She left mainstream media for freelancing, and after a few years, she is back. Presshub Africa sat down with one of Kenya’s most decorated features reporter Dorcas Wangira now working with the BBC. What’s the recipe for an award-winning story? Here’s the interview.
What are you most curious about in life?
Faith and religion. I am always looking for answers to why people believe what they believe. What drives beliefs? How is someone without faith supposed to go about obtaining faith? Mind-boggling, I tell you!
How do you feed your mind?
Books. Reading gives me power and allows me to reflect! My all-time favorite is the English classic Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
You are such a decorated journalist. You won the 2019 Michael Elliot Award For excellence in African storytelling, the AJEA 2019 ICT Award, and The Zimeo 2017 Award for Conservation and Climate Change Reporting. How do you define excellence?
(Chuckles) An award is just a byproduct of good storytelling. It has never been the end game for me as a journalist. The art of Journalism is a form of public service. Our stories should be geared towards changing and bettering our people’s lives. I love it when my stories touch lives! It ups morale to do even much more!
What are your top tips for making an award-winning entry?
First authenticity. In storytelling, one of the cardinal rules is to be you. Do not try to sound like someone else or present a story in a format you saw elsewhere. Judges are keener on originality.
Secondly, you must exhibit high standards of journalism in your work. Storytelling is becoming very competitive. Judges want to see something outstanding that separates you from the crowd. Exceptional journalists combine different skills to tell stories-from, from multimedia effects to artificial intelligence- endless possibilities. So don’t get stuck in a rut. Keep learning and always endeavor to improve your skills!
Lastly, immerse yourself in the story. Give it your all and draw inspiration from your inner self. If you don’t connect with your own story, chances are the next person will not!
What’s your conviction about solutions journalism and our newsrooms?
Solutions stories are the most underrated in the newsroom. There is always some deliberate glorification of reactive journalism, where journalists wait for things to happen and report them as breaking news. There would be a huge difference if newsrooms made deliberate steps on how to sell their stories. I know of many Kenyan journalists who have been doing solutions-focused stories, but still, there is a gap calling to be filled! Our audiences are looking for depth. They want information that will empower them to face everyday challenges!
Do you miss your childhood?
Oh yes! I wish someone could take me back in time. I loved my childhood. I grew up watching the national broadcaster KBC. Back then, though, I didn’t picture myself taking this road, but I loved connecting with top broadcasters like Leonard Mambo Mbotela, Ken Walibora, and the rest. I loved books too. The first book ever on my shelf was the famous ‘Beautiful Nyakio.’ I cherished writing my name on it! Such precious moments are not to be forgotten! I grew up knowing I would one day become a famous author. And hey, the dream is still alive!
You are schooled in both Kenya and Botswana, tell me about it?
Yes, my junior years were spread between Nairobi and Gaborone. My dad used to work in Botswana and took me there for school. However, I returned to do my certificate of primary school education in Nairobi at Cornerstone Primary School in Zimmerman. I did my O-levels at Mary Hill High school, Thika.
After Uni, you joined KTN but quit after a short stint for freelancing. Again, you are now back to our screens. Must have been a journey?
Yes, so I found myself at KTN courtesy of a writing competition. I wasn’t prepared for the hurly-burly of the newsroom, and this caught me a little off-guard. Although I studied Communications Science at Moi University, my focus was more elsewhere- authorship or publishing. Anyway, I did a short stint in Nairobi and Western Kenya and called it quits. I went into freelancing. As I came to learn, though, I wasn’t ready! I did a few projects with some international organizations, and after a while, I applied to join Citizen TV, where I worked as a feature reporter. From Citizen, I applied to join the BBC and was lucky to get a slot as a health reporter. Freelancing is great, but you need to be ready and prepared. Oh, did I say I miss the flexible working hours (laughter)
What does the future look like for you?
Glorious (laughter), I want to return to school and improve my skills. Additionally, it’s time to start penning my best seller. Wish me luck! (Laughter)
All the best! Lastly, what would you tell your 20-year-old self?
Relax Dee. Don’t break yourself; you deserve some quality break even as you chase life. Do not be too anxious. Things will be fine!
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