Yesterday, award-winning journalist Jeff Koinange set out to share his life’s stories with his followers, detailing how he landed the coveted job at CNN in the US.
Reading a tale from his biography, Through My African Eyes in his new social media show A Chapter a Day, Koinange narrated how a shoe shiner dubbed Doc earned him the CNN job.
While still working at Reuters, South Africa, Koinange was offered a chance to work at CNN and after travelling to CNN headquarters in Atalanta, US, a few hours spent with a shoe shiner changed his life.
“In 2001, I attended the CNN Multichoice Journalist of the year award in South Africa. It was here that I met Chris Cramer, he was then CNN’s Senior International Vice President. He told me that CNN was about to open a bureau in Lagos, Nigeria and asked if I would be interested.
“I thought about it for a minute and just as fast, I declined. However, Chris was very convincing. He gave me a ticket and asked me to visit Atlanta and spend a week and that if I liked the job I stay for a talk, if not I head back to Johannesburg, SA,” Koinange narrated.
At Atlanta, the former Reuters journalist met CNN boss Ethan Jordan and the two spoke for a while before taking a walk downstairs to a shoe shiner to have their shoes polished.
“Doc looked at me and asked where I came from. I looked at him and answered that I came from Kenya, Africa. He then marvelled ‘Oh! Yeah, Jomo Kenyatta’s country!”
“I looked at him and wondered how a shoe shiner in Atlanta knows Kenya. I now pay attention and listen to him attentively,” Koinange disclosed.
The two spoke for a while before Doc asked him what he was seeking in Atlanta.
“He stopped me and told me that he knew I was there for a job. I asked him if it was that obvious and he joked about it.
“He said, ‘Don’t worry man, you are alright. You can do alright here at CNN.’ He turned to Ethan and winked at him, and Ethan gave him a high-five, and then he looked at me and said ‘I like you, young man, I think you are going to finely fit in’,” Koinange recalled.
“Just like that, it was done. That was Ethan’s way of assuring himself that he had done the right thing by taking you down to Doc, the shoe shiner, to get an approval. Can you imagine that?” Koinange wondered.
Koinange and Doc became friends and the anchor would visit the shoe shiner for several days, chatting about Africa, before leaving for Nigeria.
A few years later, while in Atlanta, the ex-KTN show host went to visit Doc only to find out that he had passed away one year before Koinange’s return.
“I felt so bad. He had a heart attack and his wife had taken over his business. But I will always remember him shining shoes,” Koinange recounted.
While at CNN, he went on to cover the famous interview with Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) rebels in Nigeria, before being fired over rape allegations.