There is tension at Nation Media Group’s headquarters on Kimathi Street and all its bureaus as the company has delayed renewing contracts for its correspondents and contracted staff way past the January 1, deadline.
This is as sources at the company say that the Aga Khan owned media house say that the company is reducing its work force once again less than a month after it sent home a few of its top journalists and bosses citing restructuring.
Correspondents who are paid per story get their contracts renewed at the beginning of every year same as other contracted staff. They were shocked when they reported to work at Nation Centre and its bureaus across the country after the New Year festivities to find themselves locked out of the IT system on Tuesday. None of them could log into their computers meaning they could not work.
Afraid their contracts had not been renewed, most of them made frantic calls to their supervisors to find out what was happening but there were no answers. Apparently, the company’s HR manger Jane Muiruri has not submitted a list of those whose contracts have been renewed for approval and this is what is causing the confusion.
Additionally, the company asked each of its bureau chiefs and editors to provide a list of correspondents under their supervision and rank them in terms of output. This means that quite a number of correspondents will definitely be beginning the new year without work.
Worse, there is another round of restructuring that will take place in March as the company implements a digital first strategy that is being fronted by consultants from the London based Financial Times which will see the whole newsroom shuffled around
Nation, like all main stream media houses has been unable to come up with a solid strategy to survive the digital disruption. The Daily Nation, its flagship newspaper brand has seen its circulation drop to just above 60,000 from a high of 300,000 less than a decade ago.
Its television and radio station are struggling to break even while its websites rank below start ups like Tuko, Kenyans.co.ke and those owned by its rivals like citizen digital and standardmedia.co.ke. An attempt to sell premium content through its website nation.africa flopped after spending over Sh200 million on the platform, forcing the company to revert back to free content.
Cash strapped; the company is struggling to find a solid footing in an uncertain future. President William Ruto who won without the backing of main stream media houses has already cut down advertising spending in the media leaving them on their own.
To survive, all the big media houses have resorted to a strategy they have used for the last decade; cutting down staff and slashing salaries. This has seen a drop in the quality of content in an environment that is becoming competitive by the day.
Others like the Standard Media have been unable to pay salaries for more than three months now.
Apart from the Standard where employees have gone without salaries for months, Media Max has been paying its staff half salary for the last two years. Capital Media group too has indicated it will slash salaries by half for its staff.
The Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ) has announced a strike set to start tomorrow for its members working for Standard Media Group.
This insensitivity and don’t care attitude has been going on for three months, and to add salt to the injury, the management has unilaterally decided to chop salaries of staff in total disregard to the Employment Act that protects salaries of staff from unlawful deductions,” said KUJ.