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How Larry Madowo got it all wrong about #someoneTellCNN

I really did not intend to write about the whole #someoneTellCNN drama as I had already said all I felt was important on twitter and left blogging about that topic to armatures looking for cheap publicity.

Now I don’t consider Larry Madowo an armature blogger, despite the fact that I tend to believe that he is on the payroll of some companies he gives flowery coverage on his blog and at times even on air like Safaricom but that is story for another day.

Yesterday Larry engaged #KOT (Kenyans on Twitter) with a spirited defense of CNN’s coverage of the Saturday grenade attack at Machakos Bus Station saying that the burner used was appropriate in that context. Now for those who do not know anything about this topic; while reporting on the said development CNN used a banner that said “Violence Breaks Out in Kenya”.

The use of that banner enraged #KOT and soon #someoneTellCNN and #CNNapologize were trending at No.1 and 2 respectively world wide as Kenyans demanded an apology for a wrong depiction of their country by the international news channel.

In his unsolicited defense of CNN, Larry Madowo decided to take us back to journalism school (which I left three years ago) with lectures on the definition of violence according to wikipedia and a further lecture on writing headlines.

“Violence is defined by the World Health Organization as the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation.This definition associates intentionality with the committing of the act itself, irrespective of the outcome it produces.”

In his argument CNN were justified to use the term “violence” as per the dictionary meaning which I believe if looked at in Isolation as Larry did would actually be okay. Having said that, I also remember passing my news writing class (don’t ask my grade) and learning a thing or two about writing news headlines (for both electronic and print media).

According to my little knowledge of English (which again I must say is beyond the average Kenyan), “Violence breaks out in Kenya” would mean that there were several acts of violence in different Kenyan towns as much as the grenade attack in itself was an act of violence. To me the headline portrayed the whole of Kenya as an unsafe place which was not the case!

My question to Larry (include David McKenzie and his editors) is: could there have been better headlines? For example: “Violence in Nairobi” (that is if the word violence was so appealing to them) thereby restricting the event to the actual place it took place. I tend to think that there were even better headlines for that development that did not involve use of the term “violence” e.g Grenade goes off in Nairobi, Terror attack in Nairobi and so on. The latter examples portray Kenya as a victim of violent acts of extremists which was the case as opposed to the headline used on air by CNN.

He went on to say that CNN were justified in the use of that term and that is why their editors did not apologize despite the numerous angry tweets which got their attention. If that were true like he claims, them why was the video withdrawn from CNN website? The only reason why CNN did not run an on-air apology (according to me) was the apparent damage that such an apology would cause to their credibility.

Anyway I get it, Larry Madowo has grown larger than the Kenyan media market and most probably this was his way of applying for an anchoring job at CNN by licking their dirty boots and dancing to the tune of white superiority.

What #KOT were demanding was fair reporting on African affairs and that was something commendable. I loved the patriotism I saw on the tweets. People asking tough questions like: why dint CNN report it as violence when a teenager shot dead several schoolmates in the US, why wasn’t the recent shooting of 16 Afghan women and children by a US soldier reported as violence, why did CNN report the 9/11 incident as terrorist attack and not violence in US?

Here is a link to Larry Madowo’s post


1 Comment

  • kisumunlimited Reply

    March 14, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    Hi Dan, I can't agree with you more as I had also commented on twitter and on other blogs, they (CNN)owe us a very big apology, not bringing down the video. This will not erase the damage their ill-print has caused on Kenya.
    If they wanted to use the violence word for that day they would av better said


    That's my two-cent take on this, and Larry has just lost the respect I have always had on him and on #KOT fraternity.


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