Kenya's Most Authoritative Political Newspaper

Citizen Weekly

Sunday, 2 November 2014

UNEASE PALPABLE AT NATION, STANDARD

There appears to be something terrible in the offing in the country’s oldest media houses: Standard and Nation as leading journalists in the two establishments leave or mull to pack in long queue. Journalists at the two companies are on edge as political realignments shape ahead of 2017 general elections.
At Nation Centre on Kimathi Street, a disturbing circular was issued instructing all members of staff to avail their academic credentials and other papers, a move that has sent cold chills down the spines of many in the newsroom who see it as a ploy to show some of them the exit door.
Insiders say that the move is aimed at knocking out a number of personalities as the chief executive officer Linus Gitahi prepares to leave the twin towers in December. Gitahi is likely to be replaced by either Tom Mshindi or Dennis Aluanga. Whereas Gitahi is pushing for the Mshindi, the acting editorial director and a career journalist, the owner Aga Khan’s inner circle have a soft spot for Aluanga. He has been at Nation since 2009 where he served as chair of the finance and audit committee. His face has also been on editorial committee. Aluanga has held plum slots at NMG up to now.
Mshindi is the incharge of the crucial editorial department as director in an acting capacity. He replaced Joe Odindo who resigned. Odindo was accused of slanting news to favour Raila Odinga at Nation. If Raila had won 2013 polls, Odindo was to be rewarded with a coveted seat at State House.
Whereas the appointment of Aluanga to replace Gitahi is a foregone conclusion, as fallback, Mshindi is out to be confirmed as Odindo’s replacement to steer the Nation dhow.
The circular released by human resource department calling for academic papers is suspect. It is whispered Eric Shimoli is targetted. He has been among those touted to replace Odindo but his academic papers are wanting.
That all is not well at Twin Towers is manifested with the current mass exodus of journalists. Owino Opondo who has been in charge of training is set to join parliamentary school which trains Hazard reporters and other officers in the legislature involved in public communication and relations.
Patrick Mayoyo, Magesha Ngwiri, Samuel Silingi and Julius Bosire based in Nakuru office have resigned. Mayoyo was deputy news editor to Shimoli but he has since left. Those who have left are perceived to have been Odindo disciples.
That witchhunting is the mainfare at Nation Centre is open secret. A front page picture carried last week which was picked from the internet but was claimed to have been taken in Rift Valley is best example of the witchery at Nation Centre. It just happened when Mutuma Imathiu had resumed office from leave as the editorial managing editor. Imathiu’s name has featured among those likely to replace Odindo.
Word at the Nation is that, Mshindi was out to fix Imathiu and used his proxies to have the picture on front page. The picture was of a cow with two young sheep suckling it as it peacefully munched away.  The caption had it that it had been taken in Trans Nzoia. It turned out that it was taken in Australia. But why the picture that added no value to the coverpage was there in the first place is what raised questions.
At the Standard, since the unceremonious departure of Chacha Mwita who is demanding Sh60 million in compensation, all has not been well.
Mwita’s position of editorial director is being handled by Pauline Kiraitu, understood to be the human resource manager.
Kiraitu’s style of operation is not going down well with journalists. She is said to get instructions from Sammy Shollei the chief executive officer.
Shollei using his influence has made sure the wife Gladys Shollei gets unlimited positive coverage by the print and electronic in her wars with Chief Justice Willy Mutunga.
Already, those at Standard said to have one foot outside  are Emmanuel Juma, Macharia Karia, John Njiraini and Lillian Kiarie. The business desk is most hit. John Anyanzwa is also planning to move.
Readers were left with exclamation marks on their faces when Sunday Standard on front page wished President Uhuru Kenyatta a Happy Birthday and inked lyrical how the president has achieved a lot for the country in less than two years in power.
Those in the know say Shollei and Enock Wambua, the managing editor Sunday Standard are out to curry favour with the president. Shollei dares vision his wife succeeding Mutunga as Chief Justice.
For Wambua, he is planning to run for a parliamentary seat in Kitui. To show how well linked he is in corridors of power, Wambua recently had Internal Security minister Ole Lenku as a chief guest in his Kitui home. Ole Lenku arrived at the function in a chopper and had contributions from President Uhuru Sh500,000, Manoah Esipisu the State House spokesman Sh200,000 while Ole Lenku gave Sh250,000.
Talk is that Standard is planning to rebrand itself coming January and that a strategic partner is set to be brought on board with the name of Kenyatta family being floated in passing.
Kenyatta’s family has of late ventured into the media industry. The family is known to control any field they enter. In the milk industry, it has been able to consolidate and control by buying a number of private companies so much so that 90pc of milk sold in packets is from Brookeside Dairies. It owns Delamere, Tuzo, Ilara, Fresha and Molo Milk. At the Star, Catherine Gicheru, another seasoned journalist, has left after differing with the owners.