At just 23 years, she’s one of the youngest journalists in the mainstream media, currently working at the Kenya Broadcasting Cooperation (KBC). After just one year working at the station as a senior reporter, doing news stories and human interest features, she got designated to head the station’s Mombasa bureau, and that’s not all. As far as her dreams go, this is just but a beginning to a revolutionary journalistic voyage whose ultimate destination and potential we still can’t fathom, leave alone imagine as possible.
Juney Karisa’s career journey and current position is one someone may ignorantly refer to as lucky, easy or even a walk in the park. That could not be further from the truth. It has been sweat, blood and tears, quite literally. Her hard work, sacrifice, stubborn resilience, positive energy and unwavering integrity has seen her defy all odds to put her life in its current trajectory. She makes our 29th ‘Notable Alumni’, and this is her story.
How has your career journey been so far?
As they say, journalism is a calling, may sound cliché but you need to have passion and the drive to be in this field otherwise you’re doomed to fail. My journey to where I am today started with my internship at KBC in 2014. From the word go, I knew I had to prove myself worthy of the opportunity. I have to say I did outdo myself, really surprised me too. I managed to do several news stories both in English and Kiswahili, as well as feature stories, which for an intern is a big deal. After three months of intensive work, I felt I had not had enough, I requested for an extension. I got the volunteer contract and worked for 8 months.
Considering there was no pay, it was very challenging since I was a student and I had meager resources even to facilitate my transport to work daily leave alone upkeep. At some point, towards the end of my fourth year, I had to quit since my mother could no longer support me both at school and at work. I finished school, worked on two magazines at JKUAT, joined the Kilifi Governor’s press but also quit shortly after when I felt it wasn’t for me. At that time KBC was conducting interviews for anchors and reporters. I was shortlisted for the interview, and was the only lady. Most of the other shortlisted candidates were people I looked up to during my internship, which kind of sent chills in me, but not as much as it restored my confidence. Days later I got a call that I had qualified, and on 1st March 2016, I reported for my first day as an employee.
Now, getting this job, any media job for that matter is one thing. Claiming your spot in the industry is another. Despite having been introduced to the media landscape, my first 3 months were not easy. I knew I had to step up the game. There were tears, breaking moments, false starts and detractors but the KBC editorial team is one supportive team. My editors really molded me with a double edged knife, a baptism by fire of sorts.
Would you say the Media industry is kind on upcoming young journalists like yourself?
In my experience, I’ve learnt that media practice knows no age or gender. Your work sells your brand. But of course being a lady you have to work extra hard, and most importantly you have to keep your eyes on the prize. We were created to be vulnerable, if you are naïve, you will be swayed in a different direction and fail to achieve your purpose. You need to set the goal and achieve it no matter what, without losing your dignity if I may add. It may seem like a man’s world but we are already conquering it.
Apart from the academic provision, what role has JKUAT played in your career development?
I was lucky to have gotten a job immediately after my graduation. Moving away from Juja still remains one of the biggest decisions I made, because it meant I had to let JKUAT go, and JKUAT had become bae you know. JKUAT was my turning point in life. It got me shedding the playful young side of me to a mature professional that I am today. The lecturers have been very supportive during and after school. Ms. Joan Gathoni and Ms. Asmahan Mohammed, both lectures at the Department of Media Technology and Applied Communication (MTAC) have particularly played a big role in my career to date. I think all my big career decisions have Joan Gathoni’s input and they’ve turned out to be the best actually, thank you Joan. I had the best of friends who pushed me to be the best. We all had our strengths in different fields and merged them to be one strong media team. I also got to be part of JKUAT Journey community. This experience crowned my life. My faith in Christ evolved, leadership potential grew and yielded beautiful moments in my life, with great permanent friends.
Do you think being a product of JKUAT has given you an edge above the rest?
Most definitely. JKUAT gives you every kind of lesson you need to make it out there but as a student you have to take an extra initiative to fine tune yourself. As a student you need to reach out and get connected. The intensive practical sessions we were subjected to have greatly paid off, and any student dreaming a career in journalism must go out of their way to do a lot of practicals.
How do you think your childhood/upbringing has contributed to who you are today?
My dad passed on while I was 10 years old, and life got messed up a bit since then. My dad was a big pillar for many but to my world he was THE GUY! I have always wanted to make him proud. I remember when I was in class 2 I qualified for National Music Festival in Kisumu but I didn’t want to go. When my dad asked why, I said I wanted to be a pastor. He laughed so hard. Then he told me “Mummy, there are many pastors already, your grandfather is already one, and I hear they are not receiving any more applications so you have to jump ship. You will go to Kisumu and you will win and you will be a great actor just like your dad. Who knows, there are many great career choices out there.”
13 years later, my first instinct is to make him proud always even if it’s post-humous. The same applies to my mum. I respect and admire her so much for raising us as a single mum, and my greatest joy is seeing her happy. My family’s love and support has propelled me to where I am. My father’s legacy is my shadow, and some people have made up perceptions immediately they find out my family line but I get to surprise many. I pride myself in being a Lion’s daughter but I am creating my own identity and in few years to come I hope to impact more lives than he did.
What keeps you going in all that you do?
I operate by this principle; I will get up after I fall, whether I run, walk, or crawl, I will set my goals and achieve them all. I need to make it for myself and for everyone who is counting on me. Most important, I have come to know that the greatest support system is God. He does it for me. I have seen Him do the imaginable in my life.
What’s your word of advice to the current and prospective students taking the course you studied at the University?
The world is yours for the taking. Opportunities are perishable, so when one arises, dive in and do not look back, just seize the moment. Above all make sure you have the passion and the drive, it is not a walk in the park. Always remember the pen is mightier than the sword, use it wisely.
How do you intend to contribute to the society using your expertise?
One thing on my to do list in life is being part of solving the problem. As journalists we highlight so many stories, and as a human interest feature reporter I get to do stories mainly touching on societal ills and challenges faced by people in various settings. Much as I recognize the significance of that, I intend to graduate from not just telling the story but also impacting some sustainable solutions. Other than this, girl child empowerment is a cause close to my heart and I intend to reach the most unimaginable limits on this, starting from where I come from down at the Coast. I will be among those who will transform the Mijikenda girl child’s perception at the Coast, plus many more.
In another life, what would you be?
I would probably still be a journalist, or a political scientist, human activist, a politician or maybe a pastor. Turns out the world still needs more of them.
What do you consider your proudest achievement so far?
That has to be heading the Mombasa KBC Bureau.
How has the experience been so far?
It’s not easy but it gets better by the day. I have very supportive people around me plus my bosses. In overall, the experience has been a remarkable learning experience. This is a new challenge in my life and has stretched me in my career. I am looking forward to supervising a new bunch of interns next week. I hope I will give them the adrenaline.
Your advice to the ladies?
Eyes on the prize and God above all. Seize moments as soon as they pop up. As a lady you have to prove yourself every time and jump very many hurdles but keep winning. Just remember your hard work sells and gives you your seat on the table, nothing else and I mean nothing.
Any final sentiments?
There are no short cuts in life, you need to work hard. I am still evolving, still being molded, still putting my best foot forward and very optimistic. I am grateful to those who have stood by me, you are the true heroes in this story.