Jostling for Nation Media Group’s most important editorial position has started after it was announced yesterday that the incumbent, Mr Joseph Odindo, was leaving end of June.
Mr Odindo, who has been Nation Media Group’s Editorial Director for six years, will finally leave Kenya’s leading media house on July 1 after more than two decades at Nation Centre, in what insiders say was precipitated by a fallout with management.
The most recent case of building tension between Odindo and management, led by Mr Gitahi, was the suspension of the editorial director for a month after the Sunday Nation published a b****y and gory photo of an agonizing Westgate t****r v****m, a result of a lapse in judgment of the editorial team. “That’s when the d*e was cast,” said someone familiar with NMG affairs. “They have always wanted him out. Word was that Odindo suspended himself, but the fact is he was suspended and his exit was planned while he was away.”
The company did not name his successor but the most likely candidate is Mr Mutuma Mathiu, the independent-minded managing editor of the Daily Nation who works well with most of editorial staff. Sources say the management could also be head-hunting for an outside candidate.
As Editorial Director, Mr Odindo has been in charge of NMG’s journalism across print, digital and broadcast platforms in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania for the last six or so years, since took the position in 2008, replacing Mr Wangethi Mwangi.
Mr Odindo, one of the finest editors in the country, had worked as Group Managing Editor for six years and as managing editor of Daily Nation, bringing his stay at NMG to 37 years. His close friends say that, while a brilliant journalist, Mr Odindo had a weakness is management and tended to over-rely on proxies and editorial allies to make important editorial management decisions.
NMG Chief Executive Linus Gitahi said Wednesday at an editorial staff meeting that Mr Odindo has been a pillar of journalism in Kenya and across the region. “Joe has been a dedicated servant of Nation Media Group and has played a key role in expanding our vision of telling Africa’s stories,” Mr Gitahi said. “We are sad to see him go and he will be greatly missed. He has built a strong foundation on which we shall continue to build our journalism.”
Mr Odindo had earlier talked to NMG journalists about his impending departure on Tuesday. “We have seen journalism and the media technology change drastically in Kenya and elsewhere in the region. I am privileged to have been at the centre of it and to have helped shape the profession and the industry,” he said.
Mr Odindo started off as a trainee reporter in 1978. He rose to become chief sub-editor of the Daily Nation and set up The East African newspaper. Mr Odindo leaves office on July 1. “It has been a hectic pace year after year and I feel I need a change. Journalism must defend its position. Now more than ever, newspapers must push the frontiers of innovation,” he said.
His exit comes after the bi-weekly Nairobi News newspaper was closed down with barely a year in the market. A few years ago, Daily Metro, which he was passionate about, also collapsed after failing to find a footing on the newsstands and advertising market.
Mr Odindo plans to pursue academic interests and practice in new lines of media.