This might offend some connections I have in the media industry and radio especially, but I just cannot keep it in any longer. I will not go live on air to talk about this issue so since I have this platform, well, might as well put it to good use and raise it.
Allow me to take you back to when I was joining Uni and my dad asked me what I wanted to do. I told him media; either radio or TV or both and I could see his heart sink. I asked him why and his response hurt me. The truth hurts, the say…
“Muthoni. That is the wrong choice to make. Look around you. Look at the TV. “It was the beautiful Catherine Kasavuli on the news… “You have grown up seeing her on TV. She doesn’t seem to be leaving anytime soon. Listen to the radio stations around you. It is the same people you hear. The only change that happens is when they are moved around stations from time to time but it is the same people in circulation. Now here you are, young and full of life and waiting in line. Mind you, you are not the only one Muthoni! Sasa utafikiwa lini mtoto wangu? You who has no connections with people in there. Neither I nor your mother know anyone in the media to move you ahead in the queue. Utafika vipi? Also remember Muthoni, for women, and especially those wanting to be on TV, they are somewhat disadvantaged because of age. You reach a certain age and are told you cannot be in front of the camera. Utakua umezeeka mwanangu.”
Like I said. His words hurt me. Not because they were malicious or disrespectful but deep down, I knew my dad had a point. He may not have known the way things go in media, he wasn’t an expert in the field, but from what we all saw and heard, HE WAS RIGHT!
Right there and then I vowed to myself to change the narrative. I remember going to bed, upset, in tears, crying out to God, telling him He needed to change things and I wanted to be his instrument to do that.
Now you know! I wanted to do radio, yes, because I loved the industry, but more to that, I wanted to prove a point. That even without special connections, you can get into this industry.
Homeboyz Radio came into my life and I have never looked back. My father has since told me he is proud of and surprised by me all at the same time. But what about the many fathers out there who never got and probably never will get the chance to say the same words to their sons and daughters because of this recycling culture that is the Kenyan media and especially radio? It was just the other day, a man I respect dearly and look up to due to his achievements on both international and local TV was taken to a radio station that is neither really HOT or COLD. A man, who let’s be honest, at this point in his life and career needs to be mentoring and training young Kenyans on the come up in the industry. Why would such a man try to reverse the course of the river?
By all means, ride the wave at your prime, get that paper son! But also be cognisant to the fact that at a certain age you will leave the seat to someone else. Don’t be like some of our African leaders who say they are young while in their 80’s!
My issue isn’t even with the presenters who keep being poached and recycled. Nani atakataa kazi? Not many. Not all of us think of the future of the youth. I will be hated for airing my views, I may become unpopular but let the truth be said. YOU THE PC’S (Program Controllers) who sit in the board rooms, YOU THE OWNERS of the radio stations who have the resources to train new voices, why not invest in the future of Kenya? Why are you so damn lazy? Why not take up the cross (and I know how painstaking and tiring it is!) to look for new presenters? Leave a legacy having nurtured the next amazing bunch of presenters in Kenya! If we keep on recycling the same presenters, we kill so many dreams! We miss out on such amazing talent out here! You in those boardrooms, deny Kenya growth!
Now I know, I know, my time will come and I am fully aware I cannot be on live radio forever. That has never been my plan. I do not want to stand or sit in the way of the next “Mwalimu Rachel” who will do an even better job. I too will leave one day, but I do not want to leave without having left MY legacy. To mentor and open doors for others to get in. From there, they better do me proud and open a door to someone else. That my friends is how we will carry forward and pay back.
If Homeboyz had decided to poach and recycle presenters from other stations when they started, I would not be here. Many amazing presenters would not be here. Do you know what that means? It means I am forever thankful to HBR. Regardless of where my journey takes me.
To fellow radio presenters who may read this (and I hope you do read this!) I am fully aware that we get into this business for different reasons. Not all of us are about mentoring or training or ushering others. It’s perfectly ok! It really is. Maybe you found yourself here and hey, you are just good at it, or those bills have to be paid. I am not bashing you. You will be poached to another station that pays more and has a bigger audience. Take that opportunity if that’s what you want! But there will come a time maybe in your 40’s going to your 50’s when you will be approached to join a youth-ish station, and you will have to ask yourself: “Really? Must I really? Does it help my brand in any way? Won’t I do more if I was working from the back end in training the younger generation?”
Should you ever find yourself in that situation, I hope you will have the strength and wisdom to do the right thing. Not right by me, right by Kenya.
Love. Live. Learn.