The newsroom is like a marketplace. We trade news. Some say we peddle rumors. We are criticized more often than not. A reader opens the newspaper and from page one, they shred whatever we are writing.
The majority – of Ugandans – do not have access to the newspapers. On radio stations, time is dedicated for shows on political, health, education and economic issues. The next day we move on to the next story.
Dear reader, the newsroom is shrinking. The journalist – sometimes – is the editor and sub-editor. He has limited time to think. He has to feed you on the news – and more news.
The journalist is a graduate in Mass Communication. He was taught how to write and less on how to report a beat. He is “self teaching” on economics, finance, history, taxation and business. He has to read tones of information in order to report better. He is expected to produce a flawless article.
The journalist is told to be objective. Leave emotions at the door. To present the facts – let the reader decide. A journalist is expected to have a high level of integrity. I apologize where we have not been all the above mentioned. We are human, after-all.
A journalist is told to dig deep into an issue. While he is digging. A fire. An eviction. A press conference. A workshop. Mbabazi is sacked. Death. The reader is waiting for the news. The digging is put on hold. Then it resumes. A source lies to you. Another source lies to you. Another one tells you the truth. Then another presents the facts. You’re then given the facts. You write. Story is published. A source calls you. You misquoted him. Then you move on to the next story. Years later, you are reporting the same issue. Nothing has changed.
Knowledge is power. Yes, that is what you have been told. A journalist is expected to have the knowledge on a topic they write. Uganda is facing rampant power cuts. Fact. Umeme is responsible. Fact. UETCL is responsible. Fact. An old dam is responsible. Fact. NSSF bought shares in Umeme. Fact. They sidestepped procurement procedures. Fact. [No they did not. Yes they did. No they did not. Yes they did]. The Standard Gauge railway is good for Uganda. Fact. We need it. Fact. On that single project, our debt will increase by over 100 percent. Fact. Infrastructure is important if we are to grow. Fact. It is perhaps the most expensive railway. Fact. Multinationals avoid taxes. Fact. Liberalization is bad. Fact. It is good. Fact. Liberalization has opened up the banking sector. Fact. We are mortgaging our oil, even before a drop. Fact. See, I am knowledgeable. Not quite. I know the facts; that’s it.
A journalist has no monopoly of knowledge. There are lawyers, accountants, economists and bankers. Most are more educated than we are. We are expected to expose what they are doing wrong – or even right.
Still, the reader expects no excuses. They expect a story that answers the how, when, what, who, where and when.
We rub shoulders with influential people. They have an agenda. To be seen as doing good. That doesn’t make us experts. It doesn’t make us influential.
The clock is ticking. We ain’t growing any younger. We want to change the world. You want to be influential. The world is not changing because us. The world says “you write well.” That’s it. An award here – or not. A grant there. A visa – denied. A scholarship – try again next year. We leave the newsroom. To pursue other dreams.
Dear Reader, we can’t give you a good story all the time. But we can give you well packaged facts, to keep you reading. We are flawed. We have sold our souls. Money is all around. Hovering above our heads. We’ve taken it. We’ve failed you.
Dear reader, I apologize.