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The Trials and Tribulations of a Kenyan Gossip Blogger

Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash

A look at the peculiar and fascinating career that one might have if they choose to become a gossip blogger.

Everyone wants to be an influencer. It looks like an easy enough gig. All you have to do is give up a big chunk of your privacy to build a loyal enough audience that businesses will pay you to advertise for them. Easy. It is even easier if you are already famous for other things like making music or movies or food. But say you want to be an influencer but are unwilling to give up your privacy or make things like music, movies, or food?

You still have options. The best one is packaging gossip and giving it to your audience. We love gossip, the more intimate and shady the better. Serve us the tea and we’ll give you all the airtime you want. The catch here is that to keep your audience’s attention, you have to keep the tea coming. And it has to be piping hot. There a dozen other blogs and cheap papers that are selling the same thing so your product needs to be unique.

You start off with low hanging fruit, browsing the lower ranks of the celebrity class for dirt. Slowly, you gain a small but loyal following of gossip lovers. They’re not a premium audience, not anyone brands would be interested in selling to yet, but they will form your base. And then you get lucky. You break the story about a somewhat popular comedian on TV having an extremely inappropriate relationship with an intern. They both have significant followings on social media and it goes viral. You get the intern to speak on the record, you get a furious wife blaming her for the husband’s infidelity, and that night you sleep like a baby knowing that you’re in the game now.

Things slow down for a bit. Socialites have secret marriages, Diamond has another baby…the usual. But then one night – was it a Sunday? – you get a DM from one of your followers. A video of a couple in the middle of a fight. It could have been just another video and just another couple but it’s not. A woman get’s locked out of her own apartment after a huge fight, she’s barely dressed and most Kenyans would recognize that silhouette anywhere. You’ve struck gold.

Perhaps if you had known that posting that video and breaking the whole thing down for your loyal fans would end with you alone and scared in a cell you’d have left the video in your DMs. Still, that was the story that brought you out of the shadowy alleys of the internet and into the light. People could say your name now without feeling shame. Some even sort of respected you and what they thought was your courage.

Everyone is fair game now; celebrities, politicians, the rich and beautiful, the seemingly perfect. You keep showing up in conversations, even the ones influencers have with us. They make sarcastic comments about showing up on your stories. Being famous in this country is a double-edged sword. The only thing we love than to see people flourish is to see them fall.

We all know how you got the picture. Some person who either doesn’t know the laws protecting personal information or doesn’t care about them sent it to you. You couldn’t have known that an army of eyes and ears would rise to serve you when you became popular enough. The clout chasing must surprise even you. They send the photos, they tell you what they saw and heard and then they wait for you to drop the bomb. And this one was the mother of all bombs. A governor and a socialite – the same one who gave you this ‘career’. You must have hesitated for this one, as a matter of common courtesy. And a little bit of self-preservation.

The details of the crime you were supposed to have committed did not matter. The irony of the situation surpassed anything John Ruganda has ever written. We loved to see you flourish but oh, how we laughed when you fell. There were no real appeals for your release, no demands for real justice, or any of that. The memes were top tier. The banter was the best KOT has ever come up with. Of course, that entire scandal just gave you credibility. When people claim your stories are fake or exaggerated all anyone will need to do is point to the day you were kidnapped by the police for posting a photo.

As the death threats pour in so do the views. Each one means that what you are doing is real. You’re not some hack posting every story that gets sent to you. You have proven yourself to be reliable and unflinching in the face of intimidation. The two kidnappings under your belt don’t hurt either. Who knows? In 5 years you may even be considered a legitimate news organization.

So if you think the influencer life is for you but would rather not take people on tours of your house, consider the path of a gossip blogger. Some people will want you dead but it will be worth it because you’ll trend for weeks.

Joy Matiri

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