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How Larry Madowo almost became a Catholic priest

CNN Africa correspondent Larry Madowo says if he had not developed a passion for journalism at a young age, he probably would have become a Catholic priest.

Speaking during an Interview for the Inside CNN newsletter, Madowo said he wanted to be a missionary so that he can travel the world but his calling to be a journalist was stronger than the former.

“I briefly trained to be a catholic priest. My entire high school was spent at a catholic seminar. We were often told that ‘many are called but few are chosen’, so I guess I am among those who weren’t chosen. As a kid, I wanted to be a missionary because they got to travel the world, but mostly I wanted to be a priest because I thought I could help people. I still help people as a journalist, but in a different way,” he explained.

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Madowo also shared his experiences  telling African stories saying foreign correspondents do Africa a huge disservice by oversimplifying complex issues for their domestic audiences.

“I once read a story about fashion in Nairobi in a major American newspaper that did not quote a single black Kenyan. An American TV outlet had a piece from a West African nation that did not interview any locals. Why is that acceptable?” he said.

Covering news on the continent has also put the journalist at odds with Kenyans and other Africans who feel that he should cover more positive stories than negative.

“There are people who feel slighted when they see a fellow African covering something unflattering about the continent and I have been called a traitor many times. But I see my job as telling the full unvarnished truth about the continent, not being Africa’s PR guy on the international stage,” he said.

In 2021, Madowo quit the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) to join CNN as the African correspondent based in Nairobi.

He worked as the BBC’s North America correspondent in Washington DC, covering major US news stories including the Covid-19 outbreak, the 2020 presidential election, and the protests following the death of George Floyd and the trial of Derek Chauvin.

He also was a fill-in anchor for the network’s flagship BBC World News America show that airs globally and on PBS stations across the United States.

Madowo made his name in the journalism industry at Kenyan stations KTN and NTV.

He also briefly contributed to the Daily Nation newspaper.