Friday, November 6, 2015

Heeee's REALLY back....but, oh, now, beer-less!

Out of Africa: Sorry for the long delay, but there are good reasons, which I'll detail here soon. I just can't be as candid as I'd like at the moment because of some lingering and delicate issues involving our time in Uganda.

As most of you know, we are back home in Kansas. I was true to my word in the last posting back in February. I truly did love my job. I told everyone: "I loved going to work every day."

But I also said, from day one, that I would stay only if I could be assured of two things:

1. I was confident that we could succeed in our mission to make the Monitor operation (national newspaper and two radio stations) truly independent.

And 2., we would do that through quality journalism employing only the highest standards.

Despite the many good folks in my newsroom who were dedicated to that, under the most trying of conditions, there were others who, sadly, were not. They were there, in my opinion, to further their own agendas, not the one desired by His Highness, the Aga Khan, and me. In late February, shortly after my meeting with the Aga Khan, it became clear that His Highness would not − or could not − do what I felt was necessary to achieve that. Given that and my exhausting schedule that had taken its toll, Joyce and I decided to come home.

More on that later, as well as what we've been doing, and what our plans are....and we have many.

Number One on the list: Enjoy retirement! And golf. (As I've lamented to many, this is the biggest indicator of how hard I'd been working: Uganda has perfect golf weather every day − 65 to 85 degrees − and I didn't get to play golf once in our 13 months in Uganda!)

Beer bust! I don't wish to trivialize health issues, but I got bad news from my doctor yesterday, and everyone who knows me knows that these are the two words I never wanted to hear: "No beer!" 

Since my bout with shingles (get the shot!), I have had digestive issues. Nexium worked for a bit, but then lost its effectiveness. So, yesterday, our good doctor said:

1. Let's do a scope down your throat (gag!, but that's not scheduled until mid-January) to see if there's something going on.

2. Double the dosage of Nexium.

And 3. (and he knows the weight of the two words that followed because he's been my doctor for 20 years, and we've had the "good beer versus bad beer" discussion): Eliminate carbonated beverages, so "no beer!"

Oh, well, there's wine during the week and martinis on Sundays. But I will miss that good IPA.

My sincere wish to all: Good spirits and good health.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Heeeeee's baaaack! And lovin' it.

I love my job. Finally.

Joyce and I hit the one-year anniversary mark of landing in Kampala on Sunday. We'd planned to celebrate by going to the same restaurant we went to on our arrival a year ago Sunday -- a revolving restaurant high above the Golf Course Hotel that offers a panoramic view of Kampala along with some really good food (and a pretty good martini).

Those plans were dashed when I got a call from Mahmood Ahmed, the Aga Khan's representative for this part of the world and someone who's become a good friend. We had dinner with him and his wife in London to help celebrate our 43rd wedding anniversary.

Mahmood had called Sunday to ask if I could have dinner with him because he had something important to discuss.

The issue: I was to meet with the Aga Khan on Wednesday to discuss the Daily Monitor -- what we're doing and, more importantly, where we needed to go and what we needed to do to get there.

Aga Khan
That two-hour meeting, including some other folks from the Monitor Publications Board, came to be on Wednesday afternoon, with me sitting directly to His Highness's right.

If you don't know much about the Aga Khan, you should -- if you care anything about trying to make the world a better place. He was a 20-year-old student at Harvard when tapped to lead the Ismaili Muslim nation, and he's been at it for almost 60 years. He started the Daily Nation in Nairobi about 50 years ago, and it remains one of the best, if not the best, news operations in Africa. He is the majority owner of my media operation, Monitor Publications Ltd.

Media are not his main contribution, he just thinks strong and independent media are important to any country's development. His bigger concerns are education (Joyce was volunteering at one of his schools) and, well, social programs and development at all levels He has dedicated his life to making countries like Kenya, Uganda, Afghanistan and many other spots in the world much better places to live.

I've been a fan since first coming to Africa in 1969. Next to Mandela (and, maybe Julius K. Nyerere, the first president of Tanzania, who translated Shakespeare into kiSwahili in addition to being one of Africa's greatest leaders), the Aga Khan is the guy I had wanted to meet and to thank.

After the discussion on how we needed to proceed to become the best at what we can do (and not always sunshine and roses), I had the opportunity to do just that. The only disappointment was that I did not have an opportunity to get a photo with him (which I would have put next to my "Mandela and me" photo I'm showing to everyone in Uganda).

As for loving my job, I couldn't say that two months ago. But I can say it now.

And sorry for the silence, but it's because I now love my job that I can write this with some confidence...though still not with the candor I'd like.

But the good news is that I do love my job, in great part because I have a new leadership team in place that is dedicated to our mission.

And I genuinely like and respect  (most) of the people I'm working with.

We have an acting managing director (publisher), Stephen Gitagama, who's "real" job is Chief Financial Officer of our parent in Nairobi, the Nation Media Group. He and I have an absolutely great working relationship because we share the same vision. A new MD is scheduled to come in soon; here's hoping we have the same relationship because we're finally making the progress we've been hoping to make on all fronts.

So, life is good. And there's hope it will continue.

Stay tuned.

P.S.: Joyce and I are heading to Tampa, Fla., on March 11 to be there for my mom's 100th birthday on Friday, March 13. Then we head to Lawrence (mainly for doctor's appointments and to do taxes), then we head to Colorado for a week -- I'm participating in the Conference on World Affairs in Boulder -- then we head back to Kampala. Oh, and while in Lawrence, I'm doing Brenna Hawley and Dennis Craig's wedding. Oh, and if weather is good, at least one round of golf. And, of course, some Free State beer.