It is no longer mourning. We are celebrating the passing on of a professional colleague, friend, journalism mentor, sociable and cool soul of Robin Njogu, until his death the Managing Editor for radios at the Royal Media Services. Go well bro!
A gentle soul he was, and a guy who cared for his work extra ordinarily. For perfection and being on top of things in news; he was highly competitive; would never want to be behind news- he was fast with news, and his editing and contextualization of issues was high level- he loved his job and enjoyed being a journalist. He would send you a script or story to edit, as you were part of his RMS team- then tells good stories are for all Kenyans and you have a role- what are we paid to do at the Media Council of Kenya- outdone, I would add my input and return to him-and he would ask about what the code of ethics for the practice of journalism said to a particular topic before running a story especially those sensitive ones. He took any complaints about stories from the radio stations he supervised very seriously and would take action, make correction or follow up with the respective reporter to make an improvement. Robin was well sourced and networked editor and undertook his responsibility so serious- even outside the newsroom, his would never leave his traditional Mac behind.
We built a friendship when I was a health correspondent at the Standard while he was on the same beat at Capital FM with Mike Mwaniki at the Daily Nation. Uhuru Park became our regular place as we frequented Afya House for stories. Robin was a trained fact checker and always at the forefront in debunking fake news and had over two decades of news management having also worked at Capital FM and Nation FM in Nairobi. He was a graduate of School of journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Nairobi and the Kenya Institute of Mass Communication. A respectable journalists’ mentor and trainer, Robin was a highly sociable man. He once served as the Secretary for Digital at the Kenya Editors Guild
Robin was harvested by the COVID-19 pandemic after a month in hospital in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) on oxygen. Interesting thing during that month, Robin, being who he was, kept his phone and chatted with friends, made jokes and continued sharing news to us. We joked and chatted- then one day he says “ Cousin, son of Jacks Sentonga, be careful. COVID 19 is real. It wants me to exit the group”. Robin took all precautions but once it’s your turn, there is no short cut. Its painful and unbelievable, but that’s how death is- very cunning but swift. Just a day earlier, we had met at the hospital with his lovely wife Carol, Judie Kaberia and Capital FM’s Bernard Momanyi, trying to join efforts by other colleagues on how to get involved in the burial of Robin’s mother and the huge medical bill at that was accruing. I didn’t know that I was seeing my buddy for the last time alive.
I remember in March 2020 when the situation of COVID 19 became real in the country, he was among the team at RMS that quickly worked on the in-house policy guidelines on dealing with the pandemic at the work place. He invited me to train his radio staff on safety and protection measures- we did and we kept reminding ourselves of staying safe.
More colleagues in the media sector and journalism profession in Kenya sector have been affected and infected by the COVID-19, latest being the death of Winnie Mukami and Lorna Irungu. I know colleagues and families who are struggling with COVID 19, in ICUs, wards, homes and hospitals- it is tough. And it is not that they have been careless, but many times it just happens. That is why we are appealing to authorities to allow journalists, media practitioners and workers to get the COVID-19 jab as a matter of urgency. It might reduce the risks together with them taking the already announced containment measures.
Colleagues COVID-19 is taming people and is within us. Your life, your family and colleagues’ lives matter, and you have a personal responsibility to ensure they are protected. Personal awareness and responsibility is as important as the stories you are covering. In addition, you must be lead examples to practicing what you are telling the public to do. Follow the containment protocols seriously please.
Yes, it is uncomfortable and sometimes irritating putting on the PPE especially for non -medical staff, but we have no alternative- we simply have to follow the protective measures that we are telling others to follow. Journalists must sanitize their equipment, never leave the equipment on the ground during field assignments and use boom mics during field interviews.
MCK guidelines advised that journalists and media practitioners assigned to cover the Coronavirus stories must do a risk analysis to ensure not only their safety, but the safety of their families, colleagues and the community. It further advised that journalists undertake risk analysis to assess your safety, level of exposure (visiting health facilities, interviews with suspects or those with high exposure to the virus) and discuss with your immediate supervisor.
We pray for strength for your family. Until we meet again Robin.
The writer is the Deputy CEO at the Media Council of Kenya