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Janet Mbugua - Following my dreams

By | December 8th 2010

Janet Mbugua, 27, now working as a TV anchor on South African TV channel eTV, talks to to Kiundu Waweru about her new job and life in Johannesburg and hints that we will see more of her in the coming year. Read on to find out…

Which station do you work for in South Africa and what are your roles?

I work for eNews Africa, part of eTV. I am a news anchor, writer, producer and reporter for their bulletins and features.

How does the work environment in SA compare and differ from Kenya?

It is still competitive, similar to the kind of brainstorming sessions and story execution that I saw in the newsroom at KTN. In South Africa they invest a lot in training, which works to give you an edge and make you more dynamic.

What does a typical work-day entail?

The day entails choosing a story to tackle, or being assigned one. Then there’s debate, deliberation, preparation, a lot of research and finally you deliver the news bulletin. My day is subject to change, especially when there is breaking news.

How did you end up in South Africa? Was the decision to move from KTN painstaking?

The decision was bittersweet. KTN was a platform from which I was able to establish myself, and the lessons I learnt there, I still carry with me today. I heard about the job in South Africa and thought it would be a great challenge, considering the doors it could open as well. Although I have managed to achieve much more in SA, my foundation was in no doubt in Nairobi.

I remember the last night you anchored, when at the end of the News Michael Oyier gave you flowers as farewell from the colleagues. How was that moment for you?

That was a truly pleasant surprise, and very humbling. I kept wondering why the team wasn’t concerned that Michael had excused himself from the studio, when I had to read the Big Question results alone, and I thought; "wow, my last night on air and they are making me read the results alone?" Suddenly I see Michael walk in with flowers, and the whole studio breaks out into smiles, and that’s when I realised there are few companies that can rival the kind of family-like bond that KTN has. Unforgettable, I still smile when I remember it.

Kenyan viewers had come to love you on screen. Do you think you disappointed them by leaving?

I don’t think I disappointed them. At least I would hate to think so. I want to be the best that I can be, even when I’m far from home, so that someday, someone else from Kenya can have the same opportunity. Kenyans can still see me on television, more so in the coming year. Something is in the works but I would not want to pre-empt what we will be rolling out, because as with the nature of media, it may be stalled or delayed.

Janet Mbugua

Is there a celebrity culture in SA, where News Anchors are celebrated? Remember your time here how there was a buzz about you, Lillian Muli and Esther Arunga and who was hotter?

It seems like a long time ago with the debate on many posts. In SA you don’t really see that. The veteran broadcast journalists receive attention, but the Press doesn’t usually pick up on what other television personalities get up to. If you can recall a controversial story that happened earlier this year, where a television anchor and an interviewee came close to exchanging blows in studio over a particularly sensitive issue. That became the biggest story of the year, and songs and videos, even T-shirts, were made based on the line ‘don’t touch me on my studio’. That was at our offices; it’s stuff like this that attracts Press attention.

Esther Arunga! I believe you must have heard about her story. What is your take on the whole saga?

I won’t say much, except that Esther will be alright, and that hopefully someday she’ll use her story to change someone else’s life. I wish her well.

What is your greatest asset when it comes to this job?

I believe I’m still on a growth curve. But so far, I believe my voice and my demeanour on air have allowed me the chance to grow in the industry.

How is life in SA and how do you spend your free time?

I’m settling down into Jozi life best as I can. I’ve spent most of my free time in the last year doing just that! I’ve also travelled quite a lot, both for work and leisure, as it’s one of my favourite hobbies.

How is the nightlife in Jo’burg?

I go out ever so often, mostly to laid-back settings where I can enjoy a conversation with friends. Compared to Nairobi, Jo’burg is big on nightlife, clubbing and lounging. They also love ‘braais’ (the equivalent of a barbeque), which they have for any and every occasion, mostly on get- togethers. There’s always a waft of roasting meat and clinking of glasses during any season in SA. They also love their sports. The World Cup was remarkable with the air alive with buzzing vuvuzelas and celebrations. Another great moment I’m happy to have been a part of.

What do you miss most about Kenya?

I miss the spirit of hard work Kenyans have. Each time I’m home, I’m surrounded by people who work hard and want to make a difference. It’s so refreshing. I thoroughly miss the food, my family and friends and the beaches of the Coast.

You are involved with a mentorship programme at the Africa Leadership Academy in Jo’burg...

The way it works is that I have a mentee who I visit and encourage, as well as show the ropes when it comes to the field that I’m in, which is media.

It’s a great programme that matches mentors and mentees that way, and someday I hope it can come to Kenya, where people, particularly young people, get the chance to be mentored, are given hope and encouraged to make a change by those who have made it in their careers. I got involved because it has always been a passion of mine, but a passion I intend to harness more over time.

As the programme is still young I have not ascertained who else is involved, but the Academy has many influential people on its board including former heads of state.

Now, Janet, I know girls love shopping, how is the shopping experience in Jo’burg?

There’s a lot of variety when it comes to shopping. Almost too much variety! I’ve practised restraint though. My favourite store has to be YDE. That store should have a ‘beware, you’ll lose your mind!’ sign outside, it’s oh so very trendy, and I frequent it when I am looking to spruce up my wardrobe a little bit. I would describe my personal style as casual-chic. I wouldn’t mind being more adventurous with my style but I suppose in time I’ll get there.

What are your plans for the future and advice for aspiring news anchors?

My plans are to make sure I use every opportunity I get to learn something and build my character. I would hate to look back in ten years and say; I wish I’d done that! For girls aspiring to be news anchors, it’s not impossible. Each time someone tells you that you can’t make it, make a point to go for it. But make sure your reasons are genuine. It’s an amazing field that can take you places, but you have to make many sacrifices along the way. Also study hard, it always pays off. Read widely, learn from those around you and find time to enjoy life’s simple pleasures.

Finally Janet... any dude in your life?

That’s personal!








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