I watched with a lot of sorrow the story of Mr Louis Otieno.
Louis was the ultimate television anchor when I was growing up. Suave, well-spoken and just the right shade of dark, his voice lit up millions of living rooms during the 9pm bulletins.
Today, Mr Otieno, is a shadow of his former self. His gait is weak, his voice is shaky and his confidence is gone.
Kenyans were equally shocked to read the story of Mr Swaleh Mdoe, a news anchor with Citizen TV, who put up his kidney for sale to raise money to take care of some “pressing financial problems.”
If Mr Otieno was the king of 9pm news bulletins, Mr Mdoe was the undisputed champion of the 7pm news. Known for his hilarious “tafakari ya babu” vignettes, laced with life lessons, Mdoe could easily be synonymous to Swahili news anchoring in the country.
Am I the only one beginning to see a trend here? It is time for us to talk about the real issue here without sugar-coating the truth.
FRAGILE MEDIA CAREER
The issue here, ladies and gentlemen, is the fragility of a media career, the perils of a life in the limelight and how some of these big media personalities have become victims of their own success.
Those in the media industry will tell you that the industry is a shaky and fleeting world. One moment you’re nondescript, the next day you’re standing in front of a camera and you instantly become a “celebrity” and everyone is swarming towards you with offers, complements and heaping praise on you.
In this age of social media, you become an instant hit on social media, commanding a legion of millions of followers who are hanging on to every word you tweet or post on Facebook to support and insult you in equal measure.
Your life changes, you are not the struggling young person you used to be because now, you even have a wardrobe budget to look good even on bad hair days.
Because your profile has changed, you will find yourself hanging out with the who’s who in society because all these politicians, fellow “celebs” and hangers on want to be associated with a media personality.
You become staple for the blogs, glossy magazines and city rags who are ever waiting for you to mess up — just a little — so they could splash you on their silly blogs.
You are constantly holidaying, spending your money like there is no tomorrow, buying drinks for everyone, just to make a statement.
Then life happens.
The cracks begin to show the day you begin to believe that you are invincible and indispensable. Your ego gets bigger than anyone around you can take it and you become an arrogant little fool who does not listen to anyone or take advice.
You begin to disrespect people because you are on television, you are a celebrity and nobody can tell you anything. We begin to hear how nasty you are particularly to people you consider “small” and beneath you — say, waiters and waitresses.
Because you think you are beyond reproach, every critic, even the well-meaning ones, becomes a “hater.” You begin to get careless and before you know it, you find yourself out of a job, desperate with no money and a heap of scandals to deal with.
There are a few lessons we could learn from stories of local celebrities going down the drain of dishonour following decades of lustrous careers.
First; keep away from drugs and alcohol for the simple reason that they are never good for your health.
Second; spend your money wisely, save most of it and avoid the pressures of living a life beyond your means just to impress people who don’t like you with money you don’t even have in the first place.
Third, stay humble and remain grounded. You will not be on television forever and we know this because we have seen news anchors who worked for international media now running local breakfast shows.
It pays to remain humble, for even after you’re out of a career, you will have a soft landing outside.
But, perhaps, the most lesson we could learn here is that in the media — and especially when you are at the prime of your career — there are no real friends.
Louis said tearfully: “Nobody calls… nobody tries to check up on you.”
Let this be a lesson to all of us, that when you are successful and when things are going on well for you, people will act as if they care, but when you are in the trenches, nobody cares.