Turbulent times in Kenya media houses as axes fall at KTN and Nation TV

WEEKS after it re-launched and turned the country's oldest newspaper, The Standard, into a tabloid, trouble is looming at the blue house after the Standard Group threatened to fire 30 percent of its staff. The threats came after the Group's leadership panicked following an overambitious recruitment of staff in anticipation for the relaunch.

That there is trouble at Barasa Limited that owns KTN and The Standard newspapers, is demonstrated by the exit of Andrew Teyie, a top journalist who has worked for the newspaper for over 15 years but resigned in a huff.

Teyie who recently returned from studies abroad accused a clique of top editors at the paper's daily department of serving interests of certain politicians at the expense of professional ethics.
He penned his resignation letter, tabled it at the group's chief editor's desk and walked out.

What has currently caused more panic, is a threat to fire over 30 journalists, drivers, accountants, advertising executives, news anchors and cameramen from the group.

The staff claim they have been rubbed the wrong way by the group's managing director Paul Wanyaga who now requires journalists to do at least three stories each a day with one being a feature.

It is said that the advertising and circulation departments are to blame for the shortcoming as they have not done their part of the bargain.

A source at the blue house privy to the on-goings in the house claim that top editors among them the group's news editor Douglas Okwatch are among those earmarked for removal.

Others include Dan Okoth a former acting chief sub who was demoted allegedly after he differed with the new Managing Editor Pamela Musau,

It is also whispered that a top editor at the Nation is due to join The Standard as the new chief sub to replace Thomas Kangondu who is currently said to be holding the office in acting position.

As if this was not enough, the group management has reportedly decided to sack nine sub-editors who are mainly from the Luo community. Oketch Kendo a top level editor at the group will is also said to be uncertain of his immediate fate.

A Gideon Moi ally and a Deputy Managing Editor Paul Woka is the new kid on the block and is said to have drafted the list of those to be sacked whom he says are corrupt and have links in high circles.

All this is happening when Standard top managers are enjoying time at the paper with some newly-recruited women and are said to be keen to ease off certain editors and staff.

There are also claim of biased reporting. The paper produced Sunday edition of July 27 with Prime Minister Raila Odinga taking almost half of the political pages starting a cold war between the so-called anti-Railas and the pro-Railas camps who are trying to outdo each other.

Aware the pro-Raila camp had a banner story in his favour, the anti-Raila group forced a negative side of the PM.

At Nation Centre, the management is trying to shed off the image it is pro-Kibaki it earned during last year presidential campaigns that saw it lose readership in Western and Nyanza provinces.

It forced top managers to fly to Kisumu to hold meetings with stakeholders in the region and promised to help reconstruct the city. Nation had embarked on public relations gimmick to win back confidence which had been eroded to an extent the lake-based businessmen were fearing to advertise in the paper.

In October last year during the height of election campaigns, ODM through Sarah Elderkin who served on ODM presidential campaign committee wrote to Wangethi Mwangi, Nation Editorial Director complaining of biased coverage. Part of her letter read, "I write to express ODM's concern about the unbalanced coverage given by the Nation group to respectively the PNU launch on September 30, the ODM launch on October 6, 2007 and the ODM-K launch on October 13,2007.

"Regrettably, despite protestants to the contrary by various people within the Nation group, there was a demonstrable lack of balance in the way Nation newspapers in particular selected to treat three events..."

At Nation, a bitter silent war is on with Wangethi and Linus Gitahi the Chief Executive Officer fighting to remove Joseph Odindo from the Group Managing Editor's office.

Odindo is perceived to be a Raila pointman at Nation Centre. To fight Odindo, the anti-Raila forces have brought on board Jaindi Kisiero a man who was bought a Volvo by Nairobi businessman Jimmy Wanjigi years back. Wanjigi who has links at Nation's mighty offices has been fronting Kisiero to replace Odindo although Mutuma Mathiu the Sunday Nation MD is being mentioned.

The war drums at Nation newspaper reverberating into the studios of its sister, NTV. Anchors Sophie Ikenye and Tom Mboya were fired recently due to what is claimed to be indiscipline. They are said to have made it a routine of reporting 10 minutes to bulletin time. They were also accused of engaging in uncontrolled drinking of free hard drinks from station die-hard followers.

Weekly Citizen has however established Sharleen Samaat the new NTV Managing Director wants to recruit staff who apart from reading news are also go-getters and can also produce documentaries and stories.

Mboya and Ikenye are only known for reading news a culture that seems to be endangered in local TV stations.

Earlier, NTV's Julie Gichuru resigned due to differences with her bosses to join Citizen TV. The gap Gichuru has left at NTV as far as talk shows go is being felt by both the management and viewers.

It is said when lan Farnades left to Nation Digital Division as the Managing Director, Gichuru was to replace him as MD Broadcasting but instead the Management had Sharleen Samaat in mind.

By late last week, the cool-as-cucumber Mboya was making calls to return back to Citizen TV where he worked together with Ikenye. Latest Steadman report on electronic media shows Royal Media is the fastest growing in the country with citizen TV having improved on its image and leads in local program productions compared to others who depend on foreign programmes.
However Citizen TV's trouble is human resources.

Elsewhere, after a successful 10-year success, Oakland Media a publishing house owned by journalist Mundia Muchiri came tumbling down two months ago. Mundia the blue-eyed publishing boy of the mt Kenya mafia is now a hunted man, with auctioneers and employees baying for his blood.

Situated in Westlands, Oakland media was the toast of ministries parastatals and the private sector. For one, Kenyan media fraternity were happy an indigenous publisher was kicking out foreign businessmen who dominated the field since independence.

Mundia worked with Nation and Standard groups at senior management and founded Oakland, an outfit started in Kariobangi which grew into a gigantic publishing house.

Senior staff at Oakland say Mundia is in debts of shs 63 million he owes printers who sent auctioneers to him and carted away the press and furniture.

The entrepreneur journalist is reported to have been messed up by PNU campaigns last year where he worked closely with former nation boss Wilfred Kiboro and disgraced finance minister Amos Kimunya.

Reports say PNU owes him over shs 10 million for work rendered and not paid. PNU says the figure is exaggerated.

After elections, he and Kimunya started the Kenya weekly magazine which failed to pick. Mundia belongs to the Meru journalists in Kibaki era who have been used to further kibaki’s agenda. His other friends in this category of PNU sympathisers are Isaya Kabira (pps), Mwenda Njoka, Kaunda Muchuku (ministry of transport) and Munene Rwigi(pps).

Those viewed with suspicion by meru mafia are Benson Riung’u (standard) and Mutuma Mathiu (Nation) who are said to have no time for the Kibaki regime and his Meru cohorts led by Kiraitu Murungi and Francis Muthaura.

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