Journalists are considered to be part of the 4th Estate, individuals who help to safeguard the country. Shine the truth on all wrongs, keep political and economic leaders in check. Owaahh is a Kenyan blogger (writer), who keeps Kenyan history alive by sharing interesting anecdotes and long-form pieces on the Kenyan culture, (in)famous events, politics, and social life on his website www.owaahh.com.
How did it all begin?
The blogging? Ever since I was a child, I was always looking for spaces where I could share my ideas. When I was in primary school it was through essays and compositions, when I was in high school, it was through weekly bulletins. Perhaps the latter was my most formative stage, where I would write stories based on events of the week and read them during assembly. It was grueling, and fun, and gave me access to multiple experiences.
I tried many blogs when I first got online, including the Facebook notes I am very ashamed of now, and a few blogs I would rather not talk about. Hehehe. Owaahh.com was born in 2010 as a space where I could write history and curse at the same time. It is still that, and much more. Sometimes I even say serious things and surprise myself.
Has your educational background helped you as a blogger/online journalist?
Yes. My work requires intricate detail, and the ability to connect clues not just to answer questions, but to explain them to others. I have a rule that if I can’t understand it, then I can’t write it. It may seem obvious but it isn’t; after a while, in this business, it’s easy to write about things you don’t understand or even care about. I try not to.
What do you enjoy most about blogger/online journalists in Kenya?
The chaos. The absolute chaos. I have been a freelance journalist for 7 or so years and each year is unique. Each day is unique online. I find notes I recorded four years ago and they give me story ideas now, or I remember them when something I am working on requires them. I think the best part of it is that I have fun while at it (which makes it easy to forgive myself for stupid typos and shabby lines…and then edit them….hehehe).
What skills are a must-have?
Research skills are at the top of my kind of writing. Research in all its forms because you are diving into online sources while sitting at the Archives, diving into physical, dusty ones. So I guess even a skill to find information in dust and old papers counts….
Interview skills are also part of essential research skills. You need to know your own pitfalls as an interviewer, as well as the strengths of your subject as an interviewee, and research on the topic. Each is unique, but there are essential elements.
How can someone become an expert blogger/online journalist?
Find something you like doing, and do it as much as you can. Find people to pay you for it but keep at it.
Is it difficult to get Information in for a story that you are writing? How do you overcome this challenge?
Yes, for most stories I work on. I approach each story from a point of interest, and after identifying primary sources, pan out from there. I actually like the challenge of looking for information…except the part of hounding sources for interviews because, well…
What are some tech tools that you use in your writing work and research?
Search engines mostly, but there are others such as cloud tools, recording devices, and data analysis tools.
What do you constantly need to keep on doing to stay on top of your game?
Hehehe. Read your peers, read people who are better than you. Read your old work (you will cringe, but it will help). Change your style, challenge yourself. Take a break. Make noise on Twitter.
What piece of advice would you give someone considering a career in blogging/online journalism?
Don’t! Go be an accountant or something!
Hehe, it’s a tough time in the business, but then again when isn’t it ever. As I said before, find something you love, and work on that. Find a medium that works, and start from there. You will fail, many times. Innovate, adapt, cry a little, and then dive back into it.
If you think this is your calling why not join our Digital Journalism course where you can sharpen your skills. Click on the image below to learn more.
Please also check out this article that highlights why multimedia skills are in-demand today in the market here.