Magazine article New African

It's No Longer a Job, It's a Calling: To Penetrate into NA Was Not Easy. It Has Never Been Easy. Each and Every Sentence of the Copy Submitted Must Be Qualified. This Simply Means to Be on Top of Your Subject, Extensive Research, Reading, Highly-Honed Analytical Abilities, a Knack for History, a Refined Worldview and an Appreciation of Cultures

Magazine article New African

It's No Longer a Job, It's a Calling: To Penetrate into NA Was Not Easy. It Has Never Been Easy. Each and Every Sentence of the Copy Submitted Must Be Qualified. This Simply Means to Be on Top of Your Subject, Extensive Research, Reading, Highly-Honed Analytical Abilities, a Knack for History, a Refined Worldview and an Appreciation of Cultures

Article excerpt

As journalists, we rarely talk about ourselves. We record what others do and say, patch it up with some historical references and move on. So when we were asked to revisit our earliest interactions and experiences with New African to commemorate its 40th anniversary, that shook me from my reverie.

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Growing in the suburbs of Nairobi, the city in the sun, had its advantages. One of them was easier access to books, newspapers, journals and periodicals. My earliest interaction with New African began in the late 1980s just as I completed primary school. It was a rare magazine then, only for the elite and politically conscious cadres.

As I joined high school, NA became my reference point for contemporary African history. At that time and into the 1990s, the main stories emanating from Africa were of despotic rulers, coups, counter coups, disease, civil strife, grinding poverty and artistic caricatures of a continent perennially in social upheaval.

I admired its two principal columnists, Baffour's Beefs by Baffour Ankomah--then sporting a huge moustache and no sign of a receding hairline--and Pini Jason's Frankly Speaking, and often wondered how Alan Rake, then editor, coped with the pair.

I made friends with librarians both in school and in the suburb library where I grew up, to be allowed to peep at this magazine, which was then restricted to adult readers. Sometimes I would go for months without seeing it, but my patience never waned, and whenever my feeble hands landed on one--whether months old or the latest from the press--I would devour every single article, comment and even readers' letters.

I secretly promised myself that I would one day write for this highly regarded premier pan-African publication. It was a far-fetched long-shot dream, but I thought you lose nothing by promising yourself anything.

On leaving college, I had become an NA addict and for lack of an NA Anonymous, I am still an aficionado to this day. NA became my journalistic alter ego. I bought my first copy with my own cash in June 1993, fresh from college. I still recall that moment with relish.

It was the first serious magazine I bought and I read it in a restaurant while devouring a plate of Masala chips soused up in chilli, gremlins of spices and chicken curry. Trust me, it was an achievement which needed celebration.

At that time, NA retailed for 55Kshs. The cover story was Chris Hani--Martyr to the Cause. I still peep at it with a touch of sentimentality, recalling the good old days of New African Life. Pssssts. "Tell the boss (Afif Ben Yedder) to do something about this pullout/magazine, we want to read more of our novelists, filmmakers, artistes et al."

I continued to nurture the dream that one day my name would also appear in the hallowed list of "correspondents in Africa". For six solid years, I studied the slant and style of writing that NA stood on. There were those times when NA would be a drag, especially when all of its stories oozed with war, and the Palaver section sprinkled with gory versions of 'witches, voodoo and polygamous village paramours'.

By this time, my younger brother--also a journalist but now in government--had also taken a penchant for NA. Then one day, in July 1999, he brought me the new NA Editorial Guidelines headlined The Shape of Things to Come. …

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