Nairobi News


NTV editor recounts identity crisis after leaving BBC

NTV consulting editor Joseph Warungu has narrated the identity crisis he faced after leaving BBC nine years ago.

Mr Warungu on Monday shared on social media that one of the biggest challenges he faced after leaving BBC was finding an answer to the question, “Who am I?”.

He was the first African to be made head of BBC Network Africa and Focus on Africa.

His journey began in 1992 when he got a job with the BBC Swahili Service network. From then on, he worked not only for BBC but also as a stringer for other international news networks.

But when he left the BBC nine years ago, he said did not know what awaited him out there.

He says that only his mother understood his mind. “I know you know what you’re doing,” she told him. And he did.

“I was very clear that I wanted to return to Kenya and start my own media production and training company. But when, for the last time, I walked out of Bush House – the then headquarters of the BBC World Service in central London – I was hit by identity crisis.”

“By the time the words “Former BBC…” were used, it felt like professional bereavement. It became clear to me why African presidents hold on so tightly to power even when their mandates were long gone. Power and influence are addictive. When they slip away, life itself can seem to ebb away,” he adds.

“I’ve learnt one thing: no matter how many presidents or influential people I interviewed, I was not head of state. I was not a CEO. I was not an elected official,” he says.

He adds that he was simply a journalist – an ordinary citizen put in a position of trust by the people who sacrifice their time to read, listen to or watch our news programmes.

“When a politician gives you access, they are exchanging it for access to your readers or viewers. It’s never a favour. And it’s never an invitation to share their power with you.”

So, who is he today?

“Well, I’ve tried unsuccessfully to recreate my identity separate from the BBC. Wherever I go in Africa, people always refer to me as “that BBC guy”, even though I left formal employment with the corporation nine years ago.

“So, I’ve decided to declare a unilateral identity ceasefire with the organisation and accept that I may leave the BBC but I still have to live with it.”

Warungu has 30 years of journalism and media management experience, twenty of which were spent at the BBC.

He runs a national mentorship programme for young journalists in Kenya in the form of a popular journalism TV reality show, Top Story which is broadcast on NTV every Monday at 7.30pm.