The clouds started gathering in July 2009 when top Nation Media Group (NMG) management accused its Editorial Director Joe Odindo of sneaking the then Lands Minister James Orengo into the Nation newsroom at midnight to alter the front-page headline.
The clouds would thicken in May 2013 when Ugandan strongman Yoweri Museveni closed NMG’s subsidiary Daily Monitor for a couple of weeks, after it went to bed with claims by a top military official to the effect the President was propping up his son to succeed him.
Odindo (popularly known as Madondi in the newsroom) allegedly declined to retract the story, according to the grapevine. He was also slow to initiate negotiations with Ugandan authorities in a view to have it them lift the fleeting ban on Uganda’s second leading newspaper. A section of the NMG Board was appalled; it insisted that he be sacked.
As it were, the Westgate tragedy gave them the requisite ammunition to deal with him. He committed the cardinal sin of splashing a chilling photo of a bloodied victim of the terror raid in what is regarded a “family” newspaper. The Board suspended him for weeks.
So, when his brainchild, Nairobi News, closed shop last month, the man who redefined news gathering in this country, was pressured to leave. Talk in the newsroom is that the Jubilee Coalition was uncomfortable with Nation’s bold coverage of the corruption deals that appear to litter the government’s path. Mention is the relentless focus on the jet-charter by the Office of the Deputy President.
In media world, Joe Odindo is a massive figure. He superintended epochal changes in Kenya’s news industry.
He didn’t just found The EastAfrican. He oversaw the great transformation of NMG products from straitjacket reporting to analytical journalism. Under his watch, NMG expanded beyond the country’s borders.