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On moving on & journalism

“Ever since they left Thies, the women had not stopped singing. As soon as one group allowed the refrain to die, another picked it up, and new verses were born at the hazard of chance or inspiration, one word leading to another and each finding, in its turn, its rhythm and its place. No one was very sure any longer where the song began, or if it had an ending. It rolled out over its own length, like the movement of a serpent. It was as long as a life.” Sembene Ousmane [God’s Bits of Wood]

Journalism often rewards those who are patient and excellent in their work. The rewards do not necessarily have to be monetary – but can be. In most cases, we look to either become journalism scholars or win an award[s] or even get a job with Reuters, Bloomberg, FT & the Beeb among others. Like staring at a barrel or as if on gun point, the pressure in the newsroom is immense especially in a country where we have a high turnover and limited retention. This month – mid this month to be specific – I made the decision to leave The CEO Magazine – a niche business publication -, Uganda has a few of these. My time at the Magazine has been rewarding – career-wise – but also one that has exposed me to the good, bad and ugly of journalism and all stakeholders involved. There was also the pressure to jump ship and leave journalism altogether, but then like Eva Chen said “Don’t find a job, find your passion.”

Passion to write about the corporate culture, companies and the economy: Passion to tell stories. The need to scrutinize how companies operate or even how government entities are run. The more we put out such stories, the more readers continue to ask the questions, considering they are taxpayers, bank customers or even consumers.

 Some of these stories, no matter how good, are not told. If they are, then there is always something missing. The CEO Magazine offered me this opportunity, but it could only go so far. One of the challenges in today’s newsrooms is how to keep the editorial independent of marketing and advertising. This perhaps requires a whole different approach to the news – especially if you have workers to pay. It also perhaps needs a new crop of investors with the resources to at least run a newsroom without necessarily looking at the profit in the medium term; Investors willing to plough back profits into the publications. Ultimately, the investor needs to make a return on investment but also publications need to be reputable, trusted and be credible sources of information. Striking this balance is becoming ever more complex – pressure on journalists is mounting even if we don’t want to admit it. A lot has been said about the online, but the trouble is how to monetize online. How do you invest in your newsroom? Simply going online can be suicidal, it requires careful thought and research.

The solutions to some of these problems require some new approaches, which I have been studying but can’t place my hand on one – not just yet. Governments maybe a threat – a big one – to journalism but I believe advertising is becoming another big one and the pressure on media owners is also relenting. I leave The CEO Magazine, a better reporter – we all have our shortcoming. It hasn’t been easy though.

One the more disappointments in my time at The CEO Magazine was the UK Border Agency. In March, the prestigious Reuters Institute offered me an opportunity to go for a one week course on business and economic reporting in London. I spent about Ushs370,000 on a Visa Application – this amount for a reporter is not easy to churn out. The UK Border Agency denied me a Visa on the grounds that I did not satisfy them enough on whether I’d return, even after Reuters had written a letter indicating they would pay for my accommodation and meals. I have no land titles, my bank account is well – I’d rather not say – considering a journalist’s salary. It is such things that tend to be turn-offs but well we persevere and move on. There are many other incidences – I will not talk about them – but then why lament. Why not look to developing my career and maybe one day the rewards will come. 

So many will ask, where are you going? Well I’ll be joining the wonderful team at UgandaRadio Network – a news agency – for further professional development. 

9 thoughts on “On moving on & journalism

  1. Very bold move there Keith and I commend you for it. Following one’s passion and putting food on the table can sometimes be at opposite ends of the battle ground. I’m frustrated though on your behalf about the Visa Isuue. As the British would say, ‘Bollocks!’. The UK Border Agency’s decision to turn down your Visa application still baffles me. Do they only allow people with fat bank balances to go to the UK? They can also have very whimsical reasons for turning down Visa applications. Eh! If Keith can’t be allowed to go to the UK coz of his not-so-fat bank balance, we poor people may as well strike the UK off the list of places we should visit. Real disappointment! Anyway, all the best at Uganda Radio Network.

    1. Thank you chief. The irony is, some chaps lie about their accounts and travel —never to return — yet the genuine chaps never get to go. The whole Visa system is flawed, so flawed, but what can we do?

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