Death is an important story and age is a key detail

The casket containing Kasiwukira's body being carried to the church on Sunday (Photo by Michael Nteza/ChimpReports)

We can forgive our newspapers for not knowing who killed businessman Eria Sebunnya Bugembe, who was popularly known as Kasiwukira.

We shouldn’t forgive them for not telling us how old he was. I have read several stories about the man (in The New Vision, Daily Monitor and Observer) but I am yet to find one that mentions his age. Not even the one that was flagged as an obituary in one of the editions of today’s (20 October 2014) dailies told us about Bugembe’s age.

In stories about death, which some have called the “most important journalistic topic”, stating the age of the subject is not just another detail – it’s a key piece of information.

Of course, such information doesn’t come readily; journalists have to search for it. They have to ask those who are close enough to the deceased to know his age. These include family members or the people who said they had grown up with him.

I had hoped that the stories that came after the Sunday funeral service at St. Stephen Church at Kisugu would mention Bugembe’s age as it is usually stated in the ‘order of service’ booklet.

Monday came and still no word about the businessman’s age.

I had this same frustration with several stories about the guilty verdict and later sentencing of Ms Jacqueline Uwera Nsenga over the death of her husband. When I read that she had been handed a 20-year sentence, the next thing I wanted to figure out was how old she would be when she gets out of prison. But I couldn’t get there without knowing her age.

Dear editors, here is a tactic you could try out to force your reporters to remember the age of their subjects, where it is appropriate (i.e. death, trials, anniversaries, awards, appointments, etc.):

• Every reporter who omits this vital information will face a penalty of Shs2,000 multiplied by the age of the subject.

• Every sub-editor or copy editor who passes a story without this key detail will face a penalty of Shs1,000 multiplied by the age of the subject.

And, by the way, was Mr Bugembe’s first name Eriya or Eria? Duh!

*** Dr Mwesige is Co-founder and Executive Director of African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME). He is 43 (just in case he ever makes news that warrants his age being mentioned).

Photo Source: ChimpReports 

About Peter G. Mwesige

Dr Mwesige is co-founder and executive director of the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) Email: mwesige@acme-ug.org; Twitter: @pmwesige

View all posts by Peter G. Mwesige →

One Comment on “Death is an important story and age is a key detail”

  1. Interesting insights from the good old professor. i have also read several articles…..but haven’t come close to one which really brought out a story….of the times and life of the dead businessman …his childhood, what he did before he started selling and recording music on cassette tapes, how he came to build his tiles factory, the real estate etc. We are in the dark

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