By Raymond Baguma
I have been in the UK newsrooms at The Times and The Independent newspapers for the last three months on a work placement programme. So, I find Dr. Mwesige’s article timely and requires solutions.
I have shared this situation of Ugandan newsrooms with senior British journalists and they are bewieldered. Had they been in Ugandan newsrooms, they would be long gone.
I realise that increasing salaries alone may not be motivation because journalists worldwide are not highly paid.
But what I notice is that the UK society (politicians and the general public) regard their media industry and the journalists highly.
The media influences government policy, and shapes national opinion on so many issues ranging from the size of fashion models, supporting the national football team, to the UK troops presence in Afghanistan.
The media has made itself relevant to society, which motivates journalists to stay on and work beyond the official retirement age. This is because they want to continue being useful to their society. Senior journalists also go on to author books which pay off handsomely. This is why most students in the UK want to work with the media and wish to emulate their favourite columnist whom the Prime Minister David Cameron quotes by name.
This is unlike Ugandans who want to join MTN and have alot of airtime at their disposal, jog in the evening in MTN wear.
The challenge is massive for us as media practitioners to make ourselves relevant. Ugandan society is affected by so many things but media opinion is ignored on matters of troop presence in Somalia, DR Congo, the economy, and even the fashion police. We need to ask ourselves “Why?”
Of course, old hands in the newsroom don#t stop are telling interesting stories of the typewriter and wiring stories by telex. Most importantly, the provide depth and richness in writing editorials, commentary and opinions, analyses. Experience is also vital to mentor cub reporters coming through.
Of course we work against restrictive media regulations and control from the State, and selfish proprietor interests which threaten the power of the pen. The UK media is self-regulated and free from state control, but the proprietors look for profits from increased advertising. While in Uganda, government is the biggest advertiser which can have financial implications if a media house is labeled critical.