When I started my writing career slightly over a year ago with an article that went viral, I was a champ . Caroline Mutoko, Ken Okoth Kibra MP, Boniface Mwangi, Larry Madowo, Mark Masai among other influential peeps shared the article.
It trended in Kenya for 3 days. I had spoken what was in the minds of many Kenyans. Dear sonko, I admire your showbiz philanthropy was the title of the article.
An ordinary man working for a leading radio station was now a ‘celeb’.
But little did I know that the benchmark had already been set subconsciously. I had to always strive to write with an aim of outdoing the previous article. In the industry where I am, you are only as good as your last project. I churned out several articles thereafter that got good impressions.
The first article became the bar for excellence. The rat race to always look for the most ‘sensational’ stories began. While I knew that it wasn’t sustainable, I was always panting to get the next trending topic, the next most read article, the most talked about article etc. The adrenalin rush of always having a most popular article ensnared me. I enjoyed it while it lasted. I can do it again if I wanted. But I won’t.
Fame is addictive, a chimera of it can turn away even the most conviction-driven hearts and minds. Fame’s addiction far much outruns that of any substance like Opium. I’ve never used any drug, but I have never underestimated the power of anything that can addict someone .
In March 2016 just before Easter, I decided to take a break. I had hit the dreaded writer’s block. Frustrations had flooded my soul. I had no psyche or zeal to write anymore. My work was poor. And I needed time to reflect on what I wanted. After days of reflection, I decided to take a drastic measure. I will not be writing any ‘sensational’ articles anymore. There was a time that the articles were beneficial to the growth of my career but I feel like they have achieved their purpose. I want to move to the next level.
It is very easy to be caught up in the rat race where you already know the outcome. You might get caught up in the small number of readership like thousands and miss on the millions out there who could be touched by your message if only you widened the pool of your talent.
The world is already divided and hurting. There is no need to aggravate the situation any further. The least I can be is to try and offer solutions to the plethora of problems the world is facing. As a writer, I would rather expend my energy in providing solutions in a small way I can. It doesn’t matter.
I would rather be the hummingbird than the writer who puts a hot iron in open festering wounds because I enjoy seeing others in pain. I want to be the salt and the light of the world. I can only achieve that when I’m known to be a bridge builder than a controversy creator.
Within each human being lies a deep desire to leave a legacy behind. As a writer, when my autobiography is written, what would I want people to remember me for? What is the one thing that I want to leave behind as a memory of my contribution to society? Would I be put in the category of literary giants and journalists who changed the world? Or will I be put in the category of war mongers and people who stirred animosity and division?
Do I want to be remembered as a man who inspired hope through his writing or stirred despair? I will boldly speak out against social ills, poor leadership and such. I’m never out to please people. Every single article I wrote, I believed in them. But a time comes when growth must be seen. A time to shed off the old skin and breath fresh air is now.
But a time comes when growth must be seen. A time to shed off the old skin and breath fresh air is now.
I want to build a legacy that will be remembered. That I lived my life to write stories that inspired, challenged, motivated and transformed. That’s all I want to be known for. As a transformational journalist who changed the world through writing. I want to focus on value addition. I want to fix my eyes in alleviating human suffering. Like the founder of world Vision, Bob Pierce, I want to leave behind a mark. I wouldn’t want to be remembered as a war monger, a hateful prejudiced fellow, and a partisan journalist.
It’s been alleged that the quality of journalism in Kenya has gone to the dogs. Bribery claims, partisanship, brown envelope journalism, yellow journalism, compromised editors, and such evil practices drown the Kenyan media landscape. The zeal to reveal social ills has died down. If it’s alive, its collapsed and already headed to the ICU. A few journalists who truly inspire courage within the masses are becoming as rare as white rhinos.
The noble profession that was feared and held in high esteem is almost losing credibility in Kenya. Also, partisan reporting where exaggerations and fabricated stories are leading the way is quite nauseating. It’s an open secret that a number of media houses have taken political sides albeit Chini ya maji. Who will change the face of this noble profession if I also dive into the pool of shallowness?
I understand the pressure to obey editorial policy and commercial interests of a media house. However, that should not be done in detriment to the overall welfare of the society; the single most important objective for journalists. People have different objectives for writing but looking at those who have come before us, some paths cannot deliver a credible legacy.
Philip Ochieng did not become the authority he is by writing sensational short-term ratings driven pieces. Macharia Gaitho did not rise to the pinnacle of success by writing articles that are short lived.
They worked hard. They were outstanding in their work. They were dedicated. They paid through blood sweat and tears.
Especially for the influential who command prime space in the newspapers.
The time for progressive and transformational commentary is now. Hurting people in the guise of gaining traction is quite sad. To build a legacy takes sacrifice and time but the rewards are sweet. Let’s aim for better journalism in Kenya.
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