Blow for Star newspaper as Oliver Mathenge quits

Business Editor Lola Okulo has also left to join the corporate world

The Star newspaper has suffered a major blow with the exit of two senior journalists, leaving not-so-easy to fill gaps on its editorial desk. Political reporter Oliver Mathenge is leaving to join the Jubilee Party secretariat next week, while Business Editor Lola Okulo will be departing after tomorrow to join one of the leading betting companies in Kenya, where she has taken up a job as content manager.

“Friday 30th is her last working day at the Star,” a source at the Lion’s Place told Business Today. It is understood that while she got a better offer, Lola was also not comfortable at the desk and had constant run-ins with some senior editors.

Mathenge’s exit will shake the newspaper’s coverage of Jubilee affairs at a time the new outfit on whose ticket President Uhuru Kenyatta will run for the highest office, is fine-tuning its strategy to retain power at next August’s elections.

The reporter, who has been serving notice, has openly associated with President Uhuru Kenyatta and Jubilee since the lead-up to the last General Election and has never shied from stating the fact. He has been a key exclusive generator of news on Jubilee and government affairs.

During the recent controversy generated by the Media Council of Kenya’s demand that those openly affiliated to political parties, and especially those eyeing elective seats, leave the newsroom, Mathenge came out to openly defend the right of journalists to engage in politics.

Incidentally, Charles Kerich, who was recently appointed Media Council of Kenya chairman, is the Star newspaper’s editor-in-chief. MCK is the media industry regulator.

Barely a month in office, Kerich issued the directive requiring the journalists with open political ties to quit practising or have their credentials revoked.

Not surprisingly, Mathenge, perhaps out of self-consciousness, rebuked the directive. “Media Council of Kenya is so quick to talk about journalists and politics but has been quiet when journalists are harassed and killed. SMH!” Mathenge retorted. He then proceeded to quote Article 38 of the Constitution to defend his position.

Also, at a media briefing just after the infamous editors meeting at State House just after Jubilee Coalition took office, President Kenyatta identified Mathenge by name, an indication of how deep their ties go.

Meanwhile, if replacing Mathenge is hard, getting a business editor will be even harder for Radio Africa Group management.  Political reporters are plenty and only require fine-tuning to blossom as opposed to the tiny pool of journalists specializing in business to pick from with even fewer having the skills and integrity needed for managing the desk.

The source said a senior writer on the business desk declined an offer for the position, pointing to the fact that business editor’s position is a hot seat that’s closely watched both in the newsroom and outside due to the commercial interests it attracts. The Star becomes the latest victim of corporate raiders targeting business journalists to work as content creators and media managers.

[crp]

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