Rachael Jonnes is a media consultant who left the newsroom after feeling constrained by the fact that journalists should be impartial and not let their opinions impact the issues they cover.
What does your job entail?
As a media consultant, you must network and keep a strong enough profile that people decide to entrust you with their media consulting, PR outreach or journalism training projects.
I make it known that if an organisation is interested in getting coverage about an important health initiative or an announcement about ground-breaking research, I am the person who can help make that happen.
I am also a freelance writer, and when I receive an assignment from a magazine, I must do the research and then produce content.
What is your ideal day like?
My ideal day would involve a great early-morning workout on the elliptical machine at the gym, several stimulating interviews for a great story, or planning strategy for a journalism workshop, topped off with me cooking an amazing meal, preferably Italian or Asian cuisine.
Why did you quit active journalism and what led you to consultancy?
I left the newsroom in 2007 when I was offered an opportunity to live outside the USA. I was 46 years old. And because I didn’t have children or a husband to consider, it was the perfect time of life to roll the dice on an incredibly adventurous experience.
Life in Northern Uganda, a mere year after the peace treaty was signed, was beyond adventurous!
I also began to feel very constrained by the fact that journalists are supposed to be totally impartial and not let their opinions impact the issues they cover.
I care very deeply about things like children’s well-being, women’s health and racial injustice, and I didn’t want to keep pretending like I didn’t have an opinion.
I started being a full-time consultant in 2011, after my International Center for Journalism fellowship in Nairobi ended.
What I learnt is that consultancy can offer you the freedom of flexibility, but it is on a feast or famine basis.
If I had to do it over again, I would have built a much more solid financial foundation before I attempted it. That said, I have had incredibly good fortune as a media consultant.
Which one is easy and has less pressure between consultancy and newsroom?
That’s a tough one. I honestly have to say that they are both equally stressful. On the other hand, some might consider deadlines imposed by others easier to meet than having to adhere to your personal deadlines. Procrastination is a curse!
Do you miss practice, if yes, what is it that you miss?
I have worked in some very collegial newsroom settings, so I miss the camaraderie and support of some really smart, inspiring colleagues.
How do you handle workload stress and family?
I am single, and have never been married. That can bring its own set of stresses, I suppose! Overall, I try to keep balance in my life through exercise, a good diet, travelling, and meditation.
What are your weaknesses and strengths?
My strengths are that I am extremely intelligent, I have a terrific sense of humour, I am a good listener and I am very empathetic. My weakness is that I sometimes tend to leap before I look. I need to be more strategic about things.
Describe your successful accomplishments
My work in Kenya is probably at the top of my list of career accomplishments. I never really had the desire to be a professional journalism trainer or coach until I came to Kenya to help journalists build their health reporting skills. I am now extremely proud to say that I have mentored some of the finest health and science reporters in Kenya, including people like Joy Wanja Muraya, Sarah Ooko, John Muchangi and David Njagi.
Who is your role model?
I have so many, but my most recent one is Edna Adan Ismail, the legendary midwife, nurse and former foreign minister of Somaliland who built a maternity hospital.
I had the extraordinary privilege of interviewing her for National Geographic magazine last year, and at 81, she is beautiful, energetic and incredibly focused on her passion of supporting women and children.
I want to be just like her when I grow up!
What do you do at your free time?
I travel, cook, go to plays, read, listen to music, and I enjoy shopping.
What drives you?
The passage of time, and the fact that tomorrow is not promised to any one of us.
I am determined to make sure that whether I’m here another 30 years or another 30 minutes, I will leave people thinking that Rachel really made a positive difference in the world.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
Meeting people, hearing their stories, and realising that we all have more in common than the things that separate us.
Tell us about your family
As I said, I’m single, both of my parents are deceased, as are three of my siblings. The rest of us are scattered to the four corners of the earth. I consider my close friends, some of whom live in Nairobi, as much of family as my blood relations.
What is your favourite meal?
Any Asian cuisine: sushi, ramen, noodle soups. YUM!
What do you spend most of your money on?
Amazing, intriguing jewellery. My time in Kenya almost completely bankrupted me. The level of creativity in crafts on the African continent is astonishing.
What are your future plans?
To be an 80-year-old woman hopping on a plane to go and lead a journalism workshop somewhere. I want to keep my mind, body and spirit alert and energetic. I want to give all that I’ve got to the world.