Roselyne Obala: I mourn a friend, role model and media icon

NTV Producer Rita Tinina died in her sleep on March 17, 2024.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • To Rita, everyone was equal and deserving of her respect… she was always that support system, ready to assist.

It still feels like a dream and I look forward to seeing you (Rita) approaching my desk with your infectious smile and hearty laugh.

Our paths crossed at Standard Media Group in 2012 and we clicked and for the longest time I knew RT, as she was famously called by colleagues, I called her Rita and she called me ‘madam’.

We talked a lot about work and general topics such as our careers as women in media and challenges we faced, joking a lot about how she admired my strong determination in the industry, especially when it came to tackling political stories. I complimented her equally on her mastery of the trade.

In our lowest moments, we looked to each other for comfort and when I finally resigned to take a new job, she joked “sasa unatuacha na shida zetu, tutapambana tu na hali yetu (Now you’re leaving us with our problems. We’ll do our best).”

Rita was meticulous and to the point, smart, a team player, clean, a forward planner and never needed following around.

She loved her work, mingled freely and got on well with colleagues, whether interns, gurus or junior staff. To Rita, everyone was equal and deserved her respect.

“Wee madam, enda pole pole,” (Hey madam, slow down) were her words, whenever inquiring on a story I was chasing and wanted information, especially on parliamentary issues.

Any information I wanted in the course of my assignment and reached out, Rita was that support system, ready to lend a hand and even follow up to ensure you were satisfied.

Rita was that special person, who had excelled in the industry but remained humble and down to Earth, and ready to monitor others.

As we grew in the industry, the going got tough and we consulted a lot, but to Rita, nothing was ever too big to handle. She joked about everything, and just laughed away everything.

I worked with Rita as editor at SG, she was my senior and I learned a lot from her. She was warm and as you approached her, she sparkled.

Meanwhile, her dressing on another level.

She displayed a sense of class, to which she was nonchalant, like it was no big a deal. She would make fun of you in a coded conversation, calling people by nicknames that, when you put faces to, left you tickled.

Rita would arrive to work early, sit at her desk with the laptop, just opposite me and work on her stories and edit them herself.

Whenever she was focused on an assignment, she would not stomach any disruptions.

She was always ready to take up any assignment and never complained even if it were a general story despite her many years of experience and mentorship of colleagues. She earned her space among colleagues who admired her accomplishment, yet her mien spoke loudly.

To Rita it was the end result that mattered rather than who was better placed to handle it. Remembering our life and times with colleague Dr Mercy Korir, was the best of times as we laughed our hearts out, chatted and looking forward to our future amid the challenging work environment.

When I told Rita, I was resigning he concerns tolled out: “is it a better move, are you happy, will it give you satisfaction coz I know you love what you do?”

I said yes. She responded, “I think this is the best decision you have made, enda uko na kama kuna nafasi, utukumbuke.”

She would occasionally call me and joke, Sasa Madam, ulitusahau? How is Twin Towers? Sisi bado tuko pale pale na shida zetu,” she would laugh and add, “Ni salamu tu.”

When she joined Nation Media Group, I was bereaved and she called me.

I was very low, but she cheered me up, teasing me for letting down my guard since she knows me as a brave and strong person.

“These things happen. We must be strong for our people. When you are overwhelmed, those who look up to you are also affected,” said Rita, before our formal reunion at NMG.

Surprisingly, Rita replaced me at my previous workstation, where she operated until her untimely demise.

Still, when I was on the Assignments Desk and Rita would report earlier than I, she would demand, “Kuja ufanye handover. Wewe ndiyo unajua which stories you assigned and which is the Top Story.”

Interestingly, on Saturdays, when I produced the 1pm bulletin, immediately I left the gallery accompanied by news anchor, Ibrahim Karaja, we would meet her on 5th floor and the first thing she would say after we exchange pleasantries: “Madam tuko na top stories, so, ni lazima tujipange mapema.”

I would reassure her that it is still early as I join my team for a bite before working on the night bulletin but Rita, well, Rita would stay put, waiting for us, insistent that we plan early.

Rita would always report to work and come to my desk for chitchat, especially with her friend Duncan Khaemba, inquiring what stories we had in store and/or needed updating.

On her last week in the Newsroom, Rita was planning her debut at NTV and had lined up interviews. She had asked me to secure an interview from a source, when I delayed and when she called, she joked, “kwani hata connection iliisha”.

As the saying goes, God only plucks the best, we have lost but heaven has gained. Rita was a perfect soul.

I will surely miss you…. Dear RT