Larry Madowo: Dared to be different
- Love him or hate him, there’s no disputing Larry Madowo has had an impact on TV business reporting. He is very opinionated and agrees that there is no middle ground when it comes to views about him, they are either positive or negative but he wants you to know, that does not faze him on his quest to get to the top. The 24-year-old journalist shared his story with PHILIP MWANIKI
You wanted to be a Catholic priest, what happened?
High school. That’s what happened. When I joined Form One at St Gabriel’s Seminary, Kisumu, I was set on being a priest and at that moment, nothing else was on my mind but four years later, I had changed my mind, nothing happened, I just discovered other passions I had and decided to pursue them.
You chose journalism instead?
I wanted to be a lawyer because I can argue forever, but there was also journalism and technology and I gravitated towards journalism because of its impact in society and I love storytelling and using the medium to affect the society positively.
How did you get a footing into the media?
I started out at a Kikuyu station, Bahasha FM in 2007, which was owned by Gathoni wa Muchomba and I used to read the English news.
How was that?
It was like no other place. Editorial meetings used to be held in Kikuyu and even the English News ident was done in Kikuyu so you can imagine the challenge but it closed down after 2007 and here I was, 19 and jobless, so I started freelance writing but lucky for me I was a second year student at Daystar University.
How did KTN come about?
I went to KTN for interviews and out of a few dozens of interested guys, I and a I think two other guys were selected and I was taken to the business news department. I was so tiny then that one of the bosses looked at me and asked, ‘are you sure you are above 18? We don’t want to employ minors here’.
Baptism with fire it was?
Definitely. But luckily for me, I joined and the business desk was one of the best and most professional with the likes of Cynthia Nyamai, Samuel Kantai and Henry Marete whom I regard as one of the best business journalist and really mentored me. I started by doing research and trying to grasp business and what was missing and what could be done.
That pause between your names, how did it come about?
It was very intentional. People, then and even today, have always had a problem pronouncing my second name and I talk too fast so nobody really gets what I say after Larry, and I decided to pause to separate them and let the audience get it. Some did, others still can’t pronounce my second name.
It did set you apart from the rest.
That it did. People started wondering who this guy with a long pause between his names is and through my work, I got my name out there but it was really about how I present business news. I wanted to ask the hard questions, follow the money trail and break down business news for all to understand and make it also fun. For many business journalists, they just regurgitate what the corporates tell them in the press releases. I always take on the consumer angle, how will it affect the public and so on.
NTV called me and that was a great honour for me because someone had watched and felt I was good and had a lot to offer. It was a chance to establish myself a new and also grow as a person and this was a brilliant chance. I helped get the station to have more business news that really appealed to the audience and the success of PM Live and other programmes shows that it is how you deliver the news that matters. It is how you humanise a story that matters.
Why did you leave?
Another chance showed up and it was in an international platform and I had to grab it because I am still young and can take risks and fortunes favour the brave so I decided to take it even though NTV had really helped me grow. I met some of the most passionate and professional people on NTV and I will really miss working there.
You had three destinations, which one did you choose?
I am now at CNBC Africa. I had CCTV and BBC also, but I had to choose one and I know it was a good decision and I have a chance to grow more and will help me break into the regional, continental and international market.
You have been accused of trying to be a Richard Quest
I have been accused of many things some that border on hilarity. You cannot be a Richard Quest, he is Richard Quest, he has his style and I have my own. I do learn from him and other top business journalists around the world and there is nothing bad with that.
How do you handle criticism?
I only get it on Twitter. That is the one place there are so many people who don’t like me but I never meet them when I am out of the office. Even on Facebook, there isn’t that kind of hatred as is on Twitter but that’s to be expected as people hide behind keyboards and talk smack.
I appreciate criticism, it is the only way to grow but it has to be objective and well intentioned. I am criticised even about the length of my trouser and colour of shirt. What has that got to do with my ability to do business news? I am used to that so it doesn’t really bother me one bit. Most people hate because they don’t want to be seen as fans and it is mostly a Kenyan thing.
Has fame got into your head?
My personality has never changed and anybody who knows me will tell you that. I am just heavily opinionated and when I enter a room you will notice me and that is the same personality I brought to TV.
Away from the camera, how do you unwind?
I read anything I come across, I am a cartoon buff, hang out with friends and I am a passive rugby fan.
Are you dating?
I am in the process of seeing someone.