Today, the Kenyan media industry has gathered at Daystar University to celebrate one of the country’s best journalists, Philip Ochieng.
The Philip Ochieng Lecture is in its second year and this year’s event is being hosted by Daystar in partnership with the Kenya Editors Guild.
So why the special commemoration?
Every profession must acknowledge its beginnings. People like Philip Ochieng, Hillary Ng’weno, and George Mbugguss represent the origin of Kenyan journalism and we cannot forget such media greats. ‘Those who forget their past are ill-equipped to deal with its future’.
The second reason we are celebrating PO, as he was fondly known, is to underscore the importance of journalism.
As a Guild, we should promote an understanding of how journalism has evolved.
Journalism acquired the title the ‘Fourth Estate’ given the trust and importance that was placed on it. Is that still the case today; the jury is out there.
Third, when we seek to understand our successes and failures, we reflect on the works of people like PO.
Today media is grappling with issues such as misinformation, an affront to press freedom and access to information.
One of PO’s famous quotes says: “Let those in the press who care for the freedom of that institution stand up to be counted… by being so cagey with public information they are squarely to blame for the amount of hearsay that long ago earned for Nairobi the epithet of Rumourville.”
The celebration is a tribute to the man he was; he impacted the lives of so many people.
We are celebrating him the same way in many families people do not stop talking about how great their grandfathers, mothers, or an aunt were.
Or even the way we speak fondly of great warriors such as Luanda Magere… Orkoiyot arap Samoei…
In the same league with Philip were other great editors such as Hillary Ng’weno and George Mbugguss who we cannot stop talking about.
Philip was a trainer, advisor, controversial example, and wonderful model.
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In some circumstances though, he represented things that some people did not agree with.
The fifth reason we are celebrating him is to reflect on the state of journalism today.
A lot has changed, and many who practiced journalism in the 70s and 80s cannot identify with the current state of media.
Talk of technological disruptions, issues of the brown envelope, redefined content, you name it.
Remembering PO gives us a reason to come together to discuss our future. To navigate the disruptions mentioned above, we need unity of purpose.
After some time, there will be a generation of journalists who will not remember why we celebrate PO. This is why it is important to continue to mark this day and sustain the legacy of an editor of PO’s standing.
-Ms Bach is a Quality Assurance Editor at Standard Group and Council Member at Kenya Editors Guild