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Studied microbiology, ended up in journalism: the story of Yvonne Okwara

Okwara last show

Yvonne Okwara (left) speaks with Sophia Wanuna during Yvonne’s last Checkpoint episode on KTN News. COURTESY

BY DAVID MWENDA

Sunday nights for me are normally very well-planned. I am always on my seat to watch Churchill Show. Or if something interesting comes up, I will watch it. However, my evening ends with me catching Yvonne Okwara-Matole’s CheckPoint.

Yvonne has established a name for herself and has been able to build a show from nothing to something in the last five years. Having taken the show from the hands of Anne Kiguta who left for Citizen TV, she has managed to turn it into a hit.

When I asked my boss if I can do a profile on Yvonne, he told me one thing: make it very detailed. Which meant doing lengthy research about this phenomenal journalist and, well, I [editor added the word ‘think’ here] I have done the best job I have ever done.

She was born Yvonne Okwara  in 1983. She and attended All Saints’ Cathedral for her primary school and then moved on to Kianda School then to Jomo Kenyatta University where she studied microbiology.

Yvonne has not granted so many interviews. However, the one we found in which she explained why she joined journalism, she explained that studying microbiology has enabled her to be more fact-based and research-based in her stories and interviews — which has always come out in every single interview she has done.

Her love affair for journalism started with her doing a children’s show. She then moved to Hot 96 where she continued on with her career as a journalist and started as a radio presenter. She then moved to NTV where she joined the radio team as a producer and a morning show host.

Her career took a different turn when she joined KTN and did the morning show, Sunrise Live. The format which she adopted for the show has managed to stick over the years with little changes being done by her successors.

In 2014, she moved to prime time television where she replaced Anne Kiguta as the new host for at the time Sunday Night Live. Her performance on the interview session Checkpoint earned her a reputation for being a bare-knuckle journalist.

Her formidable pairing with John Allan Namu came as an added bonus as they were able to fuse their investigative and research form of news to bring in even much more reviews to the show. However, John Allan Namu left the show after some time to do his own thing, Africa Uncensored.

However, her image as the sole face for Checkpoint did not go untouched she managed to keep it professional and great at all lengths. Her performance as one of the best anchors at the station earned her the position of senior news anchor and head of research at the news outlet.

She was able to gain nationwide acclaim by holding politicians and top civil servants to account with one of her biggest interviews being with Inspector-General of police Joseph Boinett on police brutality during election period and a one-on-one with Raila Odinga before he quit the repeat elections of October 26, 2017 repeat election.

Her show The Big Story, a programme she hosted from Monday to Wednesday, is a project which gained wide acclaim during the election period where she went head-on with political operatives who are skilled at the job of dodging questions and happened to humble most of them with the hard-hitting questions.

Her last quote on the show she has hosted for last five years was on the importance of five: Five being kind of her special number, and having served for five years, she thanked her audience who have been with her through thick and thin and managed to stand by her every time.

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