Analysis : Standard Media Group a Victim of Mismanagement and Impunity

There is big trouble at the Standard group that has now retrenched 90 workers . More workers are expected to go  . According to sources 300- 400 People will be Retrenched . So what is going on ? The Standard media group calls it restructuring and cutting costs but  many Kenyans are seeing mismanagement and Impunity .

Standard Group Kenya Half-Year pre-tax profit drops by 89.59% to Ksh 21.36M compared to 2014’s Ksh 205M

Rumor doing the rounds is that the  Standard shareholders are planning to replace Sam Shollei who  may run down the once profitable Group . Shollei has been accused of using the Standard media group to fight the Judiciary after his wife was kicked out .  But some industry players have argued that the standard and Nation media group should invest in Digital advertising because many companies are shunning Print  adverts .

So, when did trouble start at the Standard Group . One Blogger  Complained many months ago, If only something was done 

Here is an article that will give you an overview .

 Journalists at the Standard Group are concerned that the powerful Human Resources Director is increasingly meddling in their work and behaving like the Editorial director.
Ms Pauline Kiraithe is said to be increasingly playing a big role in influencing content, directly questioning the coverage of various issues and constantly pointing out alleged mistakes.
Curiously, she is also said to occasionally chair editorial meetings, something senior editors have found outrageous. However, insiders say the top editors fear confronting the HR director, who is largely recognised as the second most powerful individual in the organisation after CEO Sam Shollei. Taking on the HR director on any issue is seen as a career-limiting move for the top editors — all of whom are hanging onto their positions by a thread.
Shollei abolished the position of ED in April after the controversial sacking of Chaacha Mwita. In leaked proceedings of a staff meeting after the fallout, Shollei was heard blaming Chaacha for alleged insubordination, incompetence and incitement.
In the recording, Shollei sounded particularly upset that Chaacha once told him to keep off editorial matters because of his limited understanding of journalism. At the end of the staff meeting called to explain why Chaacha had left, Shollei announced Standard Group would no longer have an ED. The managing editors of the print and broadcast units would be responsible for their products and report directly to the CEO.
Chacha has since sued the Standard Group and Shollei demanding Sh67 million for wrongful dismissal and defamation.
But it appears the vacuum is now slowly being filled by the HR director and other senior non-journalist staff. Pauline is sometimes said to summon journalists without consulting their editors to ask about content she is not happy with, demand the docket (list of stories to be covered) and even offer suggestions on how certain stories should be approached.
Editors and reporters working in the mainstream media are usually fiercely protective of their independence and Pauline’s role is quietely being frowned upon, especially since she has no training in journalism and is, therefore, not an authority . While Pauline is an accomplished HR professional, her credentials as an ‘editor’ are restricted to working in media houses for nine years.
But the Standard Group journalists remain split on whether the HR director was inspired by well-meaning enthusiasm to give fresh ideas to the company’s struggling products or has more calculated and sinister intentions to control their work.
The Group has struggled to fill the position of Editorial Director since Kwendo Opanga was forced to retire in February 2008. In late 2012, when Shollei took over from the narcissistic Paul Melly, he hired former Sunday and Daily Nation managing editor Bernard Nderitu as an executive editor before elevating him to the position of acting ED. Nderitu quietly left the company before Chaacha was hired late last November for a short stint.
Rivals Nation Media Group is also grappling with the replacement of veteran journalist Joseph Odindo, whose term as ED ended on July 1. Tom Mshindi is the Interim Editorial Director until a substantive appointment is announced.
Pauline joined the Standard Group in November 2012 from NMG where she had worked since August 2005 rising to the position of Senior HR manager in charge of editorial staff. Described by many NMG staff as competent, but arrogant (and at times impatient with those born outside the Mt Kenya region), Pauline is accused by Standard employees of operating like a wounded mother bear and being intolerant to criticism.
She, however, remains a popular figure among a section of NMG staff who remember her role in the corporate culture change and the crucial support she offered in resolving HR issues. She has previously worked at Uchumi Supermarkets, Celtel Kenya (now Airtel Kenya) and African Energy Policy Research Network.
But it’s unlikely the NMG management would be sending a “friend” request to Pauline any time soon. Since her move, she has proved to be a master ‘poacher’, luring many staff from her former employer.
Indeed, NTV was almost crippled in late 2012 when she poached the station’s top reporters and anchors in one fell swoop— Lindah Ogutu, James Smart, Yvonne Okwara, Ben Kitili and Ferdinand Omondi, among others. She at the same time went for print journalists from NMG and the People.
Pauline is said to have been the reason NMG parted ways with their HR director Mwikali Muthiani last year after the board of the market leader questioned why its smaller competitor had been allowed to lure away top talent easily. The hardworking Pauline, who is said to have been the engine of the efficient NMG HR department before her departure, is said to have been mistreated by Mwikali, especially when it became clear in 2012 that she wanted to leave. The woes of her former boss were therefore poetic justice.
Pauline’s efforts have, however, so far not changed the fortunes of The Standard — whose circulation remains low — or KTN that has been relegated to the third position by NTV, according to the latest Ipsos/Synovate ratings. Standard Group products, however, seem to be attracting more advertising, whose downside is that the ‘business/commercial interest’ arm of the company — led by Shollei, Pauline and commercial director Irene Kimani — is overshadowing the weakened ‘journalism/public interest’ arm that has no representation at director level.
But the company is thought to be increasingly coming under pressure over its ballooning wage bill, largely blamed on Pauline’s hiring spree in the last one-and-a-half years.
Pauline and Shollei have also in the past sacked, reshuffled and hired senior journalists at a whim — without consultation. This may inform the fear of senior editors to confront her.
Early last year, The Standard’s ME Kipkoech Tanui was banished to the nondescript County Weekly (which has since been shut down) and replaced by former Saturday Nation ME Julius Maina. The experienced Julius was to last a few months before he was moved to Standard on Saturday and replaced by Charles Kimathi, who was plucked from the Kenya Tea Development Agency. Kimathi had barely settled when he was moved to the Standard on Saturday after spectacularly failing to make a mark in the flagship title. Within that time Mwenda Njoka (ME Standard on Sunday), Woka Nyagwoka (who replaced Njoka as ME Standard on Sunday) and Fred Mbugua (ME Standard on Saturday) had been sacked. All this took place within less than a year in 2013. Tanui has since returned to the daily as group ME (print).
It is, therefore, easy to see why there has not been any robust resistance against the HR director playing a big role in editorial matters. Observers will be watching if Pauline’s overstepping of her mandate will once again explode into yet another controversy at Kenya’s oldest media organisation whose majority shareholder is former President Moi’s family.

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