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Thursday, 5 July 2012

VICTIM OR VILLAIN, FIRED OR JUST TIRED? - WHY I LEFT NTV

T'was the night before February 4th, 2012. I was awoken from my slumber, at about 11pm, by a call from a senior editor, (whom I then reported to). For the record, (and the good folks at a leading mobile services provider can attest to this), information was passed to me, conclusively pointing to the demise of a former Cabinet minister, (now deceased). Being the duty editor the following day, and also designated to manage the online platform, I released the news to the public, via the company's social media accounts.


It was clearly a mistake. But should the blame have been entirely apportioned to an individual, or was it the company's news gathering and verification process that had failed, and hence the need for the responsibility to be borne collectively?

It became increasingly clear that my neck was squarely being put on the chopping board, going by the contents of the suspension letter handed to me, later that day. And up to this day, Bob Marley's words keep coming to mind, when I think of this incident.

Would you let the system make you kill your Brotherman?... No Dread No!

Unfortunately for me, it appeared like I was destined for sacrifice at the alter of betrayal, perhaps predictably, deserted by my colleagues, who very much precipitated my predicament.

Rather than prolong the pain from the apparent denial of fairness or justice, and the mental anguish of seeing personal professional principles I believe in, looking like they were non-existent to my senior colleagues, I resigned.

Yes. The erroneous information was sent out at about 7.30am that Saturday, retracted after about 30 minutes and an apology commendably published, suspension letter issued to me at around 3pm, before I tendered my resignation the very same afternoon.

After this dramatic exit from a company I had worked for, for nearly a decade, I opted to move on and close that horrid chapter in my career. Thankfully soon after, another opportunity elsewhere, came my way.


This episode did generate some rapid and at times rabid discussions, especially on social media platforms and the blogosphere. But I opted to keep my peace, and just watched from the sideline.

But now comes some discussions at a level that I simply cannot ignore, given the inaccuracies being propagated. My experience has now, it appears, become a case study of 'How not to practice bad online journalism.' 


In it's latest edition, a magazine published by the Media Council of Kenya, uses my example in two articles, (pardon the bad grammar), and even mentions me by name.


This presents a clear and present danger to my professional reputation as a journalist, on account of the misrepresentation of some of the facts espoused in the said articles, and more, so because the magazine is being distributed to the media fraternity in the country, from by and large, the local industry regulator.

The contradictions in the articles in question are glaring. One speaks highly of the need to captured all sides of a story, but 'conveniently' failed to seek my comment on the matter.


Moreover, there's this fixation with insisting I was sacked, which by omission or commission, suggests the company did the right thing by getting rid of an incompetent journalist, (me?)


As earlier pointed out. The information I pushed out was provided by somebody senior to me at the company. Furthermore, another senior editor did corroborate the details shortly afterwards. So, when did it become a professional crime to follow the lead of one's superiors at work?

If that information had been passed to me from somebody junior to me in the newsroom, I can guarantee that I instinctively would have cross-checked its veracity, with multiple sources and/or by counter-checking with my seniors.

Innocent but costly assumption

My assumption was that before the person I report to decided to call me, when I was asleep in my house, he had done the necessary background check and taken this sensitive information through the due diligence.

To make matters worse, I have reasons to believe that my seniors had already been made aware that the former Cabinet minister in question was then still alive, by the following morning. But none of them thought it wise to call me, to at least negate the discussion we had had the previous night.

Still, I took personal responsibility on account of having been the last gate-keeper. However, I strongly believed in this instance, there was a very necessary need to view my actions as a failure of the company's internal system, not as an indication of individual irresponsibility.

Had all these arguments been captured in The Media Observer articles, I think it would have made the content not only fair to me, but also more engaging, in terms of exposing the weaknesses of news gathering, processing and dissemination, in Kenyan newsrooms.







64 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wah,
Sorry for what happened and i pray you land yourself a better place, such that you will not remember this difficult experience.

Anonymous said...

Pole sana. If i may express my opinion, you should have waited and seen the matter to its conclusion. You had evidence of having been given the information by your seniors. Your resignation was like an admission of guilt on your part.

Richard Karera said...

I am not shocked with what is happening in the Kenyan media. What is there is simply the draconian rules and the dictatorial nature of operation. This is where we say a society of man eat man. They sacrifice you on their own behalf. It is slavery, and working like the dark old days yet we keep saying that Kenyan Journalism is liberated. We shamelessly stand in front of the lanes campaigning against the governments interventions in the production of news yet we are worse of and the perpetrators of dictatorial journalism. The big drivers of draconian journalism is here with us we can't deny. I am perturbed. Stand strong Albert. You are the best!

Anonymous said...

Wow, i honestly feel for you. I can see where you are coming from. However, the call you received can shed more light e.g was it official or personal/private, did the caller explicitly ask you to seek verification or did he imply that you do...... Without the details of this phone call, we can not have an opinion on the matter.

Albert Gachiri said...

Thank you. God has already sent a miracle my way, and I am grateful.

Albert Gachiri said...

When the judge, jury and executioner are against you, your options are limited. It's better to take a walk, with your head held high.

FRED OTIENO said...

Pole sana. If i were you I would sue, look at how your supposed "incompetence" is being used in Journalism classes and seminars. This really puts your future as a journalist in dire jeopardy. Seek legal redress man!

Albert Gachiri said...

Thanks. I hear you loud and clear. Our journalism needs a serious makeover.

Albert Gachiri said...

Trust me. The call I received was very categorical about what had supposedly transpired, and what I, as the following day's news editor, ought to have done to ensure the 'story' was adequately covered. In other word, it was like I was being given very official instructions, close to midnight.

Albert Gachiri said...

That is precisely my main concern. People have to be made aware of the big picture, with all the background information. It has taken me years to navigate through the local and international media scene and there is plenty more that I desire to achieve in this line of work. Legal redress?.....Mmmmhhh.

Wanjiru Njenga said...

Lots of things that go on in NMG are suspect going by the blogs and insider information. You deserve better, glad some miracle came your way, keep your head high, as always.They should know karma is a cruel female dog...

Albert Gachiri said...

Tell me about it. Thank you for the encouragement.

eve said...

its not over until God declares its ova...ur media career shal remain for as long as God wants. wish u the very best Albert.

Anonymous said...

Pole sana Albert!

Albert Gachiri said...

Thank You. God is always in control, no matter what evil men plan.

Anonymous said...

Thats Good Albert for taking a walk Everything happens with a reason and when a door close God ensures several others are opened for you .I Know Justice will one day be served even if not in this world By Sebastian

Albert Gachiri said...

Amen. Thanks for the kind words.

Albert Gachiri said...

Thanks for the support.

Anonymous said...

Pole dude. Thank God I no longer buy that gay newspaper.

Anonymous said...

You did an honourable thing to take responsibility and resign, something your superiors seem not to have balls for. This is not the end of you as a journalist and your star can only shine brighter. I wish you well in you current responsibility.

Adelia Cunningham said...

Keep your head held up high and continue, for facts have their own unique way of unraveling.

Albert Gachiri said...

Thank you. I certainly plan to soar to even greater heights.

Albert Gachiri said...

Much appreciated. All in good time, to each their own comeuppance

Anonymous said...

Woi pole dude, i wish u mentioned that superior who misled u ata sisi tumjue.

Albert Gachiri said...

Thanks. If you really must know, just ask around.

Kipkoech Slim said...

Keep your head up. Do the right thing always and you will go far. May God open double doors for you bro

Albert Gachiri said...

Thank you for the encouragement.

Anonymous said...

Hi Gachiri,

I can't help but see the absurdity of the whole "story". However there is a brighter angle that can help you to forgive and move on:

If we put your (small) salary then, side by side with their 'big salaries' it is perfectly logical for your petty cash to be sacrificed and save the 'big bucks'.

Thus far, you had nothing worth protecting! Unfortunately, they didn't see it going down with your profession and personal reputation...

So forgive them because it is all about the money! That is how bad things are stinking and you know it better than me! EVERYWHERE!!

I Wish you well.

Sincerely,

editsuite ten.

Albert Gachiri said...

Interesting analogy there. I hold no grudges but seek full disclosure of the circumstances involved.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ng'ash,

These are the words from Dycr's 'expected' song and I quote: 'Always expect the expected as well as the unexpected'. These guys conspired to prosecute you falsely but jealously it a go play them and bad mind it a go mad them.

Nuff respect Man

Regards
Peri

Albert Gachiri said...

And like Mykal Rose chanted, 'No way can a Vampire, conquer the children of the Emperor.'
Bless Up.

Raquel said...

My cue tells me there were petty jealousies too.
Albert you deserve better. Dont think all were pleased with your expertise, and especially the study opportunity you underwent abroad.
We are watching those your seniors knowing malicious pple will face their own sword of damocles eventually.
The word I preach so often tells me via those who live after falling will surely rise to further heights. Micah 7:8.
Keep up the good work broda. That charisma you had since our school days will surely reward you.
Regards, Raquel

Albert Gachiri said...

That is so comforting to hear. Thanks.

Anto Karume said...

Hi Albert,

You have set the record straight and done it with dignity without loosing your cool. Be a gentleman and move on. Someone said " in three words I can sum up about life. "It Goes On."

Albert Gachiri said...

So true. Life has just but to go on.

Anonymous said...

The story ain't convincing. A journalist with almost a decade experience has no excuse ignoring basic principles of journalism for an alledged "order". This is a pure case of self-PR to save your already dented professional image man. Kubali yaishe!

Anonymous said...

I think I disagree with the comment up here, if you worked in a media house your basic principles of journalism almost ends at your employers call and demand. I can't blame Albert as a senior person he expects him to be well vanished with info which any journalists would refer as reliable. What would happen if one has to second check boss instructions. It's paramount to lack of subordination. A catch 2 situation. Albert keep your head up.

mmnjug said...

I wonder what it would have cost your Editor to assume responsibility and accept a mistake. I'm always wary of seniors especially in media houses who fail to stand up for their juniors, it reeks of irresponsibility and disloyalty. That decision of walking away was better than taking the sacking. It seems 'they' are influencing the publication to tarnish your name! Pitiable really!

infinitepyro said...

Aren't Nation the same ones with the Al-Shabaab stories, claiming Shabaab have taken responsibility for the Garissa attacks for example and yet Al-Shabaab on Twitter deny and actually call out the media as a propaganda tool?

Plus, the incident described by Albert happened around the time of Hon. Michuki's death didn't it? And how reports of his death came 2 whole days before he died "officially". Dude, you were so deep in this thing you had to go.

Albert Gachiri said...

Somewhere in your line of thinking is a valid point. However, I did admit to making an 'innocent but costly assumption.' So I am not absolving myself from blame. But it's not fair to single me out and ignore the very clear sequence of events that generated the factual error, which filtered through the newsroom chain of command. When one does an outstanding story or wins an award, the company shares the spotlight and sometimes even takes the credit. So how come, when a mistake happens, the individual is separated from the company?

Albert Gachiri said...

Thanks. You clearly understand the pressures of a newsroom environment.

Albert Gachiri said...

It is very sad that an opportunity of standing together as an editorial team and taking collective responsibility, was melted by the heat of basic self-preservation instincts.

Albert Gachiri said...

Ok. Sacrificing a part to save the whole. There's some sense there. But is it too much to ask that I be allowed to continue with my career elsewhere, without my competency being called into question unfairly?

Anonymous said...

Come to think of it the die was cast.Either way you were destined to be fired.If you had not run the story and your competitor did and turned out to be true, it would have been seen as an act of insubordination on your part. One of the mainstream media house while trying to outdo each other on the chopper crash breaking news falsely indicated that Both the Minister of internal security, his assistant, and the PS were among the dead just to retract later and removed the PS tag. I wonder if that media house suspended the editor on duty that day for the mishap.When you can't make them see the light, make them feel the heat. Keep on with the good work, Aluta continua as Big youth would say.

Peri

osonye said...

Hey Albert i didnt know you until you did one feature on kenyans livin in the Diaspora.What happened to you is unjust but im sure where you go next,will stand the test of time.Good luck mate.
Andrew Otieno

Said Wabera said...

Albert,
I heard it before from insider sources. Your explanation is true, nothing but the truth. You hit the BULLS EYE!

The truth shall set you free, brother.

Said Wabera

Anonymous said...

Hi Albert, I loved your reporting especially in that distinctly quirky way(that's a compliment). I do believe that the pressure to be the first is what caused your senior to take the risk (through you). The bugger however stands accused for not defending you and allowing you to take the fall.
Moving on is ok, if they let you. But since they have thrown down the gauntlet, I think you should fight to clear your name. You have nothing to lose. Much respect. Gathoni

Anonymous said...

Without seeming to defend Gachiri, may I point out that the media is a man-eat-man industry. Being a senior editor, i expect that they would have verified information before releasing it to him to put online. Had he not done what they asked it would have amounted to insubordination.

Politics in the media industry is as dirty as our country's politics or even dirtier. Dude hold your head up high and do what you do best.

Albert Gachiri said...

That is a very scary way of looking at it. Errors in the media are common but regrettable. And they will continue to occur in all newsrooms manned by humans.

Albert Gachiri said...

Thanks for your kind words.

Albert Gachiri said...

Thank you. No army can stop the truth.

Albert Gachiri said...

Thanks. I bear no personal grudges. But my reputation as a journalist is something I have invested in heavily and that should not be tarnished on the basis of inaccuracies and half-lies.

Anonymous said...

Hi Albert,

Mayne, that is both sad and painful. But there is something they say about karma. Comeuppance will catch up with the sharks some day, glad God worked out something out for you.

Take a day at time!

mikel said...

as a reporter or a journalist in general, you have developed what i call a strong 'fan base', and that's what matters most. there are many media houses that need a competent and hardworking journalist like yourself. don't panic because you did the right thing. What you can do now is to thank them for the opportunity they offered you and the time you shared. If you have worked there for 10 years or more, then it has taken them a very long time to realize you are an incompetent journalist.

Albert Gachiri said...

Thank you. My determination and drive remains focused.

Albert Gachiri said...

Thank you for the encouraging words. And like you say, opportunities are not limited to one media company.

Anonymous said...

My guy, am writing a whole blog and story on this one..Dennis itumbi

Mutheu Stellah said...

Albert Gachiri, its a nice thing that you have moved on. Its also a nice thing to try and clear your name. But it is more prudent that you forgive your seniors and move forward. True that your career may be tainted, but such is life, its never fair. For now you are in the Media magazine, and you are being used as an example, but soon that will be over. If God allowed you to be forced out of NMG, its because your time there was up. He will take you places you have never imagined and you will look back and say "Thank God they did that to me!". You are an excellent journalist and you will excel in your career. God bless you.

Albert Gachiri said...

I could not agree with you any better. I immensely appreciate your concern and words of encouragement. Thanks.

Albert Gachiri said...

Right on! And write on.

Anonymous said...

Albert, blessings in most instances come in disguise and i have a very strong feeling it's the case with your predicament...time will tell and for sure you will have the last laugh!

Albert Gachiri said...

Thanks for the support and your kind words.

Jannet said...

God will surely open all the doors,windows,holes and even cracks for you...

Anonymous said...

reading this long list of comments, i never knew such a word as comeuppance existed: used thus -
a) To each their own comeuppance
b) Comeuppance will catch up with the sharks one day!

Could anybody influence the famous Philip Ochieng to do a news story on the proper use of this nice-sounding word that I have no clue what it means?

enough respects.