2017, Vol. 18(2) 241 –261
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A national survey of
of Kenyan journalists
United States International University – Africa, Kenya
This national survey conducted in 2012–2013 (N = 504) examines demographic
characteristics of the Kenyan journalists. Findings indicate that the typical Kenyan
journalist is male (66%), married (57%), and in his mid-30s (M = 34 years). He tends to
have a Bachelor’s degree (46%) and has received college-level training in journalism
or communication (91%). However, when it comes to majoring in journalism or
communication, most of the journalists were trained at the level of associate degree
(45%), followed by Bachelor’s degree (38.5%) and Master’s degree (13.6%). Thirty-three
percent of the Kenyan journalists work in daily newspapers, with 73 percent of them
employed on full-time basis. In ethnic grouping, about a quarter (24.9%) of Kenyan news
people belong to the Kikuyu tribe, followed by Luhya tribe (20%). The results also indicate
that the majority of the journalists are from the Rift Valley province (21.4%) – Kenya’s
largest administrative unit – followed by Western (19.5%) and Central (15.5%). By religion
affiliation, 62.3 percent of the journalists are Protestants and 22.5 percent Roman Catholic.
While the majority of the Kenyan journalists (22%) fall in the monthly salary bracket of
$375–$625, a significant number of them (17%) earn less than $375 a month.
Demographics, journalists, journalists’ survey, Kenya, Kenyan journalists, survey research
The present national study investigates various demographic backgrounds of the Kenyan
journalists. It is the first representative research on demographic characteristics of news
people in Kenya and Africa in general. Specifically, the study examines the demographic
Kioko Ireri, United States International University – Africa, P.O. BOX 14634, 00800 Nairobi, Kenya.
Email: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
242 Journalism 18(2)
composition of the Kenyan journalists in relation to age, education, contract type, ethnic-
ity, gender, income, marital status, media type, region of origin, and religion. Therefore,
this research provides a comprehensive picture of the demographic make-up in the
Because there is no literature on demographic characteristics of news people in
Kenya, this research helps construct a comprehensive demographic portrait of the
Kenyan journalists. Examining demographic backgrounds will help to understand the
main characteristics of the Kenyan journalists. Additionally, mapping out the demo-
graphic backgrounds is vital for understanding whether Kenyan journalists’ characteris-
tics match the demographic distribution of other citizens. In fact, Weaver’s (2005)
experience in studying the journalists led him to conclude that news people are demo-
graphically representative of their larger societies.
While the demographic backgrounds of the Kenyan journalists would define who they
are in relation to the rest of the population, their characteristics are likely to influence how
they go about their work. For instance, if their demographics represent an elitist status in
society, they also might put less weight on issues affecting ordinary Kenyans. Consequently,
several studies have investigated who journalists are in different countries by asking them
about their basic backgrounds (e.g. Chen et al., 1998; Henningham and Delano, 1998;
Johnstone et al., 1976; Weaver and Wilhoit, 1996; Weaver and Willnat, 2012).
Many studies on journalistic demographics have been undertaken in various countries
such as Australia (Josephi and Richards, 2012), United Arab Emirates (Kirat, 2012),
Chile (Mellado, 2012), Sweden (Stromback et al., 2012), and Unites States (Weaver and
Wilhoit, 1986), to name a few. However, such research is seldom in Africa, a fact
acknowledged by Mwesige (2004) who notes that studies on African journalists are
scarce. The lack of research on African journalists is also evidenced in the latest book,
The Global Journalist in the 21st Century (Weaver and Willnat, 2012), which carries no
data from any African country.
These examples confirm the existence of a huge research gap on demographic com-
position of the journalists in Africa. Therefore, this study strives to not only provide
useful insights on the demographic collage of the Kenyan journalists but also helps
understand how their background characteristics affect news content. This is important
because research shows that journalists’ demographics are likely to affect how they write
their stories. Armstrong (2004), for example, found that newspaper articles written by
women were more likely to showcase women within the stories.
This study also makes an important contribution to the growing body of research on
journalists’ demographics in various countries. The findings also are of great value to
journalists, journalism schools, media scholars, media practitioners, and policymakers in
the media industry. For example, Kenyan journalism schools could use the findings as a
basis for admitting more female students to address gender imbalance among the Kenyan
The media system in Kenya
The origin of Kenya’s media is traced to the 19th and the 20th centuries – for print and
broadcast, respectively. The missionaries and British settlers started the modern Kenyan
press in the 19th century (Ochilo, 1993). Later in 1927, the first radio was launched. The
development of the Kenyan press can be classified into three phases: the colonial era
(1895–1962), the post-independence era (1963–1990), and the multiparty era (1991–pre-
sent) (Ireri, 2012). During the colonial period, the Kenyan press was grouped into a
three-tier system: the European press, the Indian press, and the African press (Faringer,
The European press was at the top and was the most prestigious, followed by the
Indian press in the middle. The African press was at the bottom. The objective of the
European press was to provide information for the missionaries and settlers from England
and to legitimize the rights of the colonial masters (Ochilo, 1993). The Indian press con-
tributed in ending the colonial rule in East Africa after the First World War (Bhushan,
n.d.). The African press mostly focused on the independence agenda.
The Kenyan press in post-independence epoch remained dormant until the restoration
of the pluralistic politics in 1991. The media also operated in a harsh legal and political
environment (Aling’o, 2007). This changed after 1992 when the Kenyan media industry
underwent tremendous changes and growth (Ibelema and Bosch, 2009).
Kenya’s newspaper industry is still relatively small and urban-based (Mbeke and
Mshindi, 2008). Only 55 percent of the urban dwellers read newspapers compared to
36 percent in rural areas (Media Council of Kenya, 2005). The print media is dominated
by the Nation Media Group and the Standard Group. Obonyo (2003) classifies the
Kenyan print media into four sub-sectors: daily newspapers, magazines, regional news-
papers, and the printed sheets that also seek to pass for newspapers in urban centers.
There are six daily newspapers – namely, Daily Nation, The Standard, The People, The
Star, Taifa Leo, and Business Daily.
The Standard is the oldest newspaper, established in 1902. Owned by Nation Media
Group; Taifa Leo and Daily Nation were founded in 1958 and 1960, respectively. The
latter is the most influential newspaper in the region. The People was established in 1993
– and positioned as the voice of the opposition politics to report materials that Daily
Nation and The Standard feared to touch (Obonyo, 2003). Business Daily and The Star
are the youngest, launched in 2006 and 2007.
In the broadcast sub-sector, Kenya was among the earliest African countries to set up
a national television system in 1963 (Ainslie, 1966). Though efforts were made to pro-
vide the audience with locally produced television content, 90 percent of the programs in
1960s were imported (Bourgault, 1995). Today, the Kenyan government requires televi-
sion broadcasters to produce 40 percent local content (Mzekandaba, 2013).
Currently, there are 20 television stations in Kenya (Communications Commission of
Kenya, 2012). Television programming is mainly dominated by locally produced pro-
grams and news – with a viewership of 48.8 percent (Kenya Film Commission, 2010).
One concern is the fact that television is not universally available in rural Kenya (Mbeke
and Mshindi, 2008). Today, exposure to television viewership among Kenyans stands at
59 percent (Kenya Film Commission, 2010). However, television sets are still not ubiq-
uitous in Kenya (Bowen, 2010), with only 30 percent of the households owning a televi-
sion set (Nyabuga and Booker, 2013).
Kenya Broadcasting Corporation television (KBC TV) dominated Kenya’s television
scene until 1990 when the Kenya Television Network (KTN) was licensed to broadcast
244 Journalism 18(2)
(Ali, 2009). Next to go on air was Citizen TV in 1999, followed by Nation Television
(NTV) in December of the same year. Citizen TV controls 50 percent of television view-
ership in Kenya (Bosire, 2012).
Nearly all Kenyans regularly use radio as a source of news and information (Bowen,
2010). Specifically, 89 percent of the Kenyan adults get their news and information via
radio (Allen and Gagliardone, 2011). At the same time, the proportion of the Kenyan
population that listens to radio in the urban and the rural areas are close to each other –
88.1 percent and 84.6 percent, respectively (Media Council of Kenya, 2005). Notable is
that Kenya’s radio broadcasting industry has grown exponentially in the last decade.
There are more than 90 radio stations on air today (Communications Commission of
Kenya, 2012), with Royal Media Services controlling 70 percent of radio listenership
(Bosire, 2012). The majority (68%) of the Kenyans listen to local language radio (Mbeke
et al., 2010), where each of the 42 ethnic languages is served by at least one radio station.
Mbeke et al. (2010) explain that the ethnic radio stations have given ‘erstwhile marginal-
ized communities a voice to articulate and champion their interests’ (p. 53).
Something to note is that the Kenyan media is dominated by the commercial media
– a reflection of the profit motive behind their establishment and existence. The coun-
try’s good economic performance is responsible for thriving of the commercial media.
This is reflected in the media advertising revenue which has grown since 2003 – standing
at $193 million in 2007 – from $73 million in 2003 (Mbeke and Mshindi, 2008).
Media ownership in Kenya is characterized by extensive cross-media ownership and
media concentration within the market (Mbeke, 2010). The ownership is classified into five
broad categories: state-owned, private-owned, community-owned, religious organization–
owned, and educational institution–owned. The government controls the majority stake in
the state-owned media, which reports government affairs in a favorable manner.
Kenya’s major media groups are under the private ownership. Unlike the state-owned
media, privately owned media organizations are known to provide a more balanced cov-
erage of news events. One of the most notable trends in the private media is the rate at
which politicians hold major stakes in the media ownership. Nyamnjoh (2010) points out
that for political reasons, politicians have increasingly taken advantage of media liberali-
zation to acquire media interests with which to secure their place in politics. However,
politicians’ involvement in media ownership has put into question the norm of news
objectivity in the Kenyan journalism, where according to Ireri (2015) media owners
influence the work of the journalists.
Journalistic demographics and literature review
Media scholars have devoted a great deal of time to study demographic characteristics of
news people. Journalists’ demographics have been examined as a way of constructing
national portraits of news people in different countries. This is important because there
is a tendency of journalists’ background to affect how they write their stories. Importantly,
studies on journalists’ demographics have mainly aimed at realizing three major findings
highlighted by Weaver (2005): (1) journalists have multiple characteristics, attitudes, and
behaviors that depend on the specific setting; (2) journalists have similarities that cut
across the boundaries of geography, culture, language, society, religion, race, and
ethnicity; and (3) journalists are generally more demographically representative of their
own societies. Therefore, one of the aims of this study is to understand the place of
Weaver’s (2005) findings among the Kenyan journalists.
Research indicates that there are journalistic demographics that cut across different
nations. Weaver and Willnat (2012) have identified age, education, and gender as the
main journalistic demographics that cut across nations. This literature review focuses on
these three important journalistic characteristics. These are important demographics to
examine as they are likely to affect news content. In gender, for example, research has
shown differences in how male and female journalists cover certain topics. Rodgers and
Thorson (2003) found that women journalists used more diverse sources, reported more
positively, and were less likely to employ stereotypes. Desmond and Danilewicz (2010)
found that female reporters covered more human interest and health stories, while their
male counterparts reported on politics.
In age, Armstrong et al. (2010) reported that age impacts the length of news segments
where younger women are often in shorter news segments than other more experienced
female journalists. Weibel et al. (2008) found that older journalists were considered to be
the most credible than their younger colleagues. The education of the journalists also
does affect the media content, with a potentially far-reaching effect on what is selected
to report and how it is reported (Shoemaker and Reese, 1991). Similarly, well-educated
journalists are likely to write quality stories with better insights and analysis than poorly
Weaver and Willnat (2012) found that the population of female journalists in the world
had increased from 33 percent in 1998 to 41 percent to 2012. But, despite this rise in the
proportion of women journalists, research indicates that men dominate journalism popu-
lation in various countries (e.g. Bonfadelli et al., 2012; Brownlee and Beam, 2012; Farias
et al., 2012; Oi et al., 2012; Son et al., 2012). Japan is an example of a nation where male
journalists dominate the media population. Oi et al. (2012) found that male constituted
97.6 percent of Japanese journalists. South Korea also has a high number of male jour-
nalists, according to Son et al. (2012). They reported that women constituted 17.8 per-
cent. This percentage, the researchers said, was more than double the 8.2 percent found
in a 1993 study.
In the United States, the gender proportions of women in 2002 remained steady
from the previous two studies (Weaver and Wilhoit, 1986, 1996), with 31 percent of the
journalist workforce being women (Brownlee and Beam, 2012). Notable is that the
increase in American women journalists has been in the youngest age category under
25 years (Brownlee and Beam, 2012). However, Brownlee and Beam (2012) note that
since 1980 there has been an increase in the percentage of women 55–64 years of age.
Surveying 1000 Spanish journalists, Farias et al. (2012) found that 54 percent of news
people were men.
A 2006–2007 study of 449 journalists in Switzerland reported that women constituted
35 percent of the population (Bonfadelli et al., 2012). The findings supported previous
studies that found the proportion of female journalists in the country to have been
246 Journalism 18(2)
increasing steadily. In 1980, women journalists in Switzerland constituted 17 percent.
This figure increased to 32 percent in 1998. In contrast, studies in Russia (Pasti et al.,
2012), Malaysia (Tamam et al., 2012), Singapore (Hao and George, 2012), and Slovenia
(Lah and Zilic-Fiser, 2012) – to name a few examples – show that women have domi-
nated journalism profession. Based on this literature review, it will be interesting to know
which gender dominates the Kenyan media.
There is similarity across nations in that young people dominate journalism. Weaver and
Willnat (2012) found the age of the journalists in various countries to be between 25 and
45 years. According to the 29 journalist surveys reported by Weaver and Willnat (2012),
the average age of the journalists ranges from 32 to 53 years. The pattern around the
world is that young people join journalism to gain some experience and then leave for
more lucrative jobs elsewhere (Weaver and Willnat, 2012). In all the studies reported by
Weaver and Willnat (2012), Japan has the oldest journalists age (M = 53.3 years) (Oi
et al., 2012), while Hong Kong has the youngest journalists (M = 32.0 years) (Chan et al.,
2012). As such, one of the objectives of this study is to understand which age group
dominates the Kenyan media.
Journalists’ education also has been examined in various studies. Based on the latest
figures in Weaver and Willnat (2012), there is one major trend which cuts across 25
countries: most of the journalists have a college degree not related to journalism. It
means that most of the journalists across nations are not trained in journalism. To use
Weaver and Willnat’s (2012) words, it is less typical for the journalists to be graduates of
journalism programs in college. Analyzed by world regions, the high concentrations of
the journalists with a college degree not related to journalism are in South America
(M = 96.3%). The Asian continent has a mean of 90.3 percent journalists holding college
degree not related to journalism. The United States also has a high number of journalists
holding college degree other than in journalism (89%).
When journalism majors are analyzed, findings from different studies reported in
Weaver and Willnat (2012) show that safe for South America (Chile = 86.2%;
Brazil = 100%); other regions have very average figures of journalists who have
majored in journalism. The number of US journalists who have majored in journal-
ism stands at an average of 36 percent. In Germany, this figure stands at 31 percent
and in Japan 15 percent. As noted above, these figures demonstrate that in different
countries a major in journalism is not a prerequisite to join journalism profession. In
France, for example, a diploma from a recognized journalism school is not a require-
ment for working as a journalist (McMane, 2012). Similarly, in Switzerland, formal
journalism education is also not required to become a journalist (Bonfadelli et al.,
2012). Therefore, this study will help to know whether most of the Kenyan journal-
ists majored in journalism. This literature review leads to this study’s only research
RQ. What are the demographic backgrounds of Kenyan journalists in terms of age,
education, contract type, ethnicity, gender, income, marital status, media type, region
of origin, and religion?
This national demographics study surveyed 765 Kenyan journalists working in public
and private media organizations. The study covered full-time, contract, and part-time
journalists. All types of journalists participated in the survey: correspondents, reporters,
editors, senior editors, sub-editors, bureau chiefs, television and radio producers, radio
presenters, television news anchors, television camera journalists, and photojournalists.
Before administering the survey, the researcher compiled a list of all media organiza-
tions in Kenya. The Media Council of Kenya provided the lists for the Kenyan print
media organizations and the international news agencies with offices in Kenya. The list
for broadcast media was obtained from the Communications Commission of Kenya.
The three lists resulted in a total of 99 media organizations. These included 52 radio
stations, 13 television stations, 11 international news agencies, 8 magazines, 6 dailies,
5 weekly newspapers, 1 monthly newspaper, Kenya News Agency (KNA), KBC, and
the Presidential Press Service (PPS).
Because there is no complete list of all Kenyan journalists, this researcher personally
compiled the names of news people working for the 99 media organizations. This was by
contacting each media organization and asking for a complete list of the journalists
working for them. During this process, 62 organizations agreed to participate in the
study, while 37 media houses declined to cooperate in this study, citing company policies
that restrict them from releasing the identity of their workers. The 62 media organiza-
tions that cooperated were categorized as follows: 31 radio stations (50%), six television
stations (9.7%), six magazines (9.7%), six dailies (9.7%), five weekly newspapers
(8.1%), four international news agencies (6.4%), one monthly newspaper (1.6%), KBC
1.6%), KNA (1.6%), and the PPS (1.6%). Appendix 1 provides a list of the organizations
that participated in this survey.
The 62 organizations were then asked to provide the names and e-mail addresses of
all the journalists who worked for them. The researcher, a former reporter in Nairobi with
an elaborate network of journalist friends within the Kenyan media, contacted senior
editorial managers and journalists known to him. He then requested help in compiling
the names of their editorial staff members. The process of compiling the names started
on 20 June 2012 and continued throughout the study period. Overall, a total of 1532
journalists were identified by the 62 Kenyan media organizations included in the study.
This number reflects well the population of news people in Kenya, because all the major
and the most influential media organizations in the country participated in the study (see
As the names of the journalists became available from the various media houses, half
of the names in each media entity were selected for inclusion in the survey sample. The
248 Journalism 18(2)
names were first randomized to avoid listing bias. Then, using systematic random sam-
pling, every second name was selected from each of the 62 media organizations that
agreed to participate. The systematic random sampling, which resulted in a final sample
of 765 journalists, ensured that the journalists from the 62 media houses would be repre-
sented proportionally in the final sample. The 765 journalists included in the sample
were then contacted to participate in the survey.
This study’s data were collected using online and printed questionnaires. Poindexter and
McCombs (2000) define surveys as a research technique that uses a standardized ques-
tionnaire to collect information about attitudes, opinions, behaviors, and backgrounds
and lifestyle characteristics from a sample of respondents. Survey questionnaires have
been used successfully in other studies (e.g. Johnstone et al., 1976; Weaver and Willnat,
2012) of the journalists around the world.
One of the most fundamental objectives in research is the generalizability of the
results. Therefore, the use of a survey in this study allowed for the use of a probability
sample. The representative sample creates confidence in this study as it ensures that the
findings are generalizable to the entire Kenyan journalist population. In addition, the use
of a standardized questionnaire ensured uniformity in measuring the data gathered from
To ensure credibility in the answering of the online questionnaires – first – a courtesy
e-mail was sent to the respondents explaining the study and requesting their participa-
tion. This courtesy e-mail was followed a few minutes later by an e-mail that contained
a link to the actual online questionnaire (hosted by Qualtrics). For the printed version,
the researcher visited the media organizations and waited for the questionnaires to be
The survey questionnaire employed in the study was based on the questionnaire used
by Weaver et al. (2007) which contained questions about journalistic demographics. The
Weaver et al. questionnaire is based on the 1982 (Weaver and Wilhoit, 1986) and the
1992 (Weaver and Wilhoit, 1986) national telephone surveys of US journalists. For many
years, these questionnaires have served as the standard-bearer in national survey of the
journalists in different nations (e.g. Herscovitz, 2012).
Before administering the survey, a pretest was conducted with 13 Kenyan journalists
to ensure that the questionnaire was adequately designed. The journalists who partici-
pated in the pretest were subsequently excluded from the main survey. No incentives
were offered to the participants. The survey was approved by the university Institutional
The online survey ran between 23 July 2012 and 26 February 2013 – resulting in 351
completed questionnaires. The data collection using the printed questionnaire ran
between 2 January 2013 and 22 February 2013 – resulting in 153 completed question-
naires. Overall, of the 765 journalists who were contacted to participate in the study, 504
completed either the online or the printed questionnaire. This represents a healthy overall
response rate of 66 percent. The final sample analyzed in this study represents about one-
third of the entire (estimated) Kenyan journalism population and is, therefore, highly
representative. Appendix 1 provides a list of the response rate for each of the 62 media
From the 503 journalists who reported their job titles (one refused), 34.4 percent were
reporters (n = 173), 17.9 percent editors (n = 90), 11.1 percent correspondents (n = 56),
8.3 percent sub-editors (n = 42), 7.5 percent radio presenters and producers (n = 38),
6.4 percent news anchors (n = 32), 4.4 percent bureau chiefs (n = 22), 1.8 percent photo-
journalists (n = 9), and 8.2 percent other titles (n = 41).
For many years, demographic backgrounds have remained a central variable in
journalist studies in various nations (e.g. Deprez and Raeymaeckers, 2012; Weaver
and Willnat, 2012). Research on journalists’ demographics is important because their
background characteristics are likely to influence their work. The demographic char-
acteristics of Kenyan journalists were measured using 10 variables: age, education,
contract type, ethnicity, gender, income, marital status, media type, region of origin,
To assess the journalists’ age, respondents were asked to state their year of birth. This
is an important variable to examine because age can significantly influence the work of
the journalists. Education is likely to influence the work of the journalists on issues such
as professional values, journalistic ethics, and journalistic excellence. Education was
measured in a 6-point scale: primary school graduate (=1), high school graduate (=2),
associate degree graduate (=3), undergraduate (=4), MA graduate (=5), and Ph.D.
Ethnicity was included in the study because it is an important element of identity in
Kenya’s multi-ethnic population. In this regard, in a country where covert tribalism is
deeply entrenched in institutions, journalists’ ethnicity is likely to influence their work.
To measure ethnicity, respondents were asked to select their tribe from the five largest
ethnic groups (Kikuyu, Luhya, Luo, Kalenjin, and Kamba), plus ‘other’ (for smaller
tribes). Because Kenyan tribes cluster in various geographic regions, respondents were
asked to name the regions where they originally were from. They were provided with the
eight administrative provinces of Kenya: Easter, Central, Coast, Nairobi, North Eastern,
Nyanza, Rift Valley, and Western.
Marital status was measured by asking journalists whether they were ‘married’, ‘sin-
gle’, ‘divorced’, or ‘other’. The marital status can influence the work of Kenyan journal-
ists because as Nyambate (2012) observes, family responsibilities constrain the
performance of married female journalists in Kenya. The media type which Kenyan
journalists work for was measured on a 6-point scale: daily newspaper, radio, television,
Kenya News Agency, weekly newspaper, and international news agencies. Contract type
was measured by asking respondents whether their terms of employment were ‘con-
tract’, ‘full-time’, ‘part-time’, or ‘other’.
Religion was examined because it can affect the work of the Kenyan journalists.
White (1997), for example, found that individual journalists brought their own religious
biases to the process of news gatekeeping. Respondents were provided with six options
for religion affiliation: ‘Hindu’, ‘Muslim’, ‘Protestant’, ‘Roman Catholic’, ‘no domina-
tion’, and ‘other’. Income was measured on a 10-point scale ranging from 1 (=less than
$375) to 10 (=more than $4375). This variable can affect journalists’ work because
research shows that low income was responsible for job dissatisfaction among journalists
250 Journalism 18(2)
or less commitment to the journalism profession (e.g. Mwesige, 2004; Weaver and
This research explored demographic composition of Kenyan journalists – focusing on 10
demographic characteristics: age, contract type, education, ethnicity, gender, income,
marital status, media type, region of origin, and religion. The goal was to investigate how
similar or dissimilar Kenyan news people might be from average Kenyan citizens and
whether there might be specific demographic characteristics that could influence their
work as news people.
As shown in Table 1, the typical Kenyan journalist is a male (66%), married (57%),
and in his mid-30s (M = 34 years). He tends to have a Bachelor’s degree (46%) and has
majored in journalism or mass communication (91%). However, of the 91 percent major-
ing in journalism or communication, trained at the level of associate degree (45%), and
Bachelor’s degree (38.5%).
Findings also indicate that 33 percent of the Kenyan journalists work in daily newspa-
pers, followed by radio (24.7%) and television (14.7%), as shown in Table 2. About 1 in
10 journalists (9.9%) in Kenya works for the Kenyan News Agency, while in interna-
tional news agencies it is 2.2 percent. This implies that the print media are the major
employers of Kenyan journalists. By contract type, the vast majority (73%) of Kenyan
news people are employed on full-time basis. This ensures organizational stability (in
workforce) in Kenya’s media organizations.
Table 2 shows that about a quarter (24.9%) of the Kenyan journalists belong to the
Kikuyu ethnic group. The Luhya tribe has the second largest population of the Kenyan
journalists (20%), followed by Luo (13.3%), Kalenjin (10%), and Kamba (6%). Other
smaller tribes constitute 26 percent of the journalism population. This research also
found that the majority of the journalists are from the Rift Valley province (21.4%) – the
country’s largest administrative unit. The second largest group of the journalists comes
from the Western province (19.5%), followed by Central (15.5%) and Eastern (15%). By
religion affiliation, 62.3 percent of the Kenyan journalists are Protestants, followed by
Roman Catholic 22.5 percent. Only 9.6 percent have no denomination.
Income is another important demographic characteristic examined in this study. The
results indicate that most of the Kenyan journalists earn between $375 and $625 (22%)
per month, followed by those earning between $625 and $875 (19%) and those earning
between $875 and $1250 (16%). However, as Table 3 shows, a significant number (17%)
of the Kenyan journalists actually earn less than $375 per month, while only 6 percent
earn more than $2000 per month.
The main objective of this research was to construct a portrait of a typical Kenyan jour-
nalist. Though the findings demonstrate that the typical Kenyan journalist is a mosaic of
characteristics, it is also true that in many ways the Kenyan journalists are pretty similar
to the rest of the population. For example, the Kenyan journalists reflect the rest of the
population in gender, ethnicity, religion, region of origin, and income. This finding
reflects Weaver’s (2005) observation that journalists of the 21st century are more demo-
graphically representative of their larger societies than those of the past century.
Findings revealed that Kenyan journalism is dominated by men – 66 percent against
34 percent for women – a ratio of 2:1. This reflects the patriarchal nature of the Kenyan
society, where men dominate almost everything – including leadership and the work-
force. It is because of the male dominance that the new Kenyan constitution adopted in
2010 contains provisions for affirmative action to bring to an end the marginalization of
Table 1. Demographics of Kenyan journalists by gender, age, marital status, and education.
Demographic Number of responses Percent
Male 328 66.0
Female 171 34.0
Total 499 100.0
18–29 118 27.8
30–49 292 68.7
50–64 15 3.5
Total 425 100.0
Married 277 57.0
Single 192 40.0
Other 10 2.0
Divorced 3 1.0
Total 482 100.0
High school 17 3.0
Associate degree 165 34.0
Bachelor’s degree 225 46.0
Master’s degree 76 16.0
PhD degree 5 1.0
Total 488 100.0
Yes 447 91.0
No 43 9.0
Total 490 100.0
Journalism training level
Associate degree 202 45.0
Bachelor’s degree 173 38.5
Master’s degree 61 13.6
Certificate 11 2.5
PhD degree 2 0.4
Total 449 100.0
252 Journalism 18(2)
Table 2. Demographics of Kenyan journalists by media type, contract type, tribe, region of
origin, and religion.
Demographic Number of
Daily newspaper 166 33.0
Radio 124 24.7
Television 74 14.7
Kenya News Agency 50 9.9
Weekly newspaper 40 7.9
Other 25 5.0
Magazine 13 2.6
International news agency 11 2.2
Total 503 100.0
Full-time 367 73.0
Contract 92 18.0
Other 25 5.0
Part-time 18 4.0
Total 502 100.0
Kikuyu 120 24.9
Luhya 96 20.0
Luo 64 13.3
Kalenjin 48 10.0
Kamba 29 6.0
Other 124 25.8
Total 481 100.0
Region of origin
Rift Valley 105 21.4
Western 96 19.5
Central 76 15.5
Eastern 74 15.0
Nyanza 69 14.0
Nairobi 40 8.1
Coast 31 6.0
North eastern 1 0.5
Total 492 100.0
Protestant 300 62.3
Roman Catholic 108 22.5
Muslim 15 3.1
Christian 12 2.5
No denomination 46 9.6
Total 481 100.0
women in employment and leadership. To understand Kenyan men dominance in leader-
ship and employment, one needs to refer to a 2013 Kenya Institute of Management study.
The research found that 34 percent of the 57 companies listed on the Nairobi Stock
Exchange (NSE) do not have a woman on their board (Herbling, 2013). The study also
shows that women take a 12 percent share of directorship seats on the boards of the NSE-
What this suggests is that the Kenyan media news content is more likely to report less
on female issues across different fields. There is also a likelihood of lack of plurality of
sources in news content, with news sources tilted in favor of men. With dominant male
news sources, it means the Kenyan people are made to see issues of national importance
through the thinking and views of men sources. Though no concrete empirical evidence
is available to this effect, Ireri (2012) in a study examining the visibility of Kenyan
Members of Parliament (MPs) on four national newspapers found that of the 18 female
MPs only 1 appeared in the top 10 category and only 3 in the top 20 list.
That the journalist population in Kenya is 84.8 percent Christian mirrors the distribu-
tion of religion affiliation in the country. Christians constitute 82.5 percent of the Kenyan
population, according to the Central Intelligence Agency (2014). The implication of this
is that issues affecting Christians in Kenya are likely to receive more media attention,
than issues pertinent to minority religion groups who constitute a mere 3.1 percent of the
Kenyan journalists’ population. Relatedly, this domination of the Kenyan media by
Christian journalists is likely to result in a biased reporting against minority religions –
for example, Muslims.
For sure, this bias reporting against Muslims is witnessed in the current fight against
al-Shabaab, an Islamist terror group based in Somalia responsible for a spate of terror
attacks on the Kenya soil. For example, a 2014 Media Council of Kenya report castigated
the Kenyan journalists for framing Muslims as ‘terrorists’ in their coverage of Al-shabaab
terror attacks in Kenya (Media Council of Kenya, 2014). Reacting to the same report,
Sheikh Abdallah Kheir, a Muslim scholar noted that the use of such catchphrases as
‘Islamic terrorism’, or ‘radical Islam’ by the Kenyan media promoted Islamophobia by
linking crime with Islam and Muslim (Jamal, 2014).
Table 3. Monthly salary of Kenyan journalists.
Monthly income in US$ Monthly income in KSH Percent
Less than $375 Less than Ksh 30,000 17
Between $375 and $625 Between Ksh 30,000 and 50,000 22
Between $625 and $875 Between Ksh 50,000 and 70,000 19
Between $875 and $1250 Between Ksh 70,000 and Ksh 100,000 16
Between $1250 and $1875 Between Ksh 100,000 and Ksh 150,000 15
Between $1875 and $2500 Between Ksh 150,000 and Ksh 200,000 5
Between $2500 and $3125 Between Ksh 200,000 and Ksh 250,000 1
Between $3125 and $3750 Between Ksh 250,000 and Ksh 300,000 2
Between $3750 and $4375 Between Ksh 300,000 and Ksh 350,000 1
Over $4375 Over Ksh 350,000 2
254 Journalism 18(2)
Kenyan journalists’ ethnic composition also reflects the contours of the country’s eth-
nic distribution. The five tribes (Kikuyu, Luhya, Luo, Kalenjin, and Kamba), which
dominate the Kenyan media, are also the most dominant ethnic groups. These communi-
ties wield enormous influence in the country’s socioeconomic and political affairs. Their
dominance might explain why ethnicity is one of the factors, which influence media
political leanings in Kenya. Because of the pervasive nature of ethnicity in the Kenyan
culture, the journalists are likely to bring ethnic biases in their work. The assumed biases
are likely to influence their news selection – especially in political reporting.
For instance, Ireri (2012) found that Kenyan daily newspapers gave more coverage to
politicians from the five dominant tribes. He concluded that the newspapers’ coverage of
politicians from dominant communities ‘encapsulates “political parallelism” in which
the African media products mirror ethnicity’ (p. 728). The ethnic bias in reporting politi-
cal events was evidenced during the 2007 elections where the Kenyan journalists were
accused of taking ethnic partisan positions in covering the disputed 2007 presidential
poll (Ohito, 2008). This ethnic-biased coverage of the election campaigns is one of the
factors that triggered the 2007 post-election violence that left over 1000 people dead.
The five major tribes also are the predominant inhabitants of Rift Valley, Western,
Central, Nyanza, and Eastern provinces – the reason why 87 percent of the Kenyan
journalists originate from these regions. Though the Kalenjin community largely inhab-
its Rift Valley, Kikuyus are the second largest tribe in the province’s population. Western
is a Luhya-dominated region, the same as Central province – dominated by the Kikuyus.
The Kambas occupy the lower part of Eastern province, while Luos are the most popu-
lous ethnic group in Luo-Nyanza part of the Nyanza province. Therefore, the same way
the Kenyan journalists are likely to show bias in covering politicians from their tribes;
they also might be biased when reporting on issues affecting the regions where they
Most of the Kenyan journalists who majored in journalism or communication were
trained at the level of associate degree (diploma) – 45 percent. This confirms why the
majority of journalists (26.3%) pursued their journalism training at the Kenya Institute of
Mass Communication (KIMC), an institution strongly grounded in offering education at
the associate degree level (Ireri, 2015). Being the oldest journalism and mass communi-
cation college in the country explains why KIMC remains the sultan of journalism edu-
cation in Kenya. The finding that the majority of the journalists were trained at the level
of associate degree reflects the larger population, where majority of the Kenyans are
associate degree graduates.
However, with the ongoing expansion of the education sector, these statistics are
going to change soon. Diploma or associate degrees are fast losing their relevance in the
Kenyan job market. Currently, Kenya’s education sector is experiencing a high demand
for undergraduate education. More Kenyans (including journalists) are enrolling in
Bachelor’s degree programs than during any other period in the history of independent
Kenya. Gudo et al. (2011) point out that the demand for higher education in Kenya has
continued to increase.
Therefore, with the current high quest for higher-level education, future generations
of the Kenyan journalists will be better educated. As such, this suggests that with better-
educated journalists, Kenya is likely to have a more developed journalism profession in
near future. This would benefit the larger public because well-educated journalists are
likely to do a better job – for example – producing well-researched stories. Still, better-
educated journalists are more likely to challenge authorities when investigating social
evils perpetuated by government officials or other influential members in society.
The fact that the vast majority of the Kenyan journalists (91%) majored in journalism
or communication means that training in these two fields is the main entry avenue to the
journalism profession in Kenya. Therefore, training in journalism or communication
means that the Kenyan journalists are trained on the observance of the basic tenets in the
practice of journalism, something which results in better-produced news content.
Generally, the emphasis on journalism training might explain why Kenyan media is one
of the most developed on the African content.
In income, the results show that the Kenyan journalists are poorly paid – with a sig-
nificant 17 percent earning less than $375 per month, and around a quarter taking home
a monthly income of between $375 and $625. There are also glaring disparities between
top and low earners – with the former earning over $4375 a month, compared to the lat-
ter’s less than $375. The poor remuneration has far-reaching ramifications. The poor pay
leaves the Kenyan journalists open to manipulation by powerful elites who offer them a
wide range of favors – including cash, paid trips, free meals, and job opportunities, to
mention a few. Because whoever pays the piper calls the tune; it means that the poorly
paid Kenyan journalists produce stories that favor news sources who offer them extra
income or other favors.
Because of poor pay, Ireri (2015) reported that the Kenyan journalists engage in
unethical behaviors – such as – corruption, bribery, and extortion. A Kenyan journalist
says: ‘One reason why corruption is common has to do with poor remuneration. Most of
media houses don’t pay well. So to supplement the poor pay, we journalists look for other
alternative sources of income’ (Ireri, 2015). The end result of the corruption among
Kenyan journalists is that it does compromise objective reporting. According to Ireri
(2015), an overwhelming majority of the Kenyan journalists (77.4%) admit that corrup-
tion in the media kills objective reporting. Hence, the Kenyan media content carries
views of elites who can afford bribes at the expense of impartial coverage of public
issues. This means that Kenyan news consumers are fed with content that is not based on
the principle of objective journalism.
Poor pay is also responsible for the Kenyan journalists’ average commitment (53%)
to the profession and their high mobility from one media house to another, which
stands at 57 percent (Ireri, 2015). For the same reason, Ireri (2015) found that slightly
over a quarter (26.8%) of the Kenyan journalists who plan to quit the journalism pro-
fession in the next 5 years prefer to pursue a career in public relations. This is because
of better income and working conditions. Similarly, Weaver and Wilhoit (1991) found
that the issue of low salary was the main reason why the US journalists were leaving
This study examined the demographic composition of the Kenyan journalists. The study
is highly representative because it included journalists from all the major media
256 Journalism 18(2)
organizations in Kenya. Findings indicate that the typical Kenyan journalist is male,
married, and in his mid-30s. He tends to have a Bachelor’s degree and has received col-
lege-level training in journalism or communication. However, the majority of the Kenyan
journalists were trained at the level of associate degree. While 34 percent of news people
in Kenya work in daily newspapers, the vast majority of them are employed on full-time
basis. In ethnic grouping, about a quarter of the Kenyan journalists belong to the Kikuyu
ethnic community. This study’s results also indicate that the Kenyan journalists are
poorly paid – with majority of them earning between $375 and $625 per month.
Despite the fact that the research provides very useful insights and information about
demographic backgrounds of the journalists in Kenya, the study suffers from some limi-
tations. For instance, some media organizations declined to participate in such an impor-
tant national study. Future research should, however, include all media organizations in
the country. Doing so would provide more useful data and findings – resulting in a more
complete composition of the Kenyan journalist population – in relation to their demo-
graphic characteristics. Future research should also strive to include freelance journalists
who were omitted in this research. Their inclusion would provide a more complete
demographic picture of Kenyan news people.
The author thanks Professor Lars Willnat for his insightful feedback on the article.
This research was funded by The Aga Khan University Graduate School of Media and
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Kioko Ireri is an Assistant Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication in the Journalism
Department at the United States International University-Africa, Kenya. His research interests
include political communication, international communication, media effects on political atti-
tudes, theoretical aspects of public opinion formation, and journalist studies. He has published
in such journals as Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, International Journal of
Communication, and African Journalism Studies.
260 Journalism 18(2)
Media organization Media type Sample
1 Biblia Husema Radio 4 2 2 100
2 Fish FM Radio 4 2 2 100
3 German TV International News Agency 2 1 1 100
4 Horticultural News Magazine 3 2 2 100
5 Laikipia Times Newspaper 6 3 3 100
6 Management Magazine 7 3 3 100
7 Meru FM Radio 3 1 1 100
8 Mulembe FM Radio 10 5 5 100
9 Musyi FM Radio 8 4 4 100
10 Nairobi Law Monthly Magazine 3 2 2 100
11 PPS Presidential Press Service 4 2 2 100
12 China Radio International News Agency 4 2 2 100
13 Sulwe FM Radio 11 6 6 100
14 Sunday Express Magazine 6 3 3 100
15 Western Times Weekly Newspaper 13 7 7 100
16 Kass FM Radio 24 12 11 92
17 Taifa Leo Daily Newspaper 29 14 12 86
18 Bahari FM Radio 13 6 5 83
19 Capital FM Radio 23 12 10 83
20 KNA Kenya News Agency 132 66 54 82
21 CEO Africa Magazine 9 5 4 80
22 Kameme FM Radio 10 5 4 80
23 Easy FM Radio 7 4 3 75
24 QFM Radio 8 4 3 75
25 Sunday Nation Weekly Newspaper 21 11 8 73
26 The Standard Daily Newspaper 132 64 47 73
27 Business Daily Daily Newspaper 36 17 12 71
28 KBC National Broadcaster 97 51 36 71
29 Daily Nation Daily Newspaper 207 105 73 70
30 Financial Post Weekly Newspaper 7 3 2 67
31 K24 Television 38 18 12 67
32 Kiss TV Television 7 3 2 67
33 Reuters International News Agency 12 6 4 67
34 Muuga FM Radio 15 8 5 63
35 Maa FM Radio 10 5 3 60
36 Ramogi FM Radio 12 5 3 60
37 The People Daily Daily Newspaper 80 40 24 60
38 Sheki FM Radio 15 7 4 57
39 Radio Citizen Radio 36 18 10 56
40 Wimwaro FM Radio 18 9 5 55
41 The Star Daily Newspaper 81 40 21 53
Media organizations and response rates.
Media organization Media type Sample
42 Chamgei FM Radio 24 12 6 50
43 Classic 105 Radio 8 4 2 50
44 East FM Radio 7 4 2 50
45 Egesa FM Radio 17 8 4 50
46 Inooro FM Radio 21 10 5 50
47 Kiss 100 Radio 8 4 2 50
48 Pregnanat Magazine 4 2 1 50
49 Radio Jambo Radio 9 4 2 50
50 Radio Umoja Radio 5 2 1 50
51 The East African Weekly Newspaper 15 8 4 50
52 Vuuka FM Radio 12 6 3 50
53 X-FM Radio 7 4 2 50
54 KTN Television 40 20 9 45
55 Citizen TV Television 36 18 8 44
56 QTV Television 18 9 4 44
57 BBC International News Agency 30 15 6 43
58 NTV Television 44 22 9 41
59 Baraka FM Radio 19 10 4 40
60 Mbaitu FM Radio 10 5 2 40
61 Radio Maisha Radio 20 10 4 40
62 Weekly Citizen Weekly Newspaper 11 5 2 40
Total 1532 765 504 66
Appendix 1. (Continued)