- When Anto called for an update, you had to send a text and a picture from the scene.
- Face to face, whatever the time, Kariuki’s greeting would be “Uko sawa?”
- He was a very good listener, and didn’t speak much, until he got to know you better.
Nothing in the world prepares you for a sudden death of a colleague, a friend or a relative.
But when it happens, it forces you to think about that one thing, the one important moment, their legacy in your interaction.
The shocking news of the death of Anthony Macharia Kariuki, following a road crash on Friday night, a few metres from his Buruburu home was numbing and devastating.
It ushered in a terrible weekend for everyone who was close to him.
Every newsroom, every organisation, has a few of those.
The worker bees, the people who get things done. The quiet fellows who are always on time, who do their job with diligence and get the results; the fellows who do not shout about their work, yet everybody knows that the results would not have been that exceptional were it not for their input. Kariuki was that man.
In the fast-paced environment of digital news, Kariuki was the quintessential editor who ensured he broke news with speed and accuracy.
It did not matter whether you were sitting on the floor in the stuffy committee rooms at Parliament buildings, or whether you were covering a massacre deep inside Kilelengwani in Tana River County.
When Anto called for an update, you had to send a text and a picture from the scene.
There were no any consequences for not sending these promptly. It just felt right to do so. The future was digital.
Face to face, whatever the time, Kariuki’s greeting would be “Uko sawa?” (Are you okay?), followed by a relaxing silence, genuine interest beaming through his inquiring eyes behind the thick-rimmed spectacles that made him look geeky.
He learned that greeting — we all learned it — from our cheerful friend Lucas Barasa, now the Nation’s parliamentary and political affairs editor.
When the Nation Media Group was experimenting with newsroom convergence and bought smartphones for all the journalists, Kariuki ran point to ensure the country was informed as events unfolded.
His boss, Churchill Otieno, the current Managing Editor, Online and New Content (and also the president of the Kenya Editors Guild) ran a tight ship, and in Kariuki, he had a dependable colleague, who cheerfully cajoled reporters as they came back into the newsroom with a reminder that they had to send a web version of their stories quickly.
If you were slow, he’d just ask, “What do we know?” and a few more probing questions to answer the 5Ws and the H, and after that he would craft a news alert from your summary.
Kariuki would let you and the print editors figure out the “So What” of the story to sell the next morning.
There was a silent policy that most of us knew: If a news story breaks, send an alert to Kariuki as soon as you learn the basics. Then as you gathered more facts, you put together a five-paragraph story, and send it to the digital news desk. The rest of the story would be in the paper later, but people needed to know as soon as things happened.
Google, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Instagram were not what they are today.
Their potential as disruptive players in the news ecosystem had not been exploited yet.
We were testing the system, and very few thought of these platforms as game-changers. Very few print editors — steeped in the story production schedule and the linear gate-keeping — understood why news had to be broken online first and disseminated freely.
If people knew today what news was in tomorrow’s paper, would they buy it?
We applied the same logic to radio, to TV, and we just could not get it.
Yes, people would still buy if you add value to the story.
And so Kariuki kept the pressure on journalists and we can still see his fingerprints whenever we look at the Nation website (www.nation.co.ke).