Is Jeff Koinange overrated? That is the question US-based journalist James Wachai posed after the latest episode of Jeff Koinange Live on Citizen TV, which featured Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo and former Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution member Kamotho Waiganjo.
Wachai claims the veteran journalist often asks pedestrian questions, betraying his shallow understanding of issues his guests discuss despite his bombastic approach to the debates.
“Jeff Koinange is overrated,” Wachai, a former People Daily reporter, posted on his Facebook page attracting reactions in droves. “Just pay attention to the questions he asks during interviews (very dry and empty) and you’ll conclude he’s not as informed as he’d like you to believe. If you’re moderating a debate about the Kenyan constitution, for example, you must have a fairly good grasp of the document. Otherwise, you will not be able to tell when your guests are misleading viewers about the constitution.”
Many of those who took part in the discussion were of the opinion that the former CNN reporter, a towering figure in Kenya’s recent media history, may be losing his mojo.
Standard journalist James Mwangi couldn’t agree more. He wrote: “Thank you, I have told people this very thing time and time again, and what else, my observation is that his presence in Royal Media is overshadowing more talented people like Hussein Muhammed. Jeff is not cut for hard news interviews, instead he should co-host showbiz and fashion interviews with Lilian Muli and let Ann Kiguta and Hussein deal with hard news. And am not hating on him, I have nothing against the man.”
However, film director Joseph Njaata defended Koinange saying: “I suppose every journalist has his/her best beat. Constitutional law might not be his favourite but that does not mean he totally sucks! He has his best beats that we all appreciate.”
Otiende and Waiganjo were discussing how the law can be applied to enhance the new-found partnership for national unity and cohesion by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his main opponent in last year’s divisive election, Raila Odinga, which was struck last Friday.
According to his critics, he appeared like fish out of the water and as a result, his line of approach and questioning did not enrich the debate.
And it was not the first time Jeff is being accused of failing his prime time show at Citizen TV and previously at KTN, where it was stopped after he left controversial lawyer Miguna Miguna at his own devices to make sexist attacks on Esther Passaris, now the Nairobi Women’s Representative.
He has faced charges of bringing on board guests with predetermined minds to drive a certain agenda (remember Boniface Mwangi’s walkout when Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria gatecrashed JKL Live at Kempinski Hotel?), regurgitating guests and even appearing to nudge on sides he agrees with. It is said some guests out to push a certain agenda pay Royal Media Services to appear on the show and work on a pre-planned interview script.
His decision to, for instance, prolong debate on Raila’s mock swearing-in while the nation had shifted its attention to more pressing issues also earned him more barbs than bouquets, as Nation chief editor Tom Mshindi (he had a column called Bouquets and Barbs in the Daily Nation sometime back) would have put it.
Jeff, who is believed to earn handsomely at Royal Media, has been accused of making his shows more about himself and not the issues under discussion.
One Ngũgĩ Thiong’o declared he has stopped watching his shows.
“I haven’t watched any of his debates this year. I realized it’s a big waste of time. You see, flat questions, no creativity…… I’d agree with those of the opinion that he has outlived his usefulness.”
Rachel Kimuyu added: “I listened to him interview COTU leader (Francis Atwoli) sometime back and wondered if he was really in touch with what people really expect of him. Or maybe he should have told us ilikuwa political debate, not to expect anything.”
After leaving CNN under a cloud of controversy ( he was accused by the Nigerian government in 2007 of stage managing a story on Niger Delta guerrillas, which he denies to date), Jeff started off at K24 TV, then owned by Rose Kimotho, where he had a show known as The Bench, which became quite popular before heading to KTN to launch JKL Live.
But with this kind of criticism, the million-dollar question is: Will the real Jeff Koinange stand up? Or will he render fire fighters jobless in the near future?