The man who is turning out to be Kenya’s most popular broadcast game-changer is not your typical celebrity. He can pass for the ordinary hustler in the street until he begins talking with words such as “ambidextrous”, stellar results, cognitively diverse teams and non-linear journey”.
Yet Peter Opondo, even with his timid nature, is a mover and shaker in media, more so in TV. He has left marks at Royal Media Services Citizen TV and Mediamax which runs K24 TV and Kameme TV. At Mediamax, he made a comeback from Citizen – perhaps to finish off what he had started then left for RMS.
“I thrive in fast-paced, dynamic, deadline-driven environments with highly creative and cognitively diverse teams,” says Opondo who has been appointed Strategy and Content Editor for Broadcast at Standard Group, Kenya’s second largest multimedia house. “I have led newsroom teams to deliver stellar results.”
He will soon learn that Standard is a highly charged environment where politics often clash with editorial standards. Gideon Moi, the principal shareholder, holds sway on editorial content and Opondo will be happy to know that holding onto ethical values can easily rub the media house owners the wrong way, a possible ticket for the exit.
As a fairly young and non-trained journalist, he says he was appointed managing editor for Kenya’s top station, Citizen TV, where he led and guided a team of vastly experienced journalists to achieve top ratings.
“I have experience in managing in politically sensitive environments without compromising set editorial quality standards,” he says on his profile on Linkedin. “For example, as news manager for NTV Uganda I managed to diffuse tensions between the station and the government after the president of Uganda took issue with some of our coverage.”
Having held various roles in journalism including news correspondent, staff reporter, talkshow host, on-air analyst, managing editor and editor-in-chief, Mr Opondo says he “acutely” understands the news production value chain and is particularly empathetic to the challenges that employees at the lower levels in the newsroom face.
Volatile and uncertain
“I believe in the transformative power of good leadership and mentoring especially when I factor in my non-linear journey into journalism and management that has had its fair share of ups and downs. I want to share my experiences with colleagues, especially the younger ones, to hold their hand and, hopefully, set a better foundation for them.”
He says he is a firm, decisive but fair leader who believes that what is good for the team is good for everyone and encourages openness and transparent decision making.
Mr Opondo says he is passionate about innovation and its ability to help businesses navigate the current volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) business landscape. “I believe that all business must adopt an ‘ambidextrous’ way of doing things: that must relentlessly exploit their current core models at peak efficiency and profitability while at the same time exploring new models and opportunities for the future.”
Besides challenging teams internally, he is a regular speaker and consultant on the subject of innovation at conferences like the Kenya Editors Guild Annual Convention.
Standard has its own unique culture, just as RMS and Mediamax do. What will be critical for Opondo is playing by the unwritten rules, as Standard newsroom has proved to be very volatile.