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From grass to grace: Veteran news anchor Louis Otieno is back on air

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In the early 2000s, the name Louis Otieno was synonymous with respect, confidence, success, and flair; he was the face of Kenyan television at the time. Following in his mother’s footsteps, he became a broadcaster at KBC before moving on to work for other major TV networks such as KTN and K24.

His mother, veteran news anchor Elizabeth Omollo, remembers him as a child hanging around the KBC TV station with a pen and pad ready to correct every mistake she made while reading the news.

She recalls him being inquisitive and always bombarding her with questions and offering his own advice. He was a natural and was always destined for the spotlight until a series of unfortunate events tried to derail him.

Highest-paid news anchor

Louis Otieno was one of the highest-paid news anchors in the country during his prime, and he did so in his early twenties, a feat that his colleagues could only admire. He was covering serious news stories and interviewing powerful people in government. Looking back, his inquest into the Goldenberg scandal can be remembered.

The man used to have so much control over news content that media outlets gave him his own team of producers to work with. He was at the epicentre of the Kenyan celebrity journalism movement at the time.

But things began to fall apart. His decline was gradual, beginning with complaints from colleagues about his arrogance, which he admittedly attributes to clashing with those in higher positions in the company. In the podcast, Paradise Lost with James Smart, the former anchor recalls an incident that occurred on his first day on the job at a TV network with the Managing Director.

“I vividly remember him swinging on his seat. And he looks at me and he says, ‘So you are the one who’s called so-and-so?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ And then he says, ‘So what makes you think I need you?’” He replied.  “Actually, sir, I think the correct question would be, what can you do for me?” which did not make a good first impression and continued to fuel the fire of claims of arrogance, however, Louis countered the claims, saying he was misunderstood and that his superiors “just hated his guts.”

He made it known that Kenyans, his loyal fans, are the reason he remained on the screens and that the pressure they put on networks to keep him at the top was what kept him on air.

After a young man claiming to be his son accused him of abandonment, rumours of alcoholism began to circulate, as did claims that he was a womaniser and family deserter. The straw that broke the camel’s back was his involvement in a murder investigation involving a college student with whom he allegedly had relations.

All of these claims were already too much for one person to bear when he lost his hearing in 2015, and his back pain forced him to rely on painkillers, which turned his distinct, sharp, and powerful tone into a slur of speech. He was overwhelmed by medical bills and the fact that he had no source of income.

The man who defined broadcast journalism success and was widely loved by Kenyans had lost it all.

Broke days

But, the love of the people never strayed. He says he went from being a phone call away from the most powerful people and wearing expensive suits to not being able to afford a meal.

His tale does not end there. He says what stayed with him when he was down was his unwavering character, his charm, and his drive, which was his purpose, and the man who had won the hearts of Kenyans rose again and has returned to his rightful place on television. Otieno returned to our screens as a guest on Lookup TV (an online channel). He joined Look Up TV in August of last year, anchoring prime-time news from 8 pm to 9 pm.

The veteran anchor, who is visibly older, can be seen wearing a hearing aid due to sensorineural hearing loss, but one thing that hasn’t changed is his command of the screen, the distinct tone in his voice, and his dapper sense of style.

Kenyans from all over the country have flooded the channel’s YouTube page with well wishes and excitement to see the veteran anchor back on air, and many have stated that they have prayed for his return. Otieno, now in his 40s, sits comfortably in front of the cameras, assuring his audience that he has returned and that his opportunities are limitless.

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