Kaara Wainaina: Go well Rita Tinina, you will be truly missed!

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The late Rita Tinina.

Photo credit: Courtesy

What you need to know:

  • After settling in I was handed my first story and the editor requested Rita to guide me on it.
  • She would often seek my views on the business landscape in the country or whichever other topic.

In June 2006, I was fortunate to land an internship opportunity at NTV with the Nation Media Group.

Once I reported I was simply star-struck to interact with many big media names I had only seen on TV.

Among them was the towering Rita Tinina, whose storytelling, poise and command of English I had long admired.

After my brief introduction in the newsroom, she simply referred to me as the ‘Young man’ a name she’d call me to the end.

I soon learnt in the newsroom and true to their nature the wordsmiths would baptize everyone with a crazy nickname or use their least known name.

Some of the nicknames of your favorite media personalities would give you hearty laughter, but I digress…Rita was simply ‘Masaai’ or ‘T9’.

NMG journalists pay tribute to Rita Tinina

After settling in I was handed my first story and the editor requested Rita to guide me on it. The news item was on a notorious criminal gang that had been apprehended.

I reviewed the footage and listened to the witnesses narrate how the gang would break into their homes in the dead of the night.

Like the novice journalist I was, I graphically put it all in my script employing all the superlatives I knew!

“Young man, you mean the footage is that dramatic? Let’s take a look.”

Off course all I had in the footage were 3 subdued suspects lying on the ground with no action at all. 

Rita smiled and gently offered me my first lesson, “For TV, you write for the eye, your script must follow the picture.”

She soon hit the keyboard and guided me on how to re-orient the script. 

She wasn’t patronizing only respectfully coaching, with both grace and humor.

The first lesson stuck, but there was something else about Rita. Her character had that rare combination of charity, kindness, humanity, and humility not always associated with those who have made it big in their professions. 

In the following months, we would have several conversations, as Rita sought to know how I was settling in and if I had made up my mind on what beat to specialize in.

She would also share stories of her own internship.

This made a big impression on me, here was this immensely gifted and networked journalist often rubbing shoulders with the mighty in the land, yet she had time to care and guide this unsure intern.

She was also not afraid to share her own humble career beginnings.

I would be fortunate to be employed later by the station as a business reporter. Now again Rita’s humility shone through.

She would often seek my views on the business landscape in the country or whichever other topic I was covering at the time. 

The trainer who had held my unsteady hand at the start was here now treating me as an equal. 

Years later I would be fortunate to win a journalism award and who would meet me at the airport for that moment when tables turn and a journalist become the subject of the story?

Rita it was, affirming me and telling me how proud she was of my growth.

I would later leave journalism for corporate communication. Once in a while we would exchange texts and it tickled me Rita would often write me in flawless Kikuyu. 

The news of her passing this Sunday hit like a thunderbolt, especially since in the last few years we kept saying we would catch up over coffee without doing it.

Looking back, however, I choose not to mourn but to celebrate Rita, a kind-hearted and gentle soul with a big heart.

No matter how intense the corporate rat-race would get, she would always spare a moment to look over her shoulder and offer a hand of help to whichever colleague needed it.

Something else, I have seen in the flood of tributes following her passing, many keep mentioning the same virtues. For Rita her character and personality were not an act, it was who she was! 

I extend my heartfelt sympathies and prayers to her family and friends and will always cherish the privilege to have met, worked, and enjoyed guidance from one of country’s finest journalists.

Go well Masaai.

Kaara Wainaina is a former business journalist, NMG