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Thursday, 19 April 2018

LAZY JOURNALISM, ENTERPRISE REPORTING AND AN EMPTY DAM

It's the middle of the wettest season in Kenya. Then comes a very curious coverage highlighting the strange fact that the dam that supplies the capital, Nairobi, is close to being empty. Lazy journalism gets satisfied with the official explanation. Enterprise reporting digs deeper to unearth facts that either independently affirm or discredit a story.



Instead of local media just dwelling on this 'supposed' oddity, seeking more evidence to explain this hard to believe reality would have been more impactful.

Weather reports from the meteorological department have of late been remarkably accurate.

So, their records would easily help ascertain the veracity of claims that there has not been sufficient rainfall around the Aberdare Ranges, which is the catchment area for the Ndakaini dam.


Instead, the authority being relied on here is an official of a water company that supplies water to Nairobi.

Moreover, the media could also go beyond the confines of the press junket and visit the areas lying further upstream, and if necessary, go up the Aberdares, to establish if indeed rainfall is that scarce.

There was a time I wanted viewers to understand the concept of a 'water tower' and had the privilege of going up the Aberdares, on the Nyeri side.


My observation was that the rainfall up the mountain is almost self-generated, thanks to the massive transpiration from the forest, which somehow makes it look like clouds are rising from the trees below.

In essence then, the rainfall up this mountain is more dependent on the tree cover, than whether or not there's drought or the onset of the rainy season, which could also explains why there are so many permanent rivers emanating from the Aberdares.

Another time I was assigned to do a story of the low water levels at Kenya's main hydro-electricity generating dam, but I ventured further upstream.

I did establish that the rivers in the region were at that time drying up probably due to global warming, but something else also became quite evident.

There was water abstraction on a grand scale from the rivers leading to Masinga dam, by mostly farmers upstream, but also through numerous water supply channels to the surrounding communities.


If the local media can afford to deploy reporters to far- flung countries such as Australia, it wouldn't be that impossible to widen the scope of their coverage.

And please remember that lazy journalism ends where enterprise reporting begins!


Thursday, 12 April 2018

FROGS, FACTS, FALLACIES AND FAKE NEWS

Reliable and credible news ought to be anchored on solid facts. And the press simply should not convey information. Value addition through interpretative or analytical processing is the now the accepted standard. But if this is not carefully done, the audience may end up being served with frogs, half baked facts, marinated fallacies and steamed fake news.


Whereas the screaming headline above grabs deep attention by suggesting hundreds of thousands of young people are not interested in getting their college education funded by the Kenyan government, it could be quite shallow in substance.

The state, would most likely finance the studies of students enrolling in either degree, diploma or certificate courses.

Out of  the over 600,000 who sat for the 2017 secondary school leaving exam:

- slightly over 69,000 attained grade C+ and above, the minimum university entry requirement

- about 100,000 got between grade C and C- , and these qualify for diploma and certificate courses.

- while over 350, 000 candidates scored between D and E, that makes them eligible for mostly craftsmanship and artisan courses.


This would be a good place to start looking for the 'rumoured' 500,000 who supposedly 'snubbed free college education'.

And while at it, bear in mind that the entire annual capacity for state-sponsored degree, diploma and certificate courses can only accommodate about 210,000 students.

Incidentally, not everybody who applied for financing from the Higher Education Loans Board in the past has been getting it, or the entire amount required, so it will take a lot of convincing to believe that the government is in a position to fund post-secondary education for all the 2017 candidates.

The state, most likely, would realistically be more worried by the nearly 6,000 qualified candidates who failed to secure university placement this year, due to inadequate cluster subject scores for their chosen courses, or the fact that they did not apply at all.

The fixation by a section of the local media with the figure of 500,000, is apparently then not as warranted, as the picture being painted.


Now what is left is the small matter of frogs.

Anyone out there who can croak a believable explanation?




Thursday, 5 April 2018

FIGURATIVE WHIP AND LITERAL WHIPPING

Information is most effective if its shared in a way that directly makes sense to the intended audience. That's why the media ought to communicate in a clear and simple manner. If the words deployed in an article are ambiguous, it could lead to an unintended interpretation. Whipping figuratively could conjure images of weeping, after a literal whipping.


That's why the use of jargon is especially discouraged, where the context is not immediately familiar to everyone.

For those aware of parliamentary procedures, the headline above makes no allusion to legislators being 'flogged' so as to follow a particular political inclination.

There could, however, be a group of 'clueless' readers, who would proudly profess their ignorance on matters politics or the conduct of parliamentary business.

Indeed, someone could have been made to believe that Kenya's former Prime minister assaulted Members of Parliament using a whip, to dissuade them from abandoning a political line.

But the whip needs to be cracked on ambiguous headlines!