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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.




Saturday, 28 October 2017

SOLIDARITY: WHAT WE NEED

The twists and turns in Kenya's prolonged and increasingly agonizing electioneering period, continue to raise tensions in the country. Critical players seem to be tearing the country apart. But what worries the most is not the political or institutional failures.  It's the devaluation of human life, when settling real, perceived or imaginary differences. Solidarity is what we need.


Like Mykal Rose chanted many decades ago, Kenyans need to constantly remind themselves of who the real enemy is, by telling each other:
Look at me I ain't your enemy
We walk on common ground
We don't need to fight each other
What we need, what we need
Solidarity!
Yes. We are all stakeholders in defining the destiny of the country.

No. That does not necessarily mean we have to die so that someone else assumes or retains the presidency.

The liberation struggles cost many lives undoubtedly.

But the liberty gained was to enable us to resolve arising differences without shedding more blood.

Violence, whether from state organs or organized gangs should not feature in conflict resolution.

Again, Black Uhuru's Steven Van Zandt composed lyrics ring so true:
Look at me I ain't your enemy
Don't believe everything you hear
This is not time to fight each other
What we need, What we need...
SOLIDARITY!

Friday, 20 October 2017

OF CREATIVITY, HATE SPEECH AND SPORTS HEADLINES

Those tasked with crafting headlines for newspaper articles, often come up with brilliant word plays that effectively capture the intended mood and communicate the salient points as well. But then there are times you look at some  headlines and cringe, in spite of some gallant attempts at raising the bar of creativity. Some sports headlines in Kenyan newspapers come dangerously close to hate speech.


It may seem like an innocent attempt to amuse or delight readers with catchy headlines, but it's naive to overlook the serious undertones that might also be inadvertently projected.

In the 'insensitive' headline above, the 'judgemental' headline writer seems to have long concluded that mugging is synonymous with 'slum boys'.

And come to think of it, 'mugging' is actually being glorified here!

You see, in plain language, the sub-editor is saying a team with many players drawn from Nairobi's informal settlement of Mathare, defeated one of Kenya's most successful football clubs.

In my opinion, the headline below is making a mockery of the downfall of a once vibrant supermarket chain, going by the manner in which the defeat of the firm.s football team is being reported.


 It cannot all be about seeing the funny side of other people's misfortunes.

Sadly, as previously noted several times in this very forum, it seems local sports pages happily continue with this trend, irrespective of the likelihood of such headlines being utterly offensive.

No. It's no defense to argue that it's all in jest.

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.

Friday, 25 August 2017

THE HIGH FIGURE OF DEFINITIONS OF FIGURE: GO FIGURE!

English can be a strange language undoubtedly. And that's probably one reason why the media in Kenya often makes a mess out of communicating even simple information. Sometimes though, what the local press publishes can deceptively look wrong.


It appears, for example, that I can't figure out some of the numerous meanings of the word figure.

At first glance, I was so sure the headline for the above article:
"Clan factors to figure in contest for speaker"
 ...was not making sense. The correct version, I immediately thought, should have been:
" Clan factors to feature in contest for speaker" 
I now know the figure of various definitions of figure is quite high.

It can be a noun, verb and even figure of speech.

Go figure!

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

POLICE BRUTALITY PREVALENCE AND MEDIA AMBIVALENCE

In a shocking violent act, during the protests that followed Kenya's General Election, a six- month-old infant is believed to have been clobbered by anti-riot police. The parents' pain is unimaginable, after the demise of their little one. The local electronic media extensively covered this prevalence of police brutality. It appears though that there was some ambivalence in how the story was treated by a section of the print media.


How else can one explain the front page teaser of such an evocative story, in the country's leading daily? The heading 'mildly' states:
'Infant caught up in police raid dies'.
It's as if the police are being absolved from blame. One can even conclude the tragedy was accidental.

Notice the difference with the main story, tucked in the inside pages.


The impression is that this was a deliberate act and the riot police are directly responsible for the infant's death.

Why didn't the front page teaser read something close to:
'Infant beaten up by riot police dies'?
One can almost detect something sinister, here.

Whether it's fear by the paper to represent the entire truth, or tactically seeking to distance itself from prominently apportioning blame, it's clear in this instance that this sad story, is being handled subjectively.

Friday, 11 August 2017

KENYA ELECTION: MEDIA HITS, MISHITS AND MISFITS

It's been a grueling last few days in Kenya, in yet another competitive General Election. The actual polling day was remarkably smooth, with only a few challenges. Then came the tallying of votes and all manner of electoral malpractice allegations started to be thrown around. The media had a difficult task of verifying information. But in the end, a winner was officially declared.


Covering the election as a journalist is not an easy affair. The pressure to deliver timely and factual content is almost unbearable.

Many local newsrooms were on a long-haul mode, interspersing live updates from main studios, with live links to reporters scattered across Kenya.

All manner of political analysts and pseudo-experts were also accorded acres of space and copious airtime to either showcase their grasp of issues, or 'regale' the audience with their ignorance.

And not many people were satisfied with the media coverage.

I, too, had many a cue cringe moments, especially when rookie TV reporters had their on-screen moment of fame, (or is it infamy?), or when the calibre of questions being fielded at pressers came off as a tad elementary.

In all fairness though, the media did not utterly disappoint.

There's always room for improvement, but there were positives to build on. And that's my point!



Thursday, 3 August 2017

DITCH FORMALITIES, CUE POLITICAL STAGE NAME

It's only a matter of days now before Kenya's General Election. The country has nevertheless almost perpetually been in an electioneering mode, ever since the last polls. The newsroom frenzy of election campaigns coverage has seen the media and politicians form an unwilling alliance. Is it surprising then that a newspaper can deem it fit to ditch formalities and just refer a prominent politician by his political stage name?

Is it a case of too much familiarity?

Maybe it is yet another attempt to try and match the style and lingo of millennials.

Or is the shortened version of the name more convenient for the available space for the headline?

Whichever the case may be, it is a tad distressing for a national paper to assume any potential reader, will understand who the person they are referring to is, be they locals or foreigners.

One is even tempted to think that at this rate, we'll soon start seeing the media having no qualms about using popular nicknames like Rao, Uunye, MaDVD, or other more disparaging references, on first mention.

If that is the trend, then I fear we could soon be seeing the local mainstream media disastrously mimicking social media parlance, in a desperate attempt to retain a vanishing audience, in order to remain relevant and viable.

Quotation marks would have sufficed here, but don't quote me!



Thursday, 27 July 2017

A HEADLINE'S PROMISE AND A DELINKED ARTICLE'S PREMISE

A headline is primed to sell a newspaper if on the front page, and any article elsewhere. This means a lot of responsibility is bestowed on whoever is tasked with crafting headlines. A reader has every right to feel offended by an article's headline that seems unrelated to the story it's calling attention to. The headline makes a promise, but the article's premise is delinked from it.


It's pretty much like ordering a burger only for the waiter to call you a bugger...now that's ugly!

So, in the newspaper story above, the main headline states:

'Teachers assured of higher July salaries'.


Now the obvious expectation is that the story will be about salaries...higher salaries...for the month of July...being assured to teachers.

The deck introduces a twist even before the reader gets to the body of the article, by proclaiming:

'Kuppet official says there are plans to withhold salaries till after August 8 polls'.

At this point, there appears to be some conflicting elements in the story being anticipated.

One angle talks of higher salaries, while the other alludes to fears of salaries being delayed.

An already confused reader would want to get clarity from the story intro.

But the story's first paragraph is more closely related to the information contained in the deck, and bears no resemblance to the contents of the headline.

It is beyond temptation to assume an editorial preference was given to the higher pay angle, as opposed to the delay in payment contention.

If that's not deception, what else can you decipher?

(Try not to link the defective headline to elective politics in Kenya).




Thursday, 20 July 2017

DIMINISHING VALUE OF LEGACY MEDIA

It's no longer debatable. The mainstream media in Kenya is undergoing a serious erosion of its appeal. That politicians can elect to ignore such a powerful platform in an election year, speaks volumes about the diminishing value of traditional mass media. The legacy media is losing its influence, which in the past has driven the transformation agenda for the country.


That a debate meant to feature more than 5 candidates seeking the second most powerful seat in Kenya, featured only one candidate, is an indication of a fading local media and its waning dependability

Granted, there are now so many alternative ways of pushing political messages to the electorate, such that one need not worry about access or lack there-off, to established media channels.

But the proliferation of digital platforms and the availability of social media networks, should not be an excuse because mainstream media houses have strived to tap into these emerging communication technologies.

So what ails the legacy media in Kenya?

- The dynamics of journalism have changed but attitudes of journalists remain the same.

- Young media managers are taking over, but old systems still prevail.

- News gathering is getting deeper in technology but content presentation is becoming shallower.

- Education levels are rising but editorial standards are falling.

Time for self-reflection and evaluation is long overdue for the country's traditional media.


And yes. It won't hurt to also get spellings right!








Thursday, 13 July 2017

NEWS SLANT, SKEWED OBJECTIVITY AND PRETENTIOUS PRESS NEUTRALITY

Biases in media coverage can be subtle. They can also be very blatant. During this electioneering period in Kenya, the press is trying to project some semblance of balance, in the coverage of various political camps. But such pretentious neutrality becomes evident, once in a while. The news slant translates to skewed objectivity.


Notice how similar disruptions in two campaign rallies were accorded different headlines in the two leading dailies in Kenya.

Each paper appears keen to limit embarrassing it's 'preferred' presidential candidate.

In other words, one paper gets to be nice to the political establishment, and very liberal in giving prominence to negative aspects of the opposition.

And the other dishes the reverse treatment across the political divide.

So, it's like the country's main dailies have entered an election coverage pact, either between themselves, or with their political affiliates.

It will be interesting to find out if the dividends of this arrangement are political or purely commercial!




Thursday, 6 July 2017

TV INTERVIEWS: ELITES NON-INTEREST & FIDELITY TO PUBLIC INTEREST

Objectivity. Impartiality. Neutrality. Balance. These are words that media practitioners will be harshly judged against, as Kenyans navigates this year's electioneering period. That's why journalists ought to be aligned more with the needs of the public, than for politicians. Fidelity to the public interest should override non-interests of elites, in TV political interviews.


And so it becomes quite challenging to satisfactorily interrogate politicians, and associated political players on TV, especially, for the benefit of the watching public, a good chunk of whom are potential voters.

There's a very slim chance of getting approval across the various political divides, and the odds against journalists are multiplied by plenty of malevolent critics, who probably are adding their own prejudices or biases, and thus subtracting from the overall value of the engagement.

So, the chorus of disapprovals after every other TV interview or debate, where the interviewers or moderators get a serious bashing because of perceived 'media sins' of omission or commission, should be cognizant of the difficulties of serving competing interests that journalists have to routinely contend with.

In any case, is it better for the interviewer to exhibit great understanding of topical issues backed by solid research, to please his or her peers, or the elites in society, for that 'coveted' stamp of approval, but fail to resonate with many more who are not as knowledgeable?

Or should an interviewer demonstrate some level of ignorance, so as to represent the likely average grasp of the issues amongst members of the audience, to better help enlighten them, by having everything simplified?

I'm certainly not the best media informer, but in these two scenarios, I distance myself from the former.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

CAKE OF HISTORY AND DINING IN ADDIS ABABA

To be in a historical place is for most people a highly fascinating experience. One could get a fill and half of history in museums. But visiting ancient sites or places that have withstood the test of time and stood for over a hundred years, is the real icing on the cake of history. Even if you are a stranger in a foreign country, the encounter can still be breathtaking.


A quest for food led us to a very special eatery, on the suburbs of Addis Ababa.

From the entrance, nothing says you are about to dine in the midst of immense history, (and we wouldn't have had a clue if it was not for our very polite and extremely helpful guide).

But there's a sense of nostalgia of an era gone by, going by the interior decor.

And the dead giveaway is a huge portrait that proudly proclaims that this establishment has been in operation since 1898.

Our guide could have been on to something, when he told us that this was the very first hotel to be set up in Ethiopia.

It's really a pity that my taste-buds can't stomach the highly acclaimed Ethiopian national dish.

For real, it felt mighty odd to feast on a piece of "modern" fish delicacy, instead of fishing for traditional dishes in the menu, which have been served for many decades.


Friday, 23 June 2017

LIKE IT OR NOT, UNLIKE AS A LEAD IN A READ IS UNLIKABLE

Unlike, at the beginning of a story, I don't like. For the media, this amounts to making an untenable assumption about your audience. That their minds can supply the missing details they've been denied by the writer. Like it or not, unlike as a lead in a read is unlikable.

It's a bit taxing on the reader, if a newspaper article begins as if other critical details in understanding the story have already been furnished.

Yes, there is a not too bad possibility that this type of writing could be fresh and mercifully different from the 'tired', tried and tested formula of crafting story introductions.

However, any style of writing should not wander far off the known natural conversation patterns.

Imagine meeting a person you've not met for a long time...no...scratch that.

Imagine meeting a stranger and the first thing you say to them is, "Unlike...".

That's bound to cause some barely bearable confusion, as one desperately tries to hang on to every word that follows, in order to make sense of what is being communicated.

Terribly ingenious in a fabulously non-functional manner, I would say.

Unless...you are like...unlike...is like...a likely....likelihood!

Unlike...me!



Wednesday, 14 June 2017

TO TRAIN OR RAIN STAFF: THE STUFF OF TV NEWS ERRORS

What will it take to rid editorial eyesores from Kenyan TV news channels? It seems like a newsroom and studio gallery plague that just won't go away, no matter how many times the errors are pointed out. Mistakes happen, but again, so do corrections. And with live TV, the rectification process should begin soon and end immediately. 


It doesn't take much effort to change from rain to train now, does it?

How ironic is it for a discussion in one of the local channels to highlight the need to better equip journalists with relevant training, and yet the lack of a very elementary competence keeps being flashed on the screen.

Spelling!!!

How annoying is it to not only spot a mistake on air, but to see it over and over again?

Like I have often argued frequently, the many eyes in a particular TV production need to see more of these unsightly errors, and the brains scattered around the production chain should not all be scatter brains!

Friday, 9 June 2017

EDITORIAL ABDICATION AND DICTATES OF COMMUNICATION ETIQUETTE

The media, it is often argued mistakenly, is a reflection of society. This in not an accurate description simply because the media ought to inspire the society to aspire to some higher ideals. In other words, there's a good reason why newsroom gatekeepers play such a critical role. And there's always an editorial obligation to enforce communication etiquette. 


News sources and subjects given space or platforms in media outlets should also espouse qualities that foster the collective well-being of the society, even as they criticise what they deem not to be right.

However, as much as Kenya's lowly politicians are fond of doing it, it's not in the public's interest to use narcissistic language like:
"I demand to be immediately de-briefed on this constitutional lacuna"
So, it's a bit strange that the very confrontational opinion piece above was published in a national paper, in what appears like its raw or original form.

Such articles need not be entirely censored.


But if it is okay to edit for clarity and space consideration, this national newspaper should find it appropriate to ensure the points in an article are also articulated in a civil way.

I demand to see more editorial guidance. Newsroom heads must enforce communication etiquette!

Friday, 2 June 2017

THE WARTHOG, AN ABSENT MIND AND ABSENT-MINDED NEWSROOM GATEKEEPERS

Rewinding facts in a news or feature story could be done for emphasis. There's no much harm in re-stating key elements of a story, to clarify issues, especially. But it's clear some repetitions can be ridiculously pointless. It may be a sign of an absent mind or an absent-minded newsroom gatekeeper.


One look at the intro of the above article, and one gets immediately tempted to visualise a warthog, in all its forgetfulness glory.

For it has been said many a times that when a warthog is chased by a predator, it runs for dear life, but shortly after, my dear, it terrifyingly stops and starts scrounging for food, in the middle of the chase, and the predator in full charge.

I'm not saying the writer or sub-editor of that first paragraph is a warthog.

But with all due respect, their behaviour is the same. The story states on the onset that there are:
"...plans to build a 10-floor, high-end, Sh522 million residential complex in Lavington..."
So we've been told how much it would take to undertake this project.

But the warthog, so...so...sorry...I mean whoever was crafting that lead, found it important after less than ten words, to remind us that the initiative will be:
"...at a cost of Sh522 million."
To make your point, you don't always have to go the whole hog!









Friday, 26 May 2017

OF ROYALTIES AND MISPLACED LOYALTIES

In Kenya, the combination of music and politics has proven to be vital in securing an election victory. Musicians have now wisened up and are demanding their pound of flesh from politicians. As politicians seek to shore up voter loyalties, the musicians are demanding royalties for use of their productions. For the the media, though it's a case of royalties and misplaced loyalties.



In this part of the world, certain communities have a penchant of messing up pronunciation of English sounds, referred to as mother-tongue interference.

This could be a logical explanation for the mix-up of the lower news story tag above, which states:
'KAMP, PRISK demand loyalties from politicians'
You see, the mind could be playing a terrible game on the writer of the caption, such that the way they are used to saying, 'royalties' is how they spell it as well.


Or worse still, the person truly thinks he or she's typing 'royalties' and is even unperturbed by the sight of the word 'loyalties', because the mind is stubbornly 'seeing royalties'.

I wouldn't want to put my money on the probable fact that, here, we are dealing with a case of the writer not using the word, 'loyalties' in the right context.


I also strongly want to believe it is wrong to conclude the entire news production and studio crew in this TV station, on duty then, could not distinguish between 'loyalties' and 'royalties'.

After all, royal media has loyal viewers. (I hope you don't see what I did there).