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.




Wednesday, 16 May 2012


Balance. Getting all sides, before publishing or broadcasting an accusatory news story. This is what any credible journalism should strive to do. But this is hardly ever the case, when the local press highlights the plight of Kenyans abused or mistreated, while working abroad.

Readers and viewers get to know in great detail, the ordeal of the locals, at the hands of 'beastly' foreign employers. But this is solely based on the information volunteered by the aggrieved parties.

Is it right then for the press to take the account of the 'victims' as the gospel truth? Is there no need for a semblance of a verification process, or cross-checking of the facts.

This brings to mind the book, 'Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, As Written by Himself.' Here was a fabulous story of the perils encountered by Frederick, as he escaped to freedom, from the shackles of slavery.

But because the narration was all his, the best the publishers could do was insert, 'As Written by Himself' in the title, as a subtle disclaimer.

In other words, somebody could be spinning an outrageous tale of how life was unbearable for them as domestic workers overseas. And if is there's no proper interrogation of their story by the media, then who knows where to draw the line between fact and fiction?

Of course it would be justifiable to argue that local journalists have no capacity to get the side of those being accused of perpetrating heinous human rights abuses, the 'culprits' being thousands of kilometres away, and all.

But even if the victims could be telling the truth, the reporters/editors still go wrong, in the manner in which they relay the 'harrowing experiences' of some Kenyans seeking to earn an honest living abroad.

And it has all to do with certain words like claim, allege, according to, etc, which are often conspicuously absent in such reports, and which could help transfer the burden of proof to the subjects in the story.

So please forgive me if at the end of such news stories, (not where death is involved), I'm quick to add, 'As written/narrated by himself/herself.'

No comments: