So, after nine-and-a-half years of working in the media, I have finally left the industry.
It so happened that sometime last month, great folks at Aga Khan University decided that I should work for them and after serious prayer and reflection, I took the decision to give the job a try.
For the first time in a long while, I am the “newcomer” — minus a new starched uniform, of course, but with a crushing sense of anxiety, a numbing nervousness and a tinge of naivety.
It might also be interesting to note that the career move coincides with the fifth anniversary of this weekly column. Five years might be a drop in the ocean compared to the veterans who have been running columns for decades, but it remains a significant milestone nonetheless.
I have earned saucy descriptions like “controversial columnist” besides prominently featuring in the swampy parts of the Internet, aka the blogs.
When I started out in 2014, Kenya’s media industry was only beginning to feel the effects of the digital disruption. Editors and executives were tinkering with different content types and formats in a frantic bid to get a hang of the “digital thing”. Trending on social media — and the Internet in general — was considered a mark of success and popularity. It was the era of the BuzzFeed boom, viral articles and videos and endless listicles.
But things are different now. It is amazing what a five-year difference can do to an industry so vibrant. What worked then is no longer viable and any media practitioner will tell you that things are not as rosy as they were five years ago.
In the past three years or so, I have like many journalists, spent a considerable amount of time thinking about the industry. I might have also toyed with a couple of ideas of which time shall tell if they were any good.
Besides, the furniture in my mind has been rearranged and moved around quite a bit, if not significantly, something I am sure you have noticed in the last couple of years.
You may also have noticed that our beloved “City Girl” has also been moved — or shelved for now — a move arrived at following critical rethinking of the intent and direction of this newspaper. I think this new home, and more changes coming your way, say a lot about the future of the industry.
It is obvious that the future of the media — and particularly the newspaper — lies in digital. It has also been said many times that content, that is great journalism, will stand the test of time.
But importantly, this future will be driven by vibrant and younger voices, the voices that we were not particularly used to. Whether it is Kenya’s largest newspaper, the Daily Nation, led and steered by its first female editor, or newspapers such as this — also steered by a woman speaking truth to power — the future will not and cannot be achieved without critical voices on board. This is a reality we must appreciate.
Now more than ever in the history of journalism in Kenya, we have more young people leaving college to join the industry, bursting with energy and teeming with great ideas, seeking to carve out a place for themselves.
There has never been a time in the history of Kenyan media and journalism when there were more women making decisions, writing columns, reporting news and providing expert commentary.
If we are to figure out this industry as such a time as this, we need more young people, women and people from diverse backgrounds to own this conversation, to drive this process and to sit at the high table and have their say when the pie is shared.
My new assignment is more exciting than challenging. I do not look at the future of journalism with naive, starry eyes, but in full realisation of the dilemma of protecting strong and independent journalism in a dying industry.
Of course, the big question I know you are dying to ask is, what direction does this column take and what should readers expect?
My number one allegiance lies with the readers who have grown with me over the years, whose needs and sentiments have continued to shape the course of my writing.
The purpose and intent of this column remains aligned to the general direction of independent journalism worldwide — the truth in a world full of lies.
As a columnist and a commentator on society, I have the burden of writing it as it is, of giving an opinion on issues that matter, and I believe I can do these more as “City Girl” or even here in my new home.
As a reader, you deserve nothing but the best, the highest quality of journalism there is, the truth and most important, a laugh once in a while.
I truly hope I will be up to this enormous task. Am I scared? Absolutely, but I promise to give my best.
The writer is the Director — Innovation Centre, Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications (GSMC); [email protected]