Dr Mercy Korir: Rita Tinina, the grass we watched grow

Dr. Mercy Korir (left) poses for a photo with fallen NMG journalist Rita Tinina. 

Photo credit: POOL

What you need to know:

  • She was heavily pregnant with Malaika at the time, but remained hard working as if she wasn’t with a child. 
  • Getting a word of encouragement from a veteran journalist like her made a big difference. 

I met Rita Tinina in 2016 when I joined KTN News as an intern. 

Heavily pregnant

She was heavily pregnant with Malaika at the time, but remained hard working as if she wasn’t with a child. 

She stood out as a calm, organised and meticulous person in everything she did. 

Whisper behind my back

The rookie that I was in journalism at the time, some colleagues in the newsroom would laugh and whisper behind my back at how terrible my voicing was at the time – but not Rita. 

Once I overheard a senior reporter exclaim “Hiyo ni sauti ya nani? Ai, haiwezi enda hewani.” (Whose voice is that? It can’t go on air).

As my heart sank, Rita would later tell me, “Daktari usijali, kila mtu huanza hapo. Utakuwa sawa, keep practicing.” (Daktari don’t worry, everyone starts like that. You’ll be ok, keep practicing.) 

Veteran journalist 

Getting a word of encouragement from a veteran journalist like her made a big difference. 

But it would be at the beginning of the doctors’ strike in 2016/2017 that Rita and I formed a friendship that went beyond the newsroom. 

We worked on several big stories in a sequence of events that helped me learn a thing or two on news gathering and scripting for TV. 

Eye for detail

Rita would make any story big. She had an eye for detail, not any detail but relevant pieces of information which she weaved together into the beautiful art that was Rita’s signature. 

We also had this collaboration during the COVID-19 coverage as the story morphed from a scare to a loss of lives. 

She would constantly check for updates, for her planning at home in addition to just getting the stories done. 

Rita’s penchant for cleanliness came to light during this period. She would report to work, and clean her desk and laptop before sitting down to start her day. 

Her mask never left her face – not for anything.

In July 2019, I got into a project to grow grass, and flowers. 

As it was an exciting project for me, I shared this with her and Duncan Khaemba as the three of us shared a corner in our then KTN News office. We watched the grass grow, as I regularly shared pictures of the progress including the ups and downs of growing grass in a dry area.

When she couldn’t make it to see the grass physically, Khaemba was tasked to report back on the state of the grass that we were so invested in seeing grow.

Rita was my go-to person for any household items I needed. She always had just the right person that I needed and her contacts never disappointed. Her signature response was always “Chonjo, nitakutumia,” as she smiled and quickly went to her phonebook to send me the contacts I needed.

Head of Cartels

When she needed a favour from me in one of the government offices, I made sure I delivered without fail. From then on, she nicknamed me “Head of Cartels” but that was not long-lived because it soon transitioned to “Doktari” which she called me by, up until her untimely departure.

Through Rita, I learnt to organise my stories, data and footage in the newsroom. 

She had her footage well planned and stored and she knew where everything was. I learnt to plan ahead of time and make sure everything was ready to plug and play when the time came. 

I learnt to be consistent in my storytelling and not to give up because some days stories don’t turn out as we would have wished.

Mama Mia, as I called her, did everything in time so that she had time for her daughter. 

Mother's pride and joy

She would show me photos of her daughter growing up and when I finally met Malaika, it was evident that she was her mother’s pride and joy.

RT was the fountain in which any TV journalist who was privileged to work with her would tap a lot from. 

Humble to the core, keen on her dressing and being presentable, courteous – Rita treated everyone the same regardless of their rank in society. 

Her warm smile was always welcoming.

It is hard to say goodbye to her, but what options have we? Her legacy lives on in the many lives she touched and trained directly and indirectly. Fare Thee Well Mama Mia.

Dr. Mercy Korir is the Business Development Manager at AAR Hospital; she worked with Rita Tinina at KTN from 2016-2022.