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Kenyan Community Gets New Print Newspaper

New America Media, News Report, Edwin Okong'o Posted: Nov 19, 2009

Editors Note: While many newspapers are struggling with cutbacks and layoffs, Paul Waithakas publishing career is just getting started. He has published the first print issue of the Kenya Monitor, a newspaper for the Kenyan community. This is part of a greater story NAMs Edwin Okongo is writing about the explosion of African media on the Internet.

Dont tell Paul Waithaka that the newspaper is an old medium. While many newspapers are struggling with cutbacks and layoffs, Waithaka has just published the first print issue of the Kenya Monitor, a Boston-based monthly newspaper for Kenyans in the United States.

Any growing community that is trying to find its voice has got to make its case through its leaders, says Waithaka. Unfortunately for us, we dont have civic representation, so we are going to have to go through churches.

Waithaka has printed 7,000 copies and distributed most of them through churches attended by Kenyan Americans. There a more than 30 Kenyan churches in the New England area, he says. Hes also sent copies to churches in other states like California and Georgia that have large Kenyan congregations. Waithaka says he gets his inspiration from other ethnic media.

Other ethnic communities like the Chinese and the Latinos do have the CNNs of the world and the Boston Globe, but they tend to listen to and communicate better through their own media.

Waithaka acknowledges the power of the Internet in bringing communities together, so he is also launching a Web site, which he says would be updated more frequently.

We thought about having it online only, but to have something online only could be leaving a whole lot of people out. We have elders in the community. Those are not the people you find online.

Waithaka says there are also people who are too busy.

I deal with them all the time, he says. They have two jobs and they dont have time on the computer.

He is also working with a company in India to create a digital version of the Kenya Monitor.

We are moving fast with technology, he says. Weve got to have convergence.

Waithaka says advertisers have been responding better to the print issue. While marketers often advertise online, they dont seem to buy as much, he says.

Im having better luck, believe it or not, convincing people to buy print advertising, he says. Its an easier sell. We have advertisers in our first issue. That was astonishing. Now imagine if I was telling them that it was just online. Its a tough sell, especially in our community.

According to the U.S. Census 2000 estimates, there were 40,000 Kenyans living in the United States. Waithaka says the number was an undercount, and part of his mission is to make sure that that doesnt happen in 2010. He has a Community Alert section in the Kenya Monitor and in his first issue, information about U.S. Census 2010 covers the full page.

The rest of the 24-page paper carries stories ranging from politics back home to information from the communitys experts in health, real estate, business and other areas.

Without any forum to know about these things, well miss out on a lot of opportunities, he says.

He is so determined to provide Kenyans with that forum that he is funding the newspaper with personal savings.

If Im not careful, Im going to be homeless, he says, laughing. But it is exciting.

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