The Kenyan magazine, Parents, has significantly changed since the early 90s when I first read it and got instantly hooked. Those days, it was a black and white publication, and the graphics design wasn't anything to write home about. But the stories were compelling, and it's the reason I always looked forward to the next issue.
The magazine had been on the market for only four years, but it was already so big on the East African scale that copies were regularly delivered to Mbarara town, which was a very sleepy place those years. And since there was nothing remarkable in the cosmetic aspects of the magazine, it's safe to say that the success was down to the stories.
The editorial policy of Parents seems to have been informed by the idea that the most ordinary people have the most extraordinary stories. While most newspapers and biographers typically chase after top politicians, business leaders, religious leaders, top athletes, popular musicians, etc, for stories, Parents Magazine brought us stories of people we had never heard of and would never have otherwise heard of. There is a Facebook page called Humans of New York whose foundational idea seems to be close to that of Parents.
It is limited imagination, or plain laziness, on the part of journalists and writers that pushes them towards familiar names for familiar stories. The obscure, gaunt and ragged man walking timidly on the streets probably has a story that's far more interesting and instructive than that of Byanyima, or Museveni, or Sudhir, or Chameleone, or Kiprotich, or Musisi. But we take no notice of such a man as we dash to the offices of these 'big' people to record narratives that the public already knows. Is it because we find coffee in those offices whereas, if we had to interview the gaunt man, we would have to buy the coffee?
There are extraordinary stories everywhere. What's rare, perhaps, is the ability to notice the extraordinariness in apparent ordinariness, and the skill to draw it out.