Ali Manzu is a Kenyan broadcast journalist at Standard Media. Manzu has an interest in current affairs, sexual reproductive health, and environmental and wildlife conservation stories. He is a graduate of communications and PR from Moi University majoring in broadcast journalism (electronic media).
1.) How did you get started as a journalist and how long have you been a journalist?
I got into the industry at a tender age, immediately after college. I was first an intern for close to a year with community radio stations in Mombasa then I got an opportunity to work as an artist at the KBC Sauti house in Mombasa. By then I was helping in the production department where we used to go out on assignments to shoot programmes for KBC’s main broadcast house in Nairobi. Some of the shows that we were helping in producing were Penzi Hatari and Ukumbi wa Kiislamu.
It took me a short stint at the KBC Sauti House before I was given a challenge by my mentor, Odhiambo Joseph – who is now the BBC Swahili managing editor for East Africa – to try out radio journalism. This is where I shaped my broadcasting skills and made a lot of inroads in the industry in Mombasa and Coast. We were a team and got involved in radio production with several community radios in Mombasa. Some of the notable ones were Radio Salaam FM and Radio Rahma.
Let’s say I have been in the media industry for close to 20 years. All that time am still learning how to perfect my broadcasting skills both on-air and off-air. It’s all good and pure experience as I learn along the ropes. If it were not for one Odhiambo Joseph, I don’t think I would have had that opportunity to grab a mic and report.
2.) How would you describe or explain the Kenyan media landscape?
The Kenyan media landscape has had a lot of changes, thanks to the digital platform. Previously, before the digital space, we used to think it was a slow industry that takes time for things to pan the right way. But this changed immediately after things took a turn due to the digital space.
Digital transformation has made the majority of mainstream media houses equip themselves with the necessary tools to drive the agenda of the day at once on several platforms. This is an advantage and a disadvantage to some of us. An advantage in the sense that journalists can multitask and ensure that they gather enough skills to aid them to do their work seamlessly in broadcasting, print, digital, or podcasting. They have a choice to prefer any of these or mix them. But it’s a task for the older generation of journalists who is old and still in the usual outdated ways. Many will have to adjust and equip themselves with the needed skills to drive the media industry to another level. So the media industry keeps changing into different new faces every morning, different from what we left last night.
3.) Social media is a powerful tool which can disseminate information quickly, and you have quite a large following on Twitter. How did you build that following and how have you found it engaging regularly with people online? Downsides/upsides to social media?
Indeed, socials are powerful and up-to-date with content. It does disseminate information quickly to the masses. Social media, be it Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others, is a must use for journalists. This is due to the fact that we are connecting to our followers who are in need of not just information, but credible information.
I started getting serious with my Twitter and Facebook towards the end of 2007. This was like 5 months after joining Standard Group Limited’s KTN channel. I used to post editorial information on happenings of the day, post information regarding a show I am handling live or even radio shows that I used to do later.
This led me to find a corner space on these social media platforms where I was engaged with our audience. That is when I said, so this is an easy and better way to communicate with my audience. It created an avenue to get feedback from them and to date, I use social media platforms to have a one-on-one sort of communication platform with them.
I personally respond to all my emails and DMs and even go and filter those hidden in other trays. The downsides are that the majority of people I talk to need help. Many need financial assistance while for others it’s career advice, invitations, appreciation for a good job and there are even those who just feel like they deserve your audience or attention. The good thing is that I get to communicate with people who listen or watch me and all I need is to fill the gap and receive their feedback.
4.) What is the one story that you worked on which has had a lasting impact on you?
I don’t have one, but several. I was once attached so much to stories which touched on the girl child. Matters of female genital mutilation are still what I love to report about, despite the fact that some communities are using this outdated tradition as a carrot to fetch funding, funding that doesn’t get to the target. I also love reporting on matters of wildlife and the environment, thus the new show that I am producing is about climate change. This is a podcast show that I am working on together with Standard Group Limited and we will launch it soon, in June 2022.
5.) Any advice for aspiring news anchors?
Given an opportunity, don’t just rush to apply make-up and go on air, take some time and understand the trade, where it came from, who were the best names in the industry and what did they do to perfect the skill and create that smooth road you passed.
Why am I saying this? We are past the time when anchors just step into the studio just to read news, you need to equip your mind with other necessary tools for you to perfect the industry. You can be an anchor/reporter, anchor and editor, anchor and digital reporter or even an anchor who has gone back to school and studied architecture or medical doctor. These are new ways of perfecting the industry and ensuring we leave the trade in safer hands when we walk out of the newsroom.
For instance, I am an anchor who is able to go out, fetch the story, and report it. Besides that I can handle a live event such as the Madaraka day event where we research and go live to talk about the history of our country. I also manage a team in the Swahili department at KTN News and lastly, I am finishing my master’s in International Relations focusing on diplomacy. So, it’s good to learn the way aspiring anchors can come in and bring uniqueness to this noble trade
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