Mark Okuttah: Had worked for nine years at Business Daily.

Business Daily has lost yet another senior journalist to the corporate world. Mark Okuttah, who led the ICT beat, last week joined the Communications Authority of Kenya’s PR department, replacing Hazel Kingori who jumped to the Association of Kenya Insurers.

This is a major b**w to Business Daily, which is yet to develop another strong journalist in ICT, an increasingly influential beat given the high growth in the technology sector in the country. Okuttah joined Business Daily after it started operations in 2007 from Standard Group where he was a technology contributor to Sunday Standard’s Bizbytes magazine, which later folded due to lack of advertising. 

At Business Daily, Okuttah developed networks in the ICT industry and had an easy ride getting inside stories among tech firms and managers. Besides writing, he also ran DigiLife, magazine within the Thursday edition of the paper.

His exit tightens the strain on Business Daily. The first and only daily newspaper in Kenya has been losing some of its best writers to PR over the last three years, depleting it of the core team of journalists with institutional memory of their respective beats.

Notable names that have left to join PR include Peter Kimani who went to KCB, Kui Kinyanjui to Safaricom, Beatrice Gachege to Deloitte, Wangui Maina Redsky and John Gachiri to Engage BM. Allan Odhiambo is leaving to study for his Masters in the UK under a Chevening Scholarship.

Even then, the exit of journalists appears to be a company-wide phenomenon at Nation Media Group, which owns Business Daily and the Nation newspapers. Lately, the Daily Nation has lost a number of journalists to corporates, including, among others, Business Editor Wachira Kang’aru who rejoined Safaricom, reporters Immaculate Karambu who went to Kenya Power and Lilian Ochieng who recently decamped to Kenya Revenue Authority.

These exists also highlight the growing dilemma media houses are facing with journalists working on business desks often being targets for corporates and PR agencies. It’s no longer rivals like Standard and Star who are threats but PR agencies and corporates looking for people with strength in writing press material and strong connections in the media industry.

Media houses spend millions of shillings and training journalists only to be picked by other companies when they hit their prime. This is likely to discourage in-house training by media houses, which have been reduced to training grounds. It has also become expensive for media houses to counter exits as it requires lots of funds and causes disharmony in salary scales.

[crp]

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