Let’s get back to basics: Be accurate, sensitive

Friday January 31 2020


By Odoobo C. Bichachi

Journalistic writing primarily leans on the five “Ws” and H” – that is: What, when, where, who, why and how. These are often described as the basics of journalism even though changing media trends occasioned by the rise of new media/social media, have thrown up another questions; “so what?”

The other primary guide for journalists is the news values or elements of news – impact, timeliness, prominence, proximity, oddity, conflict, and currency, to mention but a few. In delivering news, journalistic writing is further guided by a code of ethics that include accuracy, fairness, balance, sensitivity, etc.

I have severally written about all these in my column over the past year. I briefly return to two of them, prompted by the story: ‘UPDF’s top female pilot killed in chopper crash,’ (Daily Monitor, January 29) and ‘MC Kats checks self into Butabika Hospital,’ Sqoop online.

In the first story, the trainee pilot who perished in a UPDF helicopter this week alongside his trainer Maj Naomi Karungi, is referred to in the Daily Monitor by two different names – Benon Wokula and Benon Wokalu. New Vision on the other hand, refers to him as Benon Wokalo. So which is which? Readers out there are left confused by such confusion that could be avoided if the reporters and editors did the basics - check and double check. Many will say if you cannot get the names right, what else have you got wrong?

The second story on the mental State of MC Kats breaches a cardinal code of ethics, to be sensitive while reporting illness or supposed illness. The NMG Editorial policy guides that: “In general, the media should avoid prejudicial or pejorative references to a person’s race, tribe, clan, religion, sex or sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness, handicap or political orientation. These details should be eschewed unless they are germane to the story.”

That story breached this and joined the social media harangue. It is, therefore, important that journalists stick to the basics of the trade at all times. This is what distinguishes journalists from any other story tellers!



Dear Public Editor,
I applaud you for the effort taken to keep the media profession in Uganda on track. I have been following your articles and I am impressed.

As for your article titled ‘How should journalists report cases of suicide,’ this is good, but the issues you raise should not only apply to suicide cases, but to all reports of deaths. It always annoys me to see journalists insisting to have interviews from the teary victims of the deceased. At times from the bleeding accident victims!

All these stem from the quality of journalists we have in Uganda. Surely, few media houses have professional journalist. Remember when Parliament demanded for academic qualification, most of the so-called senior parliamentary reporters were ejected. Secondly, you made references to Scandinavian countries and UK.

This is like comparing Kampala with New York! In developed countries, media practices must be “absolute,” but in low developed countries like Uganda, media practices are “relative”! That is why even in Daily Monitor, you still allow unprofessional media practitioners.

Lastly, you were not right to generalise that, “online news websites are not guided by any media ethics...” Then you went ahead to defame them that they are feeding on speculation and mocking the deceased. This is wrong.

I am one of those that read Monitor Online and you are doing the same! All in all, any media practitioners must follow journalism’s professional code of ethics no matter whether online, newspaper, radio or any other.
-Joshua Kisawuzi,

Dear Public Editor,
What happened to the investigative arm of your newspaper? When you were celebrating 10 years, I was missing only two papers a week. We enjoyed your investigative stories and journalism. I think one of the last juicy story was by [Jim] Mugunga about the purchase of the presidential jet. Shame on you for pushing me to your competitors.
-A. Kamya

Dear Public Editor,
Thanks for your feedback on blurred pages. Please note that the blurred pages also contribute to the download size of the paper thus making it cost prohibitive bearing in mind that data is still expensive.

When you add up the total cost (Downloading + Price) then one would rather buy the hard copy. Instead of publishing blurred images that consume our data, publish brief highlights with a read more link. My two cents!
-Richard Kanyesigye

Public Editor: All the issues raised above by our esteemed readers are noted for further discussion and action with editors.

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