In a few hours, President Yoweri Museveni will be delivering 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 millions 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 or later today cover this story that has been extensively reported by the breaking news channels in a manner that makes it compelling and interesting enough?
Here are some tips:
• It is important to pay attention to the key highlights of the address.
• Look for anything that is bold and new.
• Do the highlights touch on key issues of the day such as oil and gas governance, health care, education and service delivery, corruption, terrorism and growing threat of street demonstrations? Does address touch on Uganda’s 50 years of Independence?
• It’s not enough to simply state these highlights; interrogate the claims made as well as their significance. So what? Who cares?
• Go beyond the speech and note the important issues of the day that are not addressed.
• Also note the manner in which the address was delivered. Was the president tense, combative, relaxed, 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. Were they attentive, cheering, booing, sleeping, reading newspapers?
• Seek comments from the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, diplomats, civil society, and experts about the address. Were they impressed? What was the most important issue that was said or unsaid?
• Seek man or woman-on-the street comments about the address?
• 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 and establish how the address fits in. Is the president (and his party) on track?
About the Author: Dr. Mwesige is the executive director of the African Centre for Media Excellence. He is a former head of the Department of Mass Communication at Makerere University, where he was also a senior lecturer, and a former executive editor of the Monitor.