For the first time in 15 years I will be at home on Election Day. As much as I will miss the adrenaline in the newsroom, the excitement of rescuing a reporter caught in a scuffle, and the long, intense slog of waiting for results at Namboole, I’m looking forward to kicking back and enjoying the second public holiday this week.
But news junkies like me know that this downtime won’t be downtime at all. Remote controls will be broken when music videos replace election reporting. Telecom companies will be cursed because of insufficient SMS packages and dropped calls. Social media timelines will be constantly refreshed and furiously updated (#GiveMeNewsFromKambugaAlready).
As for me and my house, radio will do.
We have a passionate and disturbing relationship, Mr Radio and I. What started with the butterflies and tingles of young love has aged into abuse and neglect. I want the best for him. Really, I do. I want his magnificent power to attract the best advertisers. I want his mighty influence to be the voice of agenda-setting policy debate. I am not a jealous lover; I want hundreds of the best and brightest to court him for jobs and to be rewarded with a competitive wage for their talent. I have equipped him, worked for him, slaved for him, trained for him and prayed for him, but alas, I get little in return.
You see, Mr Radio and I had an understanding when we first met. We said we wouldn’t go public with a single source story; now he says people don’t want to speak to him and his resources are limited. We promised that our conversations would be informed by background and context, but he’s in a sordid affair with megaphone journalists. We agreed that analysis of a day’s events was as important as retelling events, and now his excuse is: “I don’t have the time”.
When I called to ask him if I was safe to go into town on Monday evening, he replied with a 30-second traffic report. When I inquired about the rise in upcountry public transport costs, he sent me the Premier League tables and an obscure story about Ukraine.
I want to leave Mr Radio, but he keeps pulling me in. He lures me with a gem of a show once in a while and with the passion of the many journalists who thanklessly tend him. He tells me he’s still young and he’ll do better next time. So for me and my house, reluctantly, radio will do.
With the memory of better times and the hope of those to come, I have a belated Valentine’s wish for Mr Radio this Election Day:
** I wish for you less music and more information this polling day. Tunes are sweet, but talk to me again. Set yourself above the fray.
** I wish for you reporters with depth, who go beyond a blow-by-blow retelling of events. Information is great, but context is strength. Prove your might to me.
** I wish for you a discerning mind. Cross-check all the rumours. Don’t follow the crowd. Give me truth verified and facts well outlined.
** I wish for you a data friend, with a mind for numbers and a statistical bend. Don’t shout figures at me. Show me people, trends and consequence. It’s through your eyes that I see.
** I wish for you a strong ethical code. Don’t go tipping the scales needlessly. You can set hearts ablaze with just a whisper because your power to ignite passions is immense. Don’t bring me shame with careless arguments and sectarian sentiments.
** I wish for you judgement to know when to speak or stay silent. You’ve been shut down before and this cost money and more. Use your immediacy with prudence.
** I wish for you a force incorruptible, who won’t take a quick bribe to save you some trouble. Arm your workers with airtime, with transport ,with lunch. Don’t let temptation steal them away.
** I wish for you a strong editorial team equipped with good sense, good language and independence. May they be strong gatekeepers with a passion for their listeners to guard your heart and your mouth when you speak.
** I wish for you love this Election Day; a love that receives and gives. We give you our time, ears, hearts minds. Give back and this love will survive.
Dear radio, Happy Election Day.