10 October 2016

Kenya: Sports Journalist Tsuma Positively Touched People He Came Into Contact With

At 50, Chris Tsuma was really in the prime of his life, enjoying his favourite pastime of weights training. He had stepped away from the rigours of the tightly timed pressure of the newsroom, having served for many years as a sports journalist.

The messages on his Facebook wall said it all. One person recalled a conversation a few days earlier, when Tsuma told him about an interview he was to attend at Maseno University. Another wondered what had happened after they met at the annual Safari Sevens and exchanged good-natured banter. Moving poems were copy-pasted in an outpouring of emotion.

He was the kind of person who positively touched those he came into contact with, not just with his ready smile but also his big heart. I first met Tsuma in the early 2000s. Smooth-facedand friendly, he was, despite his muscular physique, truly a gentle giant.

But it was his intellect that was most impressive. Many a sports journalist has been accused of "being in bed" with sources. Not so Tsuma, who stuck to his professional calling with the tenacity of a pit bull. Many a time, as I cut my teeth in the trade on the Nation's sports desk, I overhead Tsuma on the phone, in heated arguments with news sources.

NO OTHER

Once he reported, when no other reporter did, how AFC Leopards goons had gone on the rampage at World Hope Centre. Unhappy club officials came calling. Those who knew Tsuma - he did have a short fuse at times - know that the encounter could have boiled over. But he calmly listened and reiterated what he had reported then offered: "If you have a problem with the story, you can go see the editorial director." He even directed them to Wangethi Mwangi's office.

Tsuma was once arrested as he attempted to cover a Harambee Stars match unaccredited - in protest against the then two wrangling Kenya Football Federation factions.

From football to cricket, boxing and basketball, Tsuma would expertly pen the narrative.

And he took on the more difficult subjects - corruption, doping and social aspects - that invariably rubbed many in sports management the wrong way.

But did Tsuma care? Yes, for his audience, the public and what he believed in: fairness and justice. And for the love of the job.

For a boy brought up in Kakamega, better known for its rugby players and footballers, Tsuma took a liking for cricket early in his career. He would live his dream when he covered the 2003 Cricket World Cup in South Africa, albeit on a shoestring.

From a reporter to sub-editor he moved up the ranks, juggling writing with studies for a Master of Arts degree in communication studies at the University of Nairobi. Eager to expand his horizons, he engaged in part-time lecturing and tutoring budding journalists.

Sadly, he is now gone, but he lives on in the memories of those who knew, worked and trained with him.

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