I had just finished secretarial college when I was offered the job of trainee reporter on the Nation newspaper. On my first day when I walked into the newsroom, it was bustling with reporters either busy on the telephones getting information for their stories or they were tapping furiously on their typewriters putting them down in print. Yes, it was typewriters in those days, it was the sixties, and I was 17 years old.
I was guided to the Women’s section of the office, where I was going to work on the Feature pages regarding women’s issues. At first, I had to shadow the experienced journalists when out on a job, but quite soon after I was on my own. My first assignment was to cover the Kenya Homes Exhibition. To my surprise, when my story appeared in print in the newspaper, I had my own by-line – By Lorraine Saldanha (my maiden name).
From then on, my work on the Women’s Feature pages covered a variety of topics. I was given the task of compiling a weekly series of international cuisine, going around to all the foreign embassies and high commissions requesting them to provide their country’s National recipes. Another series, titled Meet the Chefs, was to visit the top Nairobi hotels requesting their chefs to impart with their favourite recipes.
I also worked on the fashion pages, the teenage page and another weekly series show-casing different career paths for young people.
To my discredit on one occasion, I was asked by the News Editor to cover a current news story. A Minister of the Government was going to open the new premises of the Maendeleo ya Wanawake Handicraft Centre, a self-help women’s group that made hand-woven baskets, jewellery, tie-dye materials, clay pots for sale. Many of the women who made these items came to Nairobi from up-country for this event. The Minister arrived and started his speech. In Swahili. I don’t speak Swahili, so it was a non-story on my part. When I got back to the office, the News Editor was not pleased, to say the least. The photographer who was assigned to the event also failed to get a picture of the Minister who was stuck in the lift on his way out. The News Editor, however, managed to retrieve the contents of the speech from the Kenya News Agency, and the report was in the newspaper the next day.