My childhood was quite ordinary. Nothing special except for the fact that my father owned a magazine called Woman’s Mirror. It was his side hustle for a bit while he worked as a features editor at the Daily Nation and later at The Standard. He also wrote for The Weekly Review and Viva magazine from time to time. I, therefore, grew up surrounded by editing, cut outs, PR and advertising materials.
The interesting fact is that I never actually studied journalism. I did French and Sociology at Kenyatta University. In my first year of university, I asked my mother if she had any friends who needed an office assistant or receptionist so I could make some pocket money. At the time, my mother happened to be writing a column for the Sunday Nation and various publications. She recommended that I get in touch with her editor, Mundia Muchiri, who had published a column I wrote for The Young Nation – a pull out in the Sunday Nation.
I liked the fact that I got paid Ksh500 for that and so I devised a way that I could turn that into a regular income. I asked them if I could do book reviews for the segment. Mr. Muchiri agreed and I was elated! That was back in 1996. In 1998, when he started The Saturday Magazine, he asked me to coordinate a books and literature page for the magazine. I then went into full feature writing with the paper. I left Nation Media Group (NMG) in 2003 for The Standard where I started writing for Pulse magazine.
In 2006, I worked as an editor for Eve Girl, Eve magazine and True Love magazine. I also got an opportunity to be a features editor in Uganda for The Monitor, and as the society editor for the Nairobi Star (now The Star) newspaper. I am now the current editor of the Saturday Magazine insert in the Saturday Nation newspaper by NMG.
My job is mainly to put together the entire magazine’s content by coordinating the team of writers and columnists, editing, planning upcoming issues and directing allied functions such as marketing and advertising. I am currently interested in women’s affairs, women’s rights and gender equality. However, I have a special bias towards women and their businesses and financial advancement. I believe that women should get opportunities to thrive in whatever field they are in.
Being the leader of a team, I have to always ensure that all the team members understand the vision and mission that unites them and how they fit into it. There are no ‘better’ or ‘lesser’ members of a team. Everyone brings a unique skill that keeps the whole team running and each member needs to understand how important they are to the rest. I really look up to my first boss, Mundia Muchiri, who has a way with managing teams. He was the best boss ever, and you could see how inspiring he was through the high quality of work from the teams he managed.
I personally believe that in order to be a good writer, you have to be a good reader. You have to be very good at research and at storytelling because you never know what subject you will be writing about from week to week. And so I read as much as I can from whichever genre I come across; from biographies, fiction, business mentorship to quantum physics and its relationship with spirituality. I read practically anything.
When it comes to discrimination, I think there is an inherent bias against women in media generally. The hours are long, hard and unpredictable and therefore women – especially those with young families – find it hard to keep up and at some point, have to figure out a way to step away from active news desk reporting to ‘softer’ areas of the media business where they have more control over their time, such as features writing. What most people don’t understand is that features writing is an art and requires a lot of creativity and research.
To add to that, I recall being discriminated against because of my age; I started writing for the Nation Media Group when I was in my early 20’s so no one took me seriously. I thus stagnated. But my three years as a features writer really taught me a lot and grounded me. I discovered early on that if I wanted a promotion, I would have to jump companies. This is why my early career is littered with short stints at different media houses. Each employment opportunity was a chance to negotiate upward and keep building my skills.
I should also mention that the industry is rife with sexual harassment. There is a patriarchal attitude that ensues in newsrooms from the days when literally all journalists were hard-drinking, chain-smoking males. My advice to young women would be to never compromise on your values. Form a network of women employees who can stand for each other in case of harassment. It will be helpful to find older, more powerful women in the newsroom to stand with you. Identify someone in HR who understands women’s plight and who will take appropriate action in case of harassment.
In the digital era, digital media has made bloggers and influencers famous. There are also too many people coming out of journalism school who only want to write columns because they just want the glory. I always say that the world is full of opinions and that’s what Facebook and Twitter are for. On the other hand, what media houses are really lacking is good feature story writers who are willing to put in the work of interviewing and researching on people. When I find a writer who is interested in other people, I hold onto them for dear life.
It has also been a struggle for all media houses around the world to keep up with the digital migration. The key thing is that advertising revenues have dropped significantly since it is much easier and cheaper to advertise on social media. That said, readers still understand that fake news is a huge problem for social media news consumers, and still rely on legacy media for fact-based reporting. This is a competitive advantage we must not let go of. There is an opportunity to change the business models we have relied on for so long and we must get used to the change by embracing it.
Another thing is that people need to understand that just because a newspaper doesn’t tell you what you want to hear, doesn’t mean they are biased. Facts are facts. Media houses can’t change that. The problem is that social media with its fake news and sometimes quack citizen reporting will provide skewed data that convinces you that the media house is wrong and that your view is right. I strongly believe that media is a reflection of who we are as a society and we as the media just mirror it.
I take each correction as a chance to grow when criticised by my peers and readers. However, you should learn to sift between criticism that works for you and that which you can discard. If we are to adjust to each and every bit of criticism we receive, we would be a planet full of people with no individuality; just a planet full of people being tossed about by each new opinion like reeds in the wind. Stand your ground when necessary; adjust when necessary. I tend to think that there are areas that we can improve on in the media industry. We could work harder at showing independence from political and business interests. I think we could do with a little more fearlessness.
The love of my life is definitely my six-year-old son. I am keenly aware that I have a little life in my custody and I take that task seriously. I also have a small circle of friends I can rely on to give me tough love whenever I need it. My younger brother and my sister who are both very sensitive individuals with a high emotional quotient (EQ) keep me grounded as well. Finally, meditation makes me feel grounded. I am literally meditating all day, through each task that I perform. I am also currently reading a book called A Course In Miracles by Helen Shucman. It’s like a lifelong therapy/counselling session which is quite helpful in my journey.
I live by the mantra ‘Show yourself a little bit of self-love every day.’ For me, this means forgiving yourself when you make a mistake. All of us have a voice in our heads that’s always critiquing you and pointing out what you have done wrong. Granted, we all make mistakes, but self-love for me means acknowledging that we are human and are flawed.
I am currently entirely focussed on setting up my company, GingerLime Content Creators and bringing it to its full financial, staff and creative capacity. It will help unite my two passions which are: storytelling and people in business. The aim is to help business people, especially startups, give their businesses a competitive edge by learning how to tell their story on their marketing platforms. Other than that, I will still keep writing stories that inspire people with the hope of transforming the society for the better.”