWS PRESENTATION 101: THE NTV COUNTY EDITION WAY



In yet another phenomenal departure from your usual news presentation, the news anchors of NTV County Edition have been dazzling viewers with their tasteful traditional outfits that reflect the culture of the community from where they are broadcasting from.


In a commendable effort to fit in and indeed depict the seriousness given to the strategy of devolving news to the very grass-root level, the anchors have bequeathed a much needed appreciation for the diverse nature of Kenya's ethnic communities.

It is a marvel to watch this mode of county news presentation, given its added authentic feel and how the anchor introductions seamlessly flow into the video clips of the main stories, in a very contextualized fashion.



It is a welcomed deviation from the very common suits for men and formal wear wear for women, which predictably oscillates between skirt or trouser suits with brightly coloured tops.

I am of the school of thought that feels it looks awkward for a male TV reporter, e.g., to be telling a sports story and then appear in a tie and suit, when doing a piece to camera from the stadium or whatever sports arena.



So the idea of donning traditional outfits is quite refreshing and also communicates the fact that NTV County Edition is not seeking to indulge in parachute journalism, where they just land in a part of Kenya and then pretentiously seek to appear to know all there is to know about a given region.

Instead, one gets the feeling that the crew is trying hard to first understand the stories they are covering and the values of their host communities, knowing too well that they are outsiders at the very least, before relaying the same to an expectant national audience.



It is indeed a joy to watch regional news sugar-coated with such an underlying sense of focused treatment, designed to bring out all the issues in an enlightened yet humble mode of presentation, devoid of any negative pre-conceptions.

And that in essence, is the beauty, strength and enduring appeal of NTV's County Edition

Saturday, 27 August 2011

SEPARATING DOWRY FROM BRIDE PRICE: WHO PAYS WHAT?



Dowry. Bride price. Going by a recent Kenyan newspaper article, one may easily think these two words mean the same thing. But in actual fact, though both are some form of payment, each carries an opposing meaning, depending on who between the bride or groom is receiving the payment.



The Daily Nation's front page story of 21st August, was about some tragic news of a road accident that killed over 20 people. And among those who perished were relatives, who were returning to their village after a trip to pay bride price.

Further reading of the article shows that it was a man, who having living with his partner as husband and wife, was going back to his in-laws to complete paying the bride price, in line with the local traditions.


But in the inside pages, the same newspaper made reference of a dowry ceremony, in a related story about the same tragic accident. The facts though remained that it was the man's family, going to his 'wife's people.'

It appears like both bride price and dowry here, are used to mean the same thing. But as aforementioned, that cannot be accurate. according to the online free dictionary:

"Dowry is money, goods or estate that a woman brings to her husband in marriage."
So in the context of this story, any reference to dowry is misleading. Bride price fits the bill though because it is the man's family that was visiting their in-laws. The dictionary meaning is:

"Money and property given to a prospective bride's family by the prospective groom and his family"
So Kenya's leading daily erred on two fronts in its coverage of this particular tragic story. First on account of referring to dowry whereas it was the man's family visiting his wife's people.


And two, using dowry and bride price interchangeably, hence implying they mean one and the same thing. A double apology to readers would perhaps suffice!

Friday, 19 August 2011

THE 'NOW' PLAGUE AFFLICTING KENYAN TV NEWS ANCHORS



Now, turning to an inspiring story from.... Now, it is emerging that....Now....Now....Why is this word so easy on the tongues of Kenyan TV news anchors? Is it a sign of laziness or just a fallback or default word to (mis)use, when introducing a story?

Placing 'now' at the beginning of a sentence is not a grammatical mistake, but if it appears forced or  disconnected from the words that follow, it would make the sentence sound awkward.

According to yourdictionary.com, as a conjunction, 'now' is used to covey the meaning of 'since' or 'seeing that,' e.g. 'Now that you have graduated, you will be required to start repaying your student loan.'

As an interjection, it's used with no definite meaning, to provide emphasis or to resume one's remarks, e.g. 'Now, many are the times I have warned him about gambling.'

Or is the intention to mechanically use 'now', borne out of the false assumption it would contribute to the newsiness of a story, by sort off implying very current information?

Now that I have pointed out that cliche, it brings to mind blunders regularly starring in Kenyan broadcast stations, during their prime time newscasts.


The lower third text is arguably the commonest place to mine English language howler gems. I am aware though, of the pressure news producers goes through, which makes them prone to making errors.

First of all, one must have the story tags ready in good time after making them short enough to make sense, while restricted to the number of characters that will not bust and go off-screen.

As a news producer, I  often used to wonder why my own story tags would embarrassingly contain hideous mistakes, even after running a spelling and grammar check.

It's only after realizing the setting for the Word spell check on my desktop, was such that words in capital letters would be ignored, and yet that is how the tags were being displayed entirely.

I occasionally still flout grammatical rules, of which I blame the pressure to have them ready before the news bulletin begins. But even I do appreciate that there should never be a reason to have 'silly' mistakes on air.


Thursday, 11 August 2011

MISFITS & MISFORTUNES: WHY UK RIOTS OFFER LESSONS TO THE UK



That the riots in the UK have been exacerbated by social misfits is highly debatable. That the breakdown in law and order has occasioned great misfortunes for a hitherto stable country is obvious. But the main realization for authorities there, should be: the UK riots offer greatest lessons to the UK.

There's hardly anything strange in people acting like hooligans and causing mayhem in the streets in Kenya or generally countries that unwillingly carry the Third World tag. Nor is it surprising to see hordes of youth looting and causing rampage. (OK. 9 year-olds stealing alcohol is just weird).

The poverty levels in developing countries have a knack of bringing out the worsts from citizens lacking basic sustenance, who at times are deprived of very fundamental rights as human beings. But if truth be told, even that should not be a reason enough to turn violent.

But here is a very wealthy country, that even manages to make regular payments to unemployed people, who mostly consist of youths. Here is a country, where on calculating how much one is going to earn by taking up a job and comparing it to the financial handouts from the state, one can amazingly opt to remain jobless, because it's more lucrative.

So is there another underlying cause for all the disturbances in England, the apparently ill-advised shooting by police in Tottenham notwithstanding? Why was the rioting not confined to the area where the incident occurred? The answers to such queries would offer invaluable lessons to the UK.

But to many Kenyans perhaps, the UK riots offer a mixture of sympathy, amusement, wonder and amazement. Below is a sample of reactions from social media networks, locally.




Friday, 5 August 2011

LIVE BLOGGING: KENYANS FOR KENYA CORPORATES PLEDGE DAY

Thursday, 4 August 2011

WHAT EMBARRASSMENT TO AFRICA? MUBARAK SHOULD FACE THE LAW



His nearly 30-year reign ended dishonourably, after a popular uprising led to his ouster. Indeed, there was jubilation in the streets of Cairo, when Hosni, 'the last Pharaoh of Egypt,' Mubarak exited from power. Given his supposed decades of misrule, I don't see how his trial amounts to an embarrassment to Africa.

The front page of one of Kenya's local dailies
Embarrassment to whom? To an individual, who so happened to have served as Egypt's Head of State for years? Is that reason enough for him not to be subjected to a trial? I strongly beg to differ.

And for those arguing that hauling Mubarak to court on a stretcher is unreasonable, inhuman and an embarrassment to the African continent, how would they describe the treatment accorded to former Liberian leader Samuel Doe? Or his predecessor William Tolbert and his Cabinet ministers?

The charges Mubarak is facing state that he allegedly authorized the killing of protesters, among others. So why, pray tell, should he be allowed to go scot-free, and allowed to enjoy the sublime comforts of his ill-gotten wealth?

Coverage of Mubarak trial in a Kenyan daily
What of the Egyptians, who lost their lives or livelihoods during Mubarak's rule? Should the passion of Egyptians yearning for change, as exemplified by my friend and former classmate, Randa el Tahawy, including the attendant risks, be denied a befitting closure in Cairo's corridors of justice?

So many questions needing appropriate answers. But hardly any likely to be wished away by even insinuating that Mubarak's trial is inappropriate. I can only read a hidden agenda on such reportage.

Egyptians, I feel, should be applauded for applying their own law to try a leader, who fell out of favour probably a long time ago.

                                                  Ex Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo Reacts to Mubarak Trial

Instead of Africa being embarrassed, Mubarak's trial should serve as a stark warning to dictators in the continent that the days of wantonly clinging to power, while perpetuating savage atrocities against the masses, will no longer be tolerated.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

DROUGHT & HUNGER IN KENYA: BLAME YOUR LOCAL LEADER





Drought. Famine. Hunger. Starvation. Death. These sequence of events has become irritatingly too familiar in Kenya. And yet many lives still end up being at risk, with some actually succumbing. During this crisis, I just can't help but wonder how any elected leader manages to get any sleep at night.



But is it a tad too convenient to point an accusing finger at leaders? Hell no. This dire situation and how to overcome it is exactly what true leadership is all about, if not preventing it from occurring in the first place.

Is there really an acute food shortage, arising out of a severe drought, erratic weather, massive crop failure or other circumstances beyond human control? Why am I not convinced.

When it rains, you here stories of flooding, hardly any of rain harvesting. When the harvest is bumper, you here a lot about produce price wars and very little about improving post-harvest practices or construction of new storage facilities.

Again, I'm mot convinced past, the current and a future similar crisis could not and cannot be averted.

Appropriate policy formulation and long-term planning, a decade plus into the 21st Century is achievable, even in Kenya.

Below is a sample of the coverage of the current drought crisis and reactions from the mainstream and social media.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

OF A THREAT ON NATIONAL TV AND ABUSE OF MEDIA POWERS



"...We don't know whether your work permits are still valid. But our legal department is looking into the issue and you can be assured they will be all over you like a bad itch..." That sounds like a threat. It was made on national TV. Is this a case of the media abusing it's powers?

Whether justified or not is really besides the point. You just don't use such language on the only public broadcaster, however aggrieved you are.

It appears the TV presenter in question was particularly upset by what she says was the confiscation of footage recorded by the crew of the programme, by the organizers of a  concert by Congolese Lingala music sensation Fally Ipupa.

Anyiko, presenter of KBC's Grapevine variety show

And right from the introduction of that segment, you could sense she was perhaps taking the matter very personally, otherwise how do you justify her comment that the Ipupa show was the most poorly organized in the entire history of the world?

If it was true some overzealous promoters, bouncers or concert officials did forcefully take the recorded material in fear that it would be used to paint them in bad light, then that needs to be condemned. But here, an eye for an eye should not suffice.

And that apparently has been the trend among people working in the media. They issue threats they will publish or broadcast bad things about somebody or a company, if they don't get their way. This is meant to scare the other party into accepting their demands.

If this is not abuse of office or powers that the media keeps highlighting, especially where government officials are involved, then I don't know what is.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

OF SEX TOYS, JOURNALISM AND A VEILED PRODUCT ENDORSEMENT



Not for the first time, the topic of sex toys has found itself in Kenya's mainstream media, with yet another apology to boot. For to openly promote the use of gonad gadgets is nothing short of using journalism to corrupt public morals, let alone the veiled product endorsement.

Serious journalism should value the need to respect obtaining common decency levels, which curiously occurred as an afterthought for the offending paper. The apology rightly pointed to a realization that as a family paper, the bold content was inappropriate.

But on the same day the apology was getting published, another newspaper was giving the sex toys article new wings to fly.

This was courtesy of a columnist, better known for her prowess and outspokenness in the morning radio shows category.

On this account, Caroline Mutoko goes flat out to advocate for the right of women to take charge of their sexual fulfillment destiny, organically, mechanically, electronically or otherwise.

While respecting every one's right to hold an opinion, I am particularly distressed by Mutoko's parochial appreciation of the kind of influence she has as a public figure and the inherent and immense capacity to shape opinion, especially on impressionable young minds that readily access her media content.

It does not matter how much of a disclaimer she gives, that she is not a journalist, in her online page.

The bottom line is that she engages the public using journalism platforms and as such, her writings and utterances should not corrode the pillars of media ethics.

Mutoko's incessant quest for a 'toe-curling experience' cannot scientifically be generalized or extrapolated to the extent of defining the obtaining sexual needs of all the females in Kenya.

And as depicted in the local social media discussions below, there does appear to be subtle indication that she could have personalized or projected her own experiences way too much into her juicy article.

Monday, 4 July 2011

WHY COMMUNITY SERVICE TV CHANNELS SHOULD BE INCORPORATED INTO THE DIGITAL MIGRATION STRATEGY



One advantage of digital migration is that TV stations will have more channels at their disposal. But not many industry players are enthusiastic about the challenge of identifying suitable content for the extra channels. I think some of these frequencies should be dedicated to community service, like medical appeals.


Many are the times I have heard to disappoint people seeking to have the plight of their relative or loved ones highlighted in the news, so that well-wishers out there can come to their assistance.

In as much as one may sympathize with people with health related problems, and might very much be willing to assist in having their cases aired, it is not such a simple decision for a news editor.

The reason for turning down such requests might appear insensitive and even selfish but it's nevertheless quite valid. Saying yes to one person and having a story aired is almost guaranteed to lead to one thing. More and more people calling in with similar requests.

If especially after highlighting a needy case, a great response is generated and donations and pledges of assistance come pouring in, you can be sure this will trigger more medical appeal requests.



There have been situations, where sick people are brought to broadcast stations and even abandoned there, in extreme cases. So as a policy, a media company might want to control coverage of medical appeals or restrict it to only the most unusual cases.

But as demonstrated by the story of the 4-year-old amputee, detained in hospital because of unsettled bills, which was aired by K24, people's willingness to help is something that needs to be tapped into not curtailed.

Hence my argument for some TV channels to be dedicated to community service, like facilitating medical appeals, once the country migrates to a digital platform.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

CBA LIVE IN NAIROBI: DIGITAL REVOLUTION WORKSHOP

Thursday, 16 June 2011

MIRROR MIRROR ON THE WALL, ARE 15% OF KENYANS GAY AT ALL?



In one of those rare moments, Kenya gets to stand in front of a mirror. It's highly improbable that what is reflected back will be interpreted the same way by all citizens. So, when Nominated Member of Parliament Millie Odhiambo says 15% of Kenyans are either gays or lesbians, it's understandable that what this mirror reflects back will not be agreeable to all.

The fact that this assertion was made on the floor of the House and a direct reference was made about the possibility of 15% of MPs likewise being 'non-heterosexual,' almost stalled the debate on a matter of crucial national importance.

The furore generated in Parliament was equally witnessed in social media circles, as reflected below.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

PREYING USING PRAYER: AWAY WITH QUESTIONABLE RELIGIOUS SHOWS ON TV


Who will save us from some of the dubious salvation being peddled on TV stations? Ironic, I think it is, for the Kenyan media to always be quick to expose fraudsters, tricksters or con artists and still accord a platform to religious shows that seem to perpetuate the very same sins.

It's really amazing just how much of what is screened borders on outright hoodwinking of the audience, especially the gullible type, who need no concrete proof to believe in make-believe miracles. 

Admittedly, it is hard to demand for evidence, when matters of faith are involved. But, and a big but, some performances in these spiritual extravaganzas come very close to stage-managed performances, even to the untrained eye.

It is more worrying that the media is being used by the televangelists, to coerce their congregation into parting with cash.

With the advent of mobile phone money transfer services, cell-phone numbers are some of the graphical details you are most likely going to see being prominently displayed in the church programmes, encouraging viewers to use them to help this or that religious cause.

And if the supposed shepherd is the usual eloquent master of the spoken word, then his or her word is inter-laced with anything from threats of fire and brimstone to promises of instant redemption from whatever is afflicting the flock, to achieve the financial agenda, never mind what the actual Word says.

Therein lies my problem with the trend taken by nearly all the local TV stations, of allocating morning hours air-time on Sundays, to programmes with questionable religious content. 

The way TV stations can refuse paid up advertisements from politicians spreading hatred or promoting hegemony, is the same way local channels should refuse to sell their airtime to creators of misleading religious programmes.



Thursday, 2 June 2011

SEPARATING REAL FACTS FROM HOME-MADE TRUTHS: THE SAGA OF NIGERIA'S ENVOY TO KENYA


Once upon a time a picture not only used to be worth a thousand words, but its authenticity was seldom called into question. Along came the digital revolution and Photoshop inspired minds, and the credibility of pictures started to be contentious. But, if Nigeria's envoy to Kenya is to be believed, his wife needed no computer software to get images of her battered face.

Dr. Chijioke Wigwe has this amazing rebuttal that the injuries his wife claims were inflicted by him, during a domestic spat, were grossly exaggerated and that Mrs Tess Iyi Wigwe actually smeared blood across her face to make it look like she was brutally assaulted by her husband.

If the media gets caught up in such a fine mess, who is likely to be believed? And based on what evidence?

Facts are sacred in journalism, no doubt. But the catch is that, facts have a nasty habit of taking a different shade or shape, depending on who is being quoted in a story.

And that is why it is essential for the press to independently seek to establish the truth, by thoroughly interrogating all the versions being presented or misrepresented as truthful accounts.

And if this proves impossible to determine, then a news story is in the very least expected to be balanced, which means getting both sides of a dispute represented in a story and then allowing members of the audience to draw their own conclusion, as the relevant authorities conduct the more formal investigations.

But also, one must not lose sight of the fact that it is not always that the media has options in black and white. There are lots and lots of grey areas.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

THE DON'TS AND DON'TS FOR FEMALE TELEVISION PRESENTERS



The physical appearance of a news anchor or TV show presenter can make all the difference between a viewer staying on a given channel or reaching for the remote. Importantly though, the viewer should not be distracted from what is being presented. 

It's good to try and be trendy and fashion conscious, but showing too much 'unnecessary skin' on national TV is to go overboard, in my considered opinion.

Whereas there's nothing a presenter can do about biological features, save for going for cosmetic surgery, the mode of dressing is one element that can be used to either augment or diminish the visual appeal.

The killer looks might keep those with perverted inclinations, especially men, glued to the screen, but I can almost guarantee it that an overwhelming majority will not be concentrating on what the presenter is saying.

Granted, sex appeal sells. But to what extent should this be used to drive up ratings? Isn't there a safe middle-ground, where decency is not sacrificed at the alter of driving up viewership numbers?

But there is a catch. As a TV presenter or news anchor, you can hardly ever hope to please everyone. As brilliantly reflected in the online discussion wall of the BBC:

...there is no form of dress or level of personal grooming that a presenter can follow that won't meet with criticism. If they dress nicely, they get criticized, if they dress casually they get criticized. If they comb and style their hair they get criticized, if they don't they get criticized...

It nevertheless does not mean the presenters can get away with anything, especially in an African setting, where many cultures frown upon too liberal a public dressing code. Conformity or minimal deviations from existing societal standards in this case is desirable.

There are instances, where a media organization imposes restrictions on what is an acceptable dressing code. This strictness at times becomes too much a burden for the presenters to bear, like it happened with Al Jazeera, where five female presenters quit their jobs, after being pressed to tone down their mode of dressing.

The bottom line then, I think, is to avoid extremes, when it comes to dressing for television. Much as a female presenter might want to reflect the very latest trends, what needs to be covered up, should remain covered up, to avoid looking trashy.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

THE CJ NOMINEE AND HIS CHERISHED STUD: PRIVATE LIFESTYLE VS PUBLIC PERCEPTION

Dr. Willy Mutunga, courtesy of Daily Nation
Once again the local media has found itself in an awkward position. A seemingly innocuous earring that adorns the left earlobe of the man nominated to be Kenya's next Chief Justice, is causing all the rage in public debate.

Ignoring this issue on the grounds that it's trivial might seem a sensible thing for the media to do. But given the public interest generated, whether misguided or inconsequential, failing to highlight the matter, it appears, would be tantamount to taking sides and failing the neutrality or objectivity test.

Below is a sample of how this debate has been shaping up.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

COVERAGE OF THE BRITISH ROYAL WEDDING: COLONIALISM VS GLOBALIZATION



For how much longer will the term colonialism be thrust upon latter-day generations of Kenyans?  According to one critic, the coverage of the recent British Royal wedding by the Kenyan media, is a reflection of our continued state of colonization. Please, replace colonialism with globalization.

Britain's Prince William and Kate Duchess of Cambridge
Despite the global fascination with the nuptials, Evan Mwangi deliberately set out to paint a black and white picture, where black represents Africa and white its past colonial masters, thereby misrepresenting the colourful regal tradition of the entire ceremony.

Visuals are a key element in television broadcasting and that partly explains why the wedding was being beamed live by all the major local channels, because the images from weddings to many people, fit the description of 'eye candy.'

As captured in an article in the online version of the Christian Science Monitor,  it is a bit ironic that Kenyans would be so interested in the wedding of a major figurehead of the very people whom they fought hard to free themselves from the yolk of colonialism.

But to consciously set out to establish how many black people were captured on television screens or how many children in the choir were black, is to say the least being narrow-minded, which perhaps even betrays just how much one is suffering from colonial hang-ups.

An estimated 2 billion people watched Prince William and Catherine Middleton tie the royal knot so what difference would it have made even if the Kenyan media boycotted covering the event as a protest to colonial injustices?

If anything, as argued by Rasna Warah, it was more of about missed opportunities to weave in the Kenyan connection to the wedding, by marketing the country as a romantic tourist destination, buoyed by the fact that it provided the setting for Prince William's proposal.

And it is a tad unconvincing for somebody earning a livelihood in a 'white man's country,' to purport to lecture his fellow Kenyans at home about how much colonized they still are.

So Prof. Mwangi's argument that the local media's fascination with the British royal wedding amounts to perpetuating colonialism is to say the least plain hot air. Regardless of our history, we are now global citizens.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

FROM JAMAICA WITH PROUD SHAME: DANCEHALL LESSON FOR KENYANS



I've been to the Caribbean island of Jamaica, on a news feature assignment. Take it from me. The Jamaican dancehall music scene knows no shame. That daring lack of moral principles is what perhaps defines it. So what really did Kenyans expect to see, when a couple of Jamaican dancehall artists descended on the Nairobi entertainment scene?

Despite many of them having consciously or sub-consciously uttered the word 'Bendover' few it appeared, were prepared to see the daggering motions, heavily laden with raw sexual simulations, that have earned this breed of music notoriety.

It is however a tad ironic for the local media to castigate the organizers of this concert, as if they had just stumbled upon the goings-on in the Jamaican dancehall scene. After all, journalists had initially been denied entry into the event and had allegedly been told the show needed no coverage.

It therefore sounded ridiculous, when a variety show TV presenter in one of the local channels, introduced the Swaggeriffic concert story, by saying 80% of their footage was found to be unsuitable for screening.

Prior to the Easter show, the media should probably have tried to highlight the fact that some of these Jamaican music/dancing exports had been banned in a number of countries, including Jamaica.

And hopefully, a number of concerned organizations would have tried to petition the authorities to intervene to force the organizers to in turn compel the artists to tone down on their stage antics. 

But a number of media outlets instead, actually promoted the concert. It is only afterwards, that the same media started crying foul over 'Bent Over Morals.'

Below is a sample of the outrage generated in the social media networks, in the wake of the Swaggeriffic concert.