By Kefa Senoga
To earn respect, journalists should be able to produce believable, accurate and impactful stories. It is such stories, veteran journalist John Kakande explained, that will influence policy and bring the desired positive change in society.
“If you go to cover an event and, at the end of the day, you ask the spokesperson of the organisation to give you transport facilitation, they will not respect you again,” Kakande, a former editor of Uganda’s New Vision newspaper, told students of Uganda Christian University’s (UCU) School of Journalism, Media and Communication. He said journalists who ask for facilitation from events organizers will be taken as “mercenaries for hire.”
Kakande, who retired in 2021 from 27 years with New Vision, made the remarks as chief guest at an annual media dinner organized by the students at a hotel in Kampala. Held under the theme “Media Ethics under Attack,” the dinner hosted students, UCU alumni, and media and public relations practitioners.
Tabu Butagira, the Managing Editor of Daily Monitor, a newspaper in Uganda, urged the students to look at ethics as their “personal value system.” He described the UCU students who have had their internship at the Daily Monitor as hardworking.
Kakande said a majority of those who had their internship at New Vision were retained as staff because “we found them well disciplined and respectful.”
Citing an example of emphasis on ethics and team work, the Dean of the School of JMC, Prof. Monica Chibita, referred to a video production of a news bulletin by the students that was shown at the dinner.
Chibita said the production was a result of team work between the students and the staff. She lauded John Semakula, who is the head of the undergraduate studies in the UCU School of JMC, for showing an “incredible commitment in leading the team of students that was able to exhibit their TV production.”
Chibita said UCU has been deliberate in focusing on hands-on training to enable their graduates be able to compete favorably in the job market.
“Unlike the previous years, we now even have first-year students actually reading bulletins; that means we are getting better in terms of practical training,” Chibita said at the dinner that was held after a three-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The head of communications at power distributor Umeme, Peter Kaujju, encouraged students to be truthful because the profession they are pursuing comes with the responsibility of being the eyes of the public. He also encouraged students to be resilient and determined if they are to pursue good stories. He said his organisation, Umeme, is ready to offer internship placements for the students, as well as giving career guidance tips.
Hellen Mukiibi, an editor at New Vision, lauded the journalism students for the practical work they exhibited. The production was made under the auspices of the UCU Media Link Association. Mukiibi encouraged the students to develop skills in print, broadcast and online, noting that they are the new demands in a current newsroom.
“You also need to be ready, strong and tough. Prepare for everything, as a journalist. You should be knowledgeable about the subject you’re covering, which means you will need to do a lot of research,” Mukiibi urged the students.