Podcast of the Year winner Steve Ondieki shares his journey to the top

Producer Steve Ondieki poses with his trophy after he was named winner in the podcast category during the Annual Journalism Excellence Awards 2024. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The sun beat down as I walked into the Standard Group in December 2022. Fresh off the high-octane energy of the national election, I was fanciful with excitement.

Here I was, a young journalist, joining the ranks of media titans, not just in Kenya, but across East Africa. It felt like a dream. 

My journey to this point had been a whirlwind. Just seven months earlier, I had cut my teeth as a reporter in Mombasa, juggling courtroom drama with captivating stories of biodiversity along the breathtaking Kenyan coastline.

The election, however, was a turning point. Thrust into the heart of the political storm, I relished the challenge. I honed my skills and built a reputation. 

Then came the call from the Standard Group, or "SG" as it's affectionately known. It was a mix of excitement and a healthy dose of trepidation. Excitement because I was to become the media Group's first-ever podcast producer, tasked with pioneering this new frontier.

The challenge was to make podcasts as captivating and essential as the Group's established powerhouses - The Standard newspaper, KTN, and a network of radio stations. 

Podcasts, the bite-sized nuggets of audio journalism, had started flaring up and were gradually but certainly growing in popularity.

Unlike the fleeting nature of live radio, captivating audio stories could be accessed anytime, anywhere, by anyone with an internet connection. Themes can range from the weighty matters of climate change and politics to the lighter side of entertainment – an array of knowledge. 

And so, I plunged head-first into this dynamic world.

My initial mission was to establish at least two daily and weekly podcasts with compelling content that would grab listeners and not let go. It wasn't easy. Gradually, we carved a path in this uncharted territory. We captivated audiences, and the demand grew. Our initial four podcasts blossomed into a thriving bouquet of twelve, two of them catering specifically to our diaspora community. 

It wasn't just about churning out content; I wore two hats – the creative visionary and the guardian of journalistic integrity. Each podcast had to be meticulously crafted, adhering to the highest ethical standards while staying ahead of the curve. For nearly two years, we've held our listeners captive, bringing stories from Kenya and beyond right to their ears. 

This dedication has paid off.

At the recent Annual Journalism Excellence Awards (AJEA), organized by the Media Council of Kenya in early May 2024, the Standard Group snagged the prestigious "Podcast of the Year" award.

This recognition was a validation of our dominance in this new media landscape. The winning podcast, hosted by yours truly, is a bi-weekly environmental series. The specific episode was about the water struggles of communities and wildlife along the Ewaso Nyiro basin in Northern Kenya, a story I produced in June 2023. 

Adding another feather to our cap, a second episode from the same series secured the second runners-up position. We were so good, we ended up competing against ourselves!

These two wins were a stamp to SG's dedication to embracing the future of journalism. As the media landscape undergoes a seismic shift in how audiences consume information, we're not just holding onto our legacy as a media powerhouse, we're leading the charge in the new digital age. 

The Standard Group acknowledges the power of podcasting in a media landscape undergoing a massive shift in consumption. While remaining a leader in traditional media, we're also blazing a trail in the digital realm. This is evident in the newly established state-of-the-art podcast studio.

We're not just navigating the present – we're already living in the media's future.

Current running podcasts 

Dear Life — Highlights ordinary people's extraordinary stories.

The Situation Room — features current political, socio-economic and legal issues with experts.

Diaspora This Week — Features Kenyans and Africans abroad making a difference at home and away.

Kulikoni Podcast— Features Swahili-speaking African Diasporans.

In Case You Missed It — Features weekly news highlights from across politics to entertainment.

The Z Tribe— Features issues affecting the Gen Z demographic

The Special Dispatch — Features a major/odd news event that happens every week.

Climate and Environment— Features stories of conservation, climate resilience and biodiversity.

Health and Wellness — Features doctors and health professionals to discuss diseases and conditions and how they can be prevented and/or treated.

What's Your Story?— Features industry leaders and how they made it.

Love Story Podcast— Highlights the love journey of married couples; from how they met to marriage.

Sepetuko Podcast— Features the editorial commentary of The Standard Group on topical issues.

The Fairway Podcast— Features stories of golfers.

The Top Drawer— Weekly analysis of sports and athletes.