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John Mbati: The Young Journalist Making Waves In The Kenyan Digital Media Space

At only 28 years of age, John Mbati has made a name for himself, growing through the ranks from a writer on probation to become a sub-editor at a local news website. He currently works as a digital content creator, data analyst, campaign writer and is the Head of Internship at Kenyans. His is a story of following one’s passion, being consistent and remaining focused.

In this interview with WoK, Mbati talks about his journey as a journalist, his achievements and his passion for music.

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do

My name is John Mbati, I am a journalist by profession. I am also a Sub-Editor at Kenyans.co.ke, a digital media platform in Kenya. I am also a writer and a content creator. I also do creative campaigns and coordinate interns in the space. I also do music, which is something I have always wanted to do, though currently I am just focusing on my job.

Was Journalism something you always wanted to do?

Yes, my interest for the profession started while I was in high school. I always looked up to the likes of Ali Manzu and Ahmed Darwesh. I remember reading news at the school assemblies, so I always knew this is what I wanted to do. I carried this interest to campus where I found out about other branches of journalism including government interest, digital journalism, and the like.

Tell us a bit about your childhood and growing up

I was born and raised in Kakamega County, in an estate called Shikhambi in Lurambi Constituency. I schooled Kakamega Hill School for my pre-primary and primary studies and garnered 422 marks in KCPE. I later joined Kakamega High School for two years before transferring to Milo Boys High School. In high school I was in leadership positions including being a prefect, a captain for a few clubs and I also played soccer up to the national level. I also participated in music activities, performing in music festivals and at functions.

After High School I enrolled for a BSc in Communication and Journalism, at Moi University, where I was a class representative throughout. I mainly focused on playing soccer and perfecting my journalism skills in campus.

What was your first job?

I interned at RMS/Citizen TV/Mulembe and Nuru TV before finishing my fourth year and joined Kenyans after fourth year. I initially started as a writer under probation, then went to full writer, p slowly growing through the ranks to become a sub-editor and head of interns at the company.

I would like to really appreciate Kenyans for their support throughout the years. The company has supported my craft and even helped me to shoot and produce my very first music video for my song Huru. It has been a great journey working at Kenyans.

You have mentioned that you also do music. Which genre of music are you focused on?

I sing gospel and contemporary music. I say contemporary music because I believe that as long as you do not corrupt your morals, you can do other genres. I also do Swahili worship songs.

What do you like most about your job?

I love the freedom to write and be creative. I also enjoy learning new technologies, impacting people’s lives through the stories we tell and the networking aspect. All these have helped me to grow as a person in areas beyond journalism.

What is the hardest part of your job?

The hardest part is the perfection that the work requires. It is a very competitive space, so the added pressure to be perfect and be ahead of the curve at all times I would say is the hardest part.

How do you deal with the occasional lack of creativity that creatives experience?

I plan ahead for the dry days. I understand that there are days when I will be less creative, so when I am most creative I save a lot of content for the days that I will not be. I also strive to push myself even on those days when I feel least creative, because we have no room for bad day. You have to be consistent.

What would you say is your biggest achievement so far?

I would say rising through the ranks to become a sub-editor is my biggest achievement. But other than that there are records I have set for myself that I hope to achieve. We have also set the bar with surveys including comparing television airtime of different political parties, taking part in workshops and surveys, and having a very good network of people within and beyond the industry.

But I must say this, these are not achievements I have done on my own. It has taken teamwork and support to make all this possible.

If you were not a journalist, what would you be?

I would be playing professional football or doing music full time.

Your career has taken off at a very young age, compared to the average professional. What qualities would you say have contributed to this growth?

First I would say that I owe everything I have to God. I thank God for all the opportunities I have. Other than that I am a work-oriented person, creative, dedicated, a team player and I am also agile. I always aim to add value in whatever assignment I have or in the teams I am in.

What’s next for you?

Next for me is growing as a professional in my career. Exploring other areas of communication and generally growing in this space. I also want to release more music and get a breakthrough in my music career, as I am also working on an EP.

What is your message to other people who would like to walk in your footsteps?

There is a story that says every talent is an angel. And when you die those angels will ask you why you did not use them well. So my message to them is to use their talents and abilities well. Be bold, go out, try new things and work with what you have. You have to be creative and try different things because you never know when the breakthrough is coming. Put God first in everything you do and understand that success takes time. Every successful person you see started somewhere, so just keep doing what is right and put God first.