What you need to know:
- As a member of the Kenya Yearbook Editorial Board (KYEB), Ochieng could not let stories go to the press without his eye on content.
- The KYEB still has copies of Ochieng’s revision marks on artworks for posterity.
Venerated writer Philip Ochieng was an addict who was not consigned to a rehab. He was addicted to fine drink, clean copy, medieval history and literature.
He was at ease with the English language and generated editorial content nonchalantly. This earned him the moniker “a walking encyclopedia”.
Ochieng proffered answers as quickly as questions came. At the risk of sounding a bit hyperbolic, Ochieng’s mind operated like a computer. It is also a misnomer of sorts that a fine mind like P.O, as he was popularly known in the newsrooms, loathed computers.
I interacted closely again with Ochieng at the Kenya Yearbook Editorial Board (KYEB) between 2009 and 2014, long after I left the Nation. He served in the board.
As production manager, I was to update the board on the status of publications. I also presented proof and artworks of publications for review, evaluation and subsequent approval by relevant board committees.
Loved what he did
Ochieng’s impatience was manifest in the way he demanded proof of the manuscripts. Once they landed on his desk, he meticulously went through them, underlining some not-so-common mistakes that an untutored eye could not capture.
When aware that drafts of a book would be presented, Ochieng would be at the office early and request to be appraised on progress.
In case of any delays, he would pace in the boardroom, obviously disappointed. Immediately the drafts arrived, Ochieng would smile, then like a ravenous lion, delve into what he loved most – cleaning copy.
Having worked with this legend before and knowing how impatient he was with half-baked stuff, I made sure we did our best. He loved what he did.
As Ochieng was editing and rejigging articles at NMG, he could suddenly shoot up after spotting a “stupid” error in a story and holler: “Good people, we do not say ‘the vehicle lost control. It is the driver who lost control of the vehicle’.”
The newsroom would burst into laughter. This is how Ochieng ensured English was not mutilated and illogical mistakes repeated.
Even as a member of the KYEB, Ochieng could not let stories go to the press without his eye on content.
He held that his reputation was at stake so he offered to serve as a member of the team that reviewed the editorial content and publications.
The KYEB still has copies of Ochieng’s revision marks on artworks for posterity.
As Ochieng retired, he was worried about publications across the region going to press with “glaring” mistakes.
Asante gwiji Philip Ochieng. Fare thee, well mentor.
Edward Mwasi, CEO, Kenya Yearbook Editorial Board. email@example.com