Creating an enabling environment for professional journalism in Uganda

This is keynote address was delivered by Daily Monitor Managing Editor, Don Wanyama, at a media convention organised by the Uganda Media Development Foundation and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung at Sheraton Hotel in Kampala on April 30th, 2014. The full paper is available on Mr. Wanyama’s blog.


Let me begin by thanking the organisers of this convention; the Uganda Media Development Foundation and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung for inviting me to make a keynote address at this very important convection. As a managing editor of a major daily, the Daily Monitor, I consider myself to be in the advantaged position of mediating between journalists and owners of a media house and therefore I can speak about this subject with authority.


But just before we delve into what exactly media owners can do to promote professionalism in journalism, maybe we need to ask ourselves what exactly professionalism means. The term professional journalism gained currency in the later 1800s together with the rise of what was termed as objective journalism. Scholars like James Curran and McChesney have also linked professionalism in journalism to the rise of advertising as an effect on editorial content.


Because the pre-1900 media(also defined as era of Yellow Journalism) had been radical, with most taking hardline stances as pro-labour, pro-Republicans, pro-Democrats or pro-this and pro-that, the rise of the industrial press in the early 20th century, and the associated costs, meant that costs of production were too high. The media, especially print media, became costly to produce but also offered lots of profit opportunities. It meant that the media owners had to engage external stakeholders—advertisers—to help finance the media. In the process, it was incumbent that journalists then take more middle-line positions (neutral) or unbiased. This is what initially came to be known as professional journalism. Closely tied to this development was the rise of formal journalism training. Schools of journalism began sprouting especially in the US where journalists and editors were given basics of news management and how to make editorial decision based on professional judgement and not foreign pressure or interests.


Read on.