phenomenal

Eunice Kilonzo has been in the media industry for only two years but her stories are already hitting the front pages. And it is easy to discern why; Eunice is self-driven, confident and a go-getter, which work in her favour. LILY RONOH picks the mind of the youthful journalist.

My name is Eunice Kilonzo. I am 26 years old and I work with the Nation Media Group as a print journalist for the Daily Nation newspaper. I was born and bred in Mombasa County. I love telling stories and I like to describe myself as a person with the thoughts of an expert and the words of a gossiper.

Growing up, journalism was not the thing I wanted to do when I grew up; far from it. I grew up in a hospital compound since my mother is a nurse. Naturally, she wanted her children to follow in her footsteps. Being an A student, there was a silent agreement that I would be a doctor. In my hearts of hearts, I wanted to be a political scientist and I would religiously read Mutahi Ngunyi’s articles just to see how the mind of a political scientist works.

When my KCSE’s results came out, I had missed the cut off point for medicine by a point and as fate would have it, I was called to University of Nairobi for a Bachelor’s degree in political science and communications with a minor in literature.

My dalliance with writing started when I was in school and both teachers and friends would tell me I write well. However, I started serious writing in 2008 during the 2007/ 2008 post-election violence. I felt so helpless seeing politicians talk endlessly yet people were dying in their scores. So I started writing extensively on tribalism on my blog and it is here that the journalism bug bit me. My fate was sealed when the Nation Media Group came to the university to identify young potential journalists to be trained in both print and broadcast journalism through their media lab programme and I was among those picked. The rest is history.

I can’t describe the feeling I had when my story first hit the front pages. It was a milestone and I knew I had to keep the pace. I work with very good editors who refine me daily. I also read and watch a lot of investigative themed stories as they give me a new way of looking at things. My biggest support system is my mother and my sister. My boyfriend has also been very supportive.

I may not have followed in my mother’s footsteps but coincidentally, I have carved a niche in reporting about health issues. This may be attributed to my background as a nurse’s child. I also cover other areas such as environment. Whenever I am following up a story, I try to look for the loopholes in the story and take an angle that very few would think about. I always ask myself, what else can I report? Admittedly, things move very fast in the newsroom and the pressure is immense so it requires a lot of discipline.

One of the most emotionally draining stories I have ever done was the story of the accident victim, Alex Madaga, who had to wait for 18 hours in an ambulance before he got help. Unfortunately, it was too little too late and he passed on. The story of the Pumwani twins who were reported missing also broke my heart. I pray justice will be served to the families; someone has to be held accountable.

But it isn’t always doom and gloom, as there are also many stories that give me hope. One such story is the story of kidney failure survivor Caroline Wangeci. When I met her for the interview, she was full of hope and ambition but which all hang in the balance due to her condition. After covering her story, she got immense support from well-wishers and was able to travel to India for a kidney transplant and she is now as good as new.

I love travelling and one of the ways I unwind is by getting on a bus and travel to a new place. Journalism has also given me the opportunity to travel to different places on the globe and this is one of the things I relish about my work.

I appreciate that my work is being recognised here at home and the world over. This year alone, I have racked four awards; two in Kenya, one in Indonesia and the other in South Africa.

My future plan is to change the health sector in Kenya since it is in a mess. I am doing that right now by writing about it. I am interested in doing a Master’s in Public Policy, which is in line with my intent to streamline the sector.

lily@parents.co.ke

 

Published in January 2015