Covering Museveni’s state of the nation address

By Peter G. Mwesige

In a few hours, President Yoweri Museveni will deliver to Parliament an address on the “state of the nation”. It is a constitutional requirement for the president to do this at the beginning of each session of Parliament.

Major television and radio stations are expected to cover the event live for thousands of Ugandans who still care about politics. The online editions of the leading newspapers will also cover the proceedings live. Live coverage, especially if it is not interspersed with commentary, is the easy bit.

From my experience, the real challenge is the so-called day two reporting. How do newspapers and other media platforms coming out tomorrow (Wednesday) or later today cover this story that would have been extensively reported by the breaking news channels in a manner that is still compelling and interesting?

Here are some tips:

* Look for anything that is bold and new (should I add, “good luck!”)

* Sometimes what is left out of the address is more important than what is said. Therefore, go beyond the speech and note the important issues of the day that are not addressed.

* Pay attention to the key highlights of the address (of course).

* It is not enough to simply state the key highlights; interrogate the claims made as well as their significance. So what? Who cares? The president has made certain promises every year for the last decade or so. Let the audience know what is really NEW and why, if at all, it matters.

* Does address touch on key issues of the day such as Kizza Besigye’s defiance campaign, human rights and rule of law, service delivery in sectors such as health and education, roads and infrastructure, the state of the extractive sectors, especially oil, gas and mining, unemployment, especially among the youth, corruption, the continuing threat of terrorism, Uganda’s foreign relations, etc?

* Also note the manner in which the address was delivered. Was the president tense, combative, relaxed or jovial? How long was the address? Did the president go on and on as usual, or did he break with his tradition?

* Take note of the reactions of the Members of Parliament as the president delivers his address. Are they attentive, cheering, booing, sleeping, reading newspapers, or tweeting?

* Seek comments from the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, diplomats, civil society, and experts about the address. Were they impressed? What impressed them? What was the most important issue that was said or unsaid?

* Seek man or woman-on-the street comments about the address.

* Review the early comments on your online story. Online readers often raise story angles that reporters miss as they rush to beat deadlines.

* Compare the key issues that the address highlighted to the ones in the previous state of the nation address.

* Also, look at the president’s/NRM’s manifesto for 2016-2021 and show how the address fits in.

* Note how he characterizes the last five years. Where does he see success? Is that view shared widely? (Where) does he admit failure?

***

About the Author: Dr. Mwesige is co-founder and executive director of the African Centre for Media Excellence. Twitter: @pmwesige

A version of this article was published on the ACME website in 2012.

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

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