It’s that time again at Nation Media Group (NMG) when journalists at Kenya’s leading media company work holding their breath and crossing fingers at the same time: a good number of them are set to be jobless. NMG is planning to further cut journalists from its payroll, barely six months after laying off a number of employees.
At a staff meeting held today morning at Nation Centre, the company’s head office in Nairobi, and attended across the bureaus through a virtual link, NMG top management says it will be offloading reporters and editors as it redesigns the newsroom management towards a truly converged operation.
The meeting was addressed by NMG Group Editorial Director Joe Ageyo and HR manager Jane Muiruri, a break from the norm when the CEO delivers such chilling news. The meeting invitation was sent to all editorial staff on Saturday 24th June 2023.
Mr Ageyo, who was appointed to the position in November 2022, revealed NMG has shifted to a centralised newsdesk for all stories across newspapers, TV and Radio – and this will expectedly leave a number journalists redundant. Mr Ageyo said this is the new business strategy towards a converged and centralised newsroom where NMG will only publish and air commissioned stories that have passed the quality threshold.
Even regional editors will be required to pitch content to the centralised news desk, the News Hub. All stories will be commissioned from the hub, headed by Allan Odhiambo for the newspapers, and Ben Kitili of NTV for broadcast. This kind of operation will tighten the rope around correspondents who earn per article/story since less of their content is likely to be published or aired. It has been indicated that retainers could be “affected” meaning a possible revision downwards.
The layoff has also been necessitated by a reduction in Nation newspaper pagination by four pages, meaning less staff but hoping for better quality. Sections targeted for the chop include revise editors, reporters, online video producer and magazine editors.
All newspapers, Daily Nation, Weekend, Business Daily, The East African and Taifa Leo are run by an army of revise editors, a number of who are set to be relieved of their duties. The newspaper also runs different niche magazines daily, which have a full team from editor, sub-editors and reporters.
Apparently, the narrative for retrenchment has shifted from digital-first quest to convergence. From the look of things, this layoff will be deep. The NMG Human Resources department has already swung into action to provide counselling services to distressed employees. Ms Muiruri said staff will be referred to counselling because it is clear that some of them need to manage the news.
After a meeting with editors, which came as a postmortem of the main staff meeting, HR sent out an email on “Employee Assistance Program” in which it refers employees for professional counselling at no cost through a toll-free line. It has retained Build and Restore Counselling Services, a counselling organisation, through which employees can “manage stress and access post-traumatic counselling services.”
It’s believed Chief Operations Officer, Ms Monica Ndung’u, has been tasked to sweep Nation house clean of employees not contributing optimal value to the company. The last massive cut in NMG staff was in July 2020 due to the effects of COVID-19 on business.
Today’s meeting was so tense that no one was willing to ask any questions, except for some anonymous responses from the virtual audience. Or perhaps employees at NMG have resigned to their fate and developed a thick skin to what has become inevitable.
“When making the announcement that they have to lay off staff, Ageyo was very tough,” a journalist who attended the meeting but whom we cannot identify told BT. “People caved in and no one wanted to ask a question at the question time, open plenary. It is only the MC, Lofty Matambo of NTV, who was moving around with his microphone.”
Amid the gloom, the new style of operation has opened new opportunities and NMG will, on the other hand, be recruiting for six positions namely: chief production editor (video and audio), lead coder, native content editor, audience analyst, social media analyst, and data visualizer.
“These roles will be advertised internally and you are encouraged to apply if you are affected in consultation with your editor.”