The Kenyan newspaper industry is abuzz with news of the appointment of former Nation Media Group editorial director, Joseph Odindo, to the same position in rival media house, The Standard Group.
Mr Odindo, one of Kenya’s most eminent journalists, started his new assignment at the nation’s oldest publishing company on November 4. An announcement published in The Standard says he will be “in charge of journalism across the group’s print, digital and broadcast platforms and will provide strategic leadership for The Standard Group’s editorial development.”
The appointment of Mr Odindo follows four months of upheaval at The Standard. In July this year media house instituted a programme of voluntary early retirement as part of its company-wide restructuring, giving several workers an opportunity to leave of their own accord. The following month, however, Business Today, a Kenyan publication, reported that several senior journalists, photographers, TV producers and sub-editors were forcefully made redundant. It estimated that more than 50 people were let go. A few days later a list of 13 ‘sacked’ journalists was leaked online.
Although the former employees were offered severance pay, gratuity, counseling and financial management training, many left deeply disgruntled. This resulted in several unsubstantiated claims on social media and the blogosphere that The Standard Group’s human resource manager, Pauline Kiraithe was to blame. According to those allegations, Ms Kiraithe, who previously worked as Senior Human Resource Manager at Nation Media Group, used the redundancy to clear the way for the employment of a number of journalists from her old media house.
ACME was unable to verify those accusations.
The Standard also made key editorial changes, merging its Saturday and Sunday editorial desks to improve efficiency and management of the weekend editions.
Industry watchers are hopeful that Mr Odindo’s appointment will breathe new life into the media house. He brings to the Group experience in editorial leadership of close to two decades, as well as clout from his previous service as chair of the Media Council of Kenya and his current position on the board of the World Editor’s Forum.
Joseph Odindo started his journalism career in the 1980s as a sub-editor at The Standard. In 1994 he was appointed founding editor of the regional weekly, The EastAfrican. He then took over the reins at Nation Media Group in 2007, serving as Group Managing Editor, after which he was appointed Editorial Director, a position from which he retired in July last year.
Few had anticipated that Mr Odindo would return from retirement to cross to The Standard and most expected him to focus on academia, and possibly, public service. Mid this year, however, rumours began circulating of negotiations between him and The Standard Group.
For The Standard, clinching a deal with Odindo is clearly a coup.
Mr Sam Shollei, Standard Group’s chief executive officer, said in his announcement, “The group’s editorial team, known for its competitive journalism and diligence, will be infinitely stronger under Mr Odindo’s leadership.”
The Standard Group owns KTN television, The Standard, Radio Maisha, The Nairobian, Standard Digital and Think Outdoor, a billboard advertising company.