One thing we have learnt while preparing the list of Kenya’s Top 100 Journalists of 2019, is the fact that all the candidates featured ooze an unflinching fervency for changing the media landscape in the country.
They have always shifted the goal post in regards to ways in which people consume news today, while maintaining utmost professionalism and an unrelenting pursuit for the truth.
Flipping the script, Kenyans.co.ke decided to contact some of the closest colleagues of this year’s crème de la crème of the news business, and get to understand what really sets them apart from the masses.
Here is a list of the top 10 Kenyan journalists, some of their achievements and a word from their closest friends and colleagues, or even life partners.
1. Jeff Koinange
Koinange is arguably the biggest journalist in the 254 and has made his mark with professionally crafted interviews and life-changing news pieces.
With his hot interviews since joining K24 in 2007, where he hosted The Bench, before moving to KTN where he ignited a fire on the unforgettable JKL show, then later switching to Citizen TV in 2017 with JKLive, Jeff has become a household name.
He has mastered the art of asking questions and engaging subjects so hard, that the interviews stir conversations right up to your own living room every Wednesday night.
Jeff Koinange has amassed immense experience in his media career that spans over 25 years, five of which he worked as a correspondent for CNN.
He worked as the Chief producer at Reuters Television (1995 - 2001), Chief Anchor both at Mediamax Network Limited (2007 - 2012) and KTN (2013 - 2016) and now serves as a TV and Radio show host at Royal Media on Citizen TV and Hot 96 respectively.
His show has the preternatural power to wipe Kenyan streets clean, as he hosts some of the biggest names, including influential multi-billion company CEOs, and influential political figures such as former South Africa President Nelson Mandela.
His colleague and co-host, Victoria Rubadiri, described him as “a very hard working and extremely confident man who is really enjoyable to work with.
“He is an industry veteran and someone who has insight and knowledge about the profession, even if I wasn’t at Citizen TV, I would still keep in contact because he is quite a resource in terms of offering networks.”
2. Yvonne Okwara
Poised With Straight-Pointed Analysis
Every Thursday night is Citizen TV’s Yvonne Okwara’s time and most Kenyans have come to cherish that fact.
Since graduating from JKUAT with a degree in Microbiology in 2006, the no-nonsense Okwara stepped straight into the spotlight and turned things around.
Yvonne served as a Radio and TV show host at Nation Media Group (2008 - 2012), proceeded to KTN where she rose to become the Head of News Strategy (2012 - 2018) and has Citizen TV’s Thursday prime time firmly in her grip.
She has hosted astounding shows such as KTN News’ Checkpoint and is known for her elaborate Explainer segment, and tough stand on News Gang’s Yvonne’s Take.
Her colleague and radio co-host, Patrick Igunza, described her as “a wonderful woman, intelligent, knowledgeable and down to earth. She is widely read, quite intellectual and she knows her stuff. I like her confidence, she can sell water to the whale. The fact that she knows her stuff helps you grow better, it makes you want to read a lot so that you can be at par with her. She can also swing both ways, she can be ghetto, street and she can equally be uptown. She is called ‘mama Africa’.”
3. Larry Madowo
Controversial but Fearless
Controversies aside, Larry Madowo has proved to be one of the fiercest Kenyan journalists guaranteed to pull the audience, whether he is the presenter or the story itself, on both Kenyan and international screens.
From his days at NTV to being a Business Editor at BBC Africa, Madowo remains a jewel in the Kenyan media scene, shining all through the screens at CNN and in the highly sought-after pages of the Washington Post as a writer.
After graduating from Daystar University, he started off as a Business Reporter at KTN (2008 - 2010), went to NTV as a reporter/anchor, he joined CNBC Africa for a short stint before becoming Africa’s Business Editor at BBC.
In 2008, NewAfrican Magazine named him among the 100 Most Influential Africans.
He has also been a regular commentator on international outlets such as CNN International, BBC World Service, The Washington Post, Al Jazeera English, France 24 English among others.
In April, he was also chosen among the beneficiaries of the 44th Knight-Bagehot Fellowship in Business and Economics at the Columbia Journalism School in Newyork’s Columbia University for the 2019-2020 academic year.
His friend, Victoria Rubadiri, relishes their time together and “fondly call him my partner in crime with a very important element of bringing yourself in, that Larry showed me, which I was able to bring into Victoria’s Lounge (her former show at NTV) and better my craft.”
4. Hussein Mohamed
Soft-Spoken With a Cunning Edge
Few things are as interesting as having to sit through an interview hosted by Citizen TV anchor, Hussein Mohamed, which is the reason why so many viewers have their Tuesday prime time slot always occupied.
In the political circles, Hussein is easily the big Kahuna judging by his interview styles of pinning down a subject to a corner, regardless of the interviewee’s position.
His interviews with Deputy President William Ruto and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, are but some of the few that lit up social media for days.
His former co-anchor, Janet Mbugua, recently confessed that Hussein is the journalistic brand that she looks up to and respects the most.
Through the eyes of his friend and Citizen TV reporter, Hassan Mugambi, “Hussein is a very interesting character to work with and does extensive research on whatever thing he is working on. I look up to him because of the kind of industriousness he puts in place. It is something that is admirable. His character is kind of influential in a very good way.”
“Because of my physique, he calls me ‘Chest’ and because of his height, I call him ‘Tall’,” confided Mugambi.
5. Betty Kyallo
Sassy With an Eye for Difference
Betty Kyallo is sassy, bold and not afraid to overhaul how Kenyans consume the prime time news, and they definitely like her for that.
Through her new Upclose segment on Weekend With Betty at K24, the presenter has brought newsmakers from all walks of life close to her viewers and showed them a different side not many had thought of before - “The human aspect”
“She is an amazing person, very loving and hardworking. Just the fact that she is hardworking is already a plus for her. She is a woman who believes in herself and wants to get the best out of herself. She is someone who every single young lady should look up to,” comedian and Milele FM host, Jalang’o, remarked.
Since her days of hosting KTN’s Friday briefing, it was pretty clear that the textbook lineup of prime time news no longer appealed to her.
At K24 TV, the news anchor has mastered the art of sharing a day in the life of her subject, hence getting deeper than your normal interviewer.
She has hosted influential figures such as Billionaire Manu Chandaria and MP Babu Owino among others.
6. Lulu Hassan
Demure but With Some Knock-Out Ideas
Hassan is a celebrated Swahili newsreader at Citizen TV and producer of thought-provoking human interest stories that stir conversations. She also produces a number of Swahili drama shows including Maza and Aziza, with the former getting a nod at the Kalasha awards in 2017.
With tonnes of experience under her belt, Citizen TV’s Lulu Hassan has cemented herself as one of the most talented Swahili anchors.
She has for years connected with her viewers through her well-narrated features, accompanied by her smooth storytelling skills, case in point being her recent gripping documentary dubbed, Prison Diaries.
Her best friend, State House Spokesperson, Kanze Dena, calls her “a very focused lady that is down to earth and a go-getter.”
In a conversation with Kenyans.co.ke, Kanze added, “The Lulu Hassan you see on TV and the one you see as a person are the same. She is a genuine person and will tell you things as they are. Working together taught us a lot of teamwork and the importance of valuing the other partner in the team.”
7. Sophia Wanuna
The Tigress in News Pursuit
Sofia Wanuna is easily the wrecking ball in the Kenyan news business following her love of covering live events, and courage to pursue stories in dangerous situations, some of which she has even been assaulted on live TV.
Some of her KTN News interviews have sparked controversy and lit up social media while some of her stories have influenced real change.
Since starting her career at KBC, Wanuna has conquered numerous feats and even had the pleasure to interview the president.
Standard Group also awarded her with Courage Award after she tenaciously covered Miguna Miguna’s deportation in 2018, despite being roughed up by police.
Her colleague, Zubeida Kananu, describes her as “very hardworking, outgoing and daring. She can handle anything that is thrown at her. I admire her courage.”
8. Rashid Abdalla
Master of His Own Craft
Rashid Abdalla is a bright Kenyan journalist who has developed a knack for covering current affairs and has mastered and grown in it.
He hosts the 7pm news on Citizen TV alongside his wife, Lulu Hassan, stamping his authority as a Swahili anchor to reckon with.
While working at NMG, Abdalla was once declared the radio personality of the year by Bingwa awards.
With his brilliant masterly of the Swahili language, Rashid does TV presenting, translation and motivational speaking.
His wife, Lulu, thinks that he is “bright, fun and considerate. He is very bright in terms of current affairs, especially when it comes to breaking news.”
“He challenges me in ad-libbing to be better than him. He is also considerate as he knows what his team players can and cannot handle. He has a friendly demeanour that everyone at the studio enjoys working with him. He is also very cheeky.”
9: Waihiga Mwaura
Silently Lethal but with Flair
Waihiga delivers on point and carefully packaged reports while engaging his viewers in the only way he knows how while maintaining the on-screen flair on Citizen TV.
Mwaura has won numerous awards including Mo Amin award for an investigative sports piece on doping in Kenya.
He also boasts of a CNN Multichoice sports award won in 2012 for a creative piece on Maasai morans who took up cricket in the fight against Female Genital Mutilation.
Most recently, he won the 2018 BBC World News Komla Dumor Award.
His co-host, Trevor Ombija, described him as a “brilliant, hardworking and very compassionate person. He is a really good guy who works hard and is always very supportive and I look up to him as my elder brother. He has a very religious background that helps centre me in terms of guidance and all that. He is one of those guys who would tell you this is not the right thing to do so it goes beyond just work.”
10. Ali Manzu
The Perfect Perfectionist
KTN News Swahili anchor, Ali Manzu has risen through the ranks to become the leader he is and most of his success is attributed to his attention to perfection.
In 2018, Manzu won the prestigious UN award for his outstanding contribution towards the fight to eliminate Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Kenya.
In the same year, he was also a finalist in the Annual Journalism Excellence Awards (AJEA).
According to his colleague, Zubeida Kananu, Manzu is “friendly, hardworking and always committed to his work. I admire his approach to everything he does, he gives it all. He is always at work early, he is a perfectionist. He doesn’t like mistakes.”
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