My best moment was when Monitor became first in East Africa to print in colour- Arinaitwe

Production manager Mr Apollo Arinaitwe checks the quality of a newspaper at Monitor Publications Ltd In Namuwongo, Kampala. PHOTO/FRANK BAGUMA

What you need to know:

  • Overall it has been an amazing experience, seeing the Monitor grow from what it used to be to having top notch printing.

My name is Apollo Arinaitwe. I have worked for the Monitor for the last 26 years. I first joined as a darkroom assistant. I used to prepare films which would be used to expose printing plates. The plates are what we would use for printing. I grew through the ranks and I am currently the production manager.

Overall it has been an amazing experience, seeing the Monitor grow from what it used to be to having top notch printing.

We have also seen tremendous improvements for example when we changed machines that improved printing quality in 2011. When I first saw the copy printed by this new machine we have currently, I was happy. I never imagined a paper could look this good.

It was an exciting time to see Monitor become the first newspaper in the whole of East Africa to print in colour in 1996; even Daily Nation hadn’t printed in colour. That was a mind blowing experience. 
At that time, I was so excited because then, I was the only one who could make colour plates. It was a good time for me. Most universities don’t teach these things, but I had worked somewhere else for three months before joining Monitor and I gained experience in that, so I came as an expert. I was so excited to be a pioneer of this but also being able to train other people.

When we first started that, we would take the pictures to a place in town called Reprographics on Nasser Road, then they would separate them into four process colours (CMYK), then we would come back and go to our darkroom, shoot the pages with text on film, cut out the space for the picture, strip in the separation and then lay the flat on plates for exposing.

All that has changed. 
We got our own machine called a colour separation machine (Imagesetter)  and we were able to make our own films. Also, back then the picture would come as hard copy but now we are able to receive digital on computer which makes work easier. 

The challenges I have faced since I started are many. Back in the day the major one was the delays because it would take a long time to receive work from advertising and editorial, and we would spend more time here yet we had to prepare for the next edition. 

That meant that if one edition was delayed, the next one would also go to the market a bit late which wasn’t good for us.

The other problem was machine breakdown. The machine we had at first used to break down all the time and also it produced substandard quality. We struggled with that until we installed the current one.

We would also get a lot of wastage especially when we would realise that there is a mistake mid-way printing. That would mean we had to stop and send the pages back to pre-press, meaning time wasted, and materials and resources lost as well as low the morale of the team.

One of the other things that was challenging was when we also used to print other people’s books, posters and magazines. Each order came with its own instructions and that was difficult.
Currently, some of the challenges are similar. Sometimes we receive work at midnight and yet the deadline is supposed to be 7pm. That causes a number of problems because that means my people won’t go home or if they do, they will have a limited time to rest.

More Challenges 
The other challenge is the pay is lower than people expect especially now that the cost of living is high, so we sometimes lose the best people because we can’t afford to pay them what they need. 
These jobs of ours are very technical, we have no school in Uganda where people can go and learn printing so we train them once we have employed them. It’s therefore painful when you lose them.
I personally have stayed with Monitor this long because we used to be a family, especially those who have worked here for long. It becomes hard to leave since it is not about money but the passion and the satisfaction to see a high quality newspaper on the street everyday without fail. 

I am proud of being a pioneer in printing a newspaper in colour, doing well at my job, and training people. 

I can say we have trained over 50 people in this field. Since 2016, we have never had to go print our paper from elsewhere because of mechanical failure, and we have never failed to have the paper come out on any day.

My favourite moments at Monitor are many, but they are usually when there is something new to do maybe work with a new machine, or have a new procedure. I recall how we fought to buy this current printing machine that we have, there was a lot of back and forth and I had to do a lot of justification but we finally won. I will never forget that because in the process I also learnt how to do technical justifications. 

I am hoping that I do not get those dreaded phone calls like one where I’m being told there is a mistake yet we are already printing. Or that we have a breakdown and we can’t sort it out. 

Because this is a daily paper, there is no way we can tell readers there is no paper because the machine broke down. It’s also scary when you are told that the machine has grabbed someone’s hand, that’s a grave one. 

Also being told that we accidentally run an page that had been already run in previous edition. When someone brings me a resignation letter it’s always so sad.

What I love about Monitor is the environment, the freedom I am given to perform my duties. 
We are accorded a certain level of trust and no one is always on my back to deliver instead I am always the one policing others to let me deliver. Also the people around me are great.