July 25th 2017

Media / Watchdog

Friends mourn as sports journalist Chris Tsuma dies

"He was not quick to judgement, he was jovial and a very nice man. But above all he was a good journalist, an analyst, and a thinker," Mr Ouma told the Kenya Free Press.

By John Onyandojonyando@kenyafreepress.comSaturday, 08 Oct 2016 20:58 EAT

The late Chris Tsuma.

Chris Tsuma, a well liked journalist who worked in the Nation's sports desk for years, has died. The cause of death was cardiac arrest, according to family sources. An avid fitness enthusiast, he was working out in the gym when he collapsed, and was pronounced dead shortly thereafter at a Nairobi hospital.

By the time of his death, Mr Tsuma had long quit journalism practice for academia. He was a lecturer at the United States International University in Nairobi and was studying towards a PhD. But he maintained close links with his journalism friends and commented on the profession regularly.

He worked with the Daily Nation from the 90s until 2011, first as a reporter and later as a sports sub editor. He left for the Star newspaper but worked there only briefly, before leaving for the USIU where he worked until his death.

News of his death was received with shock among the journalism fraternity. Colleagues who worked with him eulogised him on his Facebook in glowing terms. Ben Ouma, who worked with him at the Nation, told the Kenya Free Press that Mr Tsuma was a rare kind of journalist. "He was not quick to judgement, he was jovial and a very nice man. But above all he was a good journalist, an analyst, and a thinker," Mr Ouma told the Kenya Free Press.

Another journalist, Odindo Ayieko, wrote, "When I worked at Nation Sports Desk, one of my best leaders on the desk was Chris Tsuma a great man, so passionate at work and in spirit, at times emotional yet very friendly when understood. A great sub editor he was."

His colleagues at the Nation fondly called him 'Boddy" in deference to the fitness schedule he maintained.

Mr Tsuma's friendships went beyond the profession. A senior sports administrator who interacted with him regularly, John Moyi, recalled that the journalist engaged sports officials and suggested solutions to problems he saw as hindering sports in Kenya. Mr Moyi, a former Cricket official, always found him to be very knowledgeable and committed to his work.

It is with such commitment and aspiration for high standards for local sports that Mr Tsuma shared his ideas. For example, on August 31, following the exemplary performance of the Kenya team to Rio Olympics, he wrote about the failures of Athletics Kenya:

START QUOTE: I was sad and furious with Athletics Kenya for, yet again, exposing our runners to worldwide ridicule by abandoning them at media interviews to answer questions in a language they don’t speak well. You want to think that at such events, AK would have a media officer present at all interviews to assist our runners who are not fluent in English to do their interviews in Kiswahili.

"Ethiopians do that, the Pakistan cricket team too. Mike Okinyi (Citizen TV) and I once found ourselves in that role in Osaka in 2007 after good show by Kenya. Janeth (Jepkosgei) had just won Kenya’s first ever women’s 800m gold, Elijah Kibet had restored Kenya’s honour in the marathon with a first gold since Douglas Wakihuri in 1987. The steeplechase title too was back home from Qatar.

"It was a great feeling for Kenya but I could sense the frustrations of the other journalists for not being able to communicate with our athletes. After our interviews in Kiswahili, one Japanese journalist asked us what the athletes had said and before we knew it, we were translating back and forth for the journalists and athletes.

"It should be mandatory for all Kenya teams on international duty especially the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, World Athletics championship to have a media officer, and not just in name. I have been on tour with Kenya teams with “media officers” who never produced a single press release or ever arranged a media interview. These mega sports events are also playgrounds of international diplomacy.

"Without professional media guidance, athletes are at the mercy of journalists out for a sensational story. One innocent-sounding word and you could have an international incident on your hands. AK too must make inculcate media literacy among athletes, they are really poor with the media and it works against them. END QUOTE

His funeral programme will announced later.

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