What you need to know:
Despite the criticism, deadline pressures, rigours of impressing an audience and dealing with competition daily, Mildred Pedun does not regret signing up for a job as a news anchor at NTV. In fact, it is in this profession that she finds a sense of belonging. In this feature, she shares her career journey, the highs and lows.
Since January, Mildred Pedun has been the face of NTV Weekend Edition, a news segment that runs at 9pm, from Friday to Sunday. She also anchors the daily lunch time news session dubbed NTV at One.
Pedun is living her dream. “ I look forward to work each new day because I am working for my dream television and the best of them all ,” she says with a light laugh.
Being a news anchor is a role Pedun admired even when she was a little girl. And now that she is working for an organisation that has been the media trend setter for more than 15 years, she describes it as a rewarding opportunity.
The passion with which she does her work is evident, her following on social media can testify. A few minutes to her bulletin, she has clips all over allerting the world she is about to hit the screens, “Better tune in” is one of her daily twweets.
She describes herself as a people person. “I love interacting with people, to get their views on various subjects,” she says. It is, perhaps, one of the most important attributes for one in her trade.
Reading news on assembly
Empathetic, a fierce competitor and shy, which is hard to believe for one who has to entertain millions watching across the country and the globe. “I am shy but I have found ways of dealing with it,” she says before referring to herself as one of the most straight-forward people you will ever come across.
Growing up, Pedun saw herself ending up in other professions such as law and medicine. “As a child, my ambitions were totally different. I wanted to enrol for a profession that was trending at the time,” she recalls.
It is a common story for people to end up in professions they never imagined. For Pedun, as a high school student in Naalya Secondary School, Bwegorerere Campus and Our Lady of Africa SS in Mukono, she found herself reading the latest news to her peers every morning during the assembly. The routine birthed the journey to news anchoring as she revered the experience. “It was at this point that I discovered my communication skills and this is how I ended up contesting for the information prefect post,” she says.
The confidence and charisma with which she took on the role, won her recognition from fellow students and teachers. At this point, she felt she had discovered something new within herself.
But it did not immediately kick off as she first wandered into a completely different direction after losing out on the information prefect race.
A dive in business school
After high school, her next stop was Axial International College, where she studied a Bachelors of International Business. She went through the course rituals for three years but never felt at home for the entire duration.
“I felt misplaced and a constant desire to belong somewhere else,” Pedun recalls. Upon bagging her bachelors degree, her love for the big stage reawakened the sleeping journalist in her that first manifested in high school.
Her next step would propel her from reading news at school assembly to a national television.
After completing a journalism and mass communication course at YMCA, she felt she was was in the right place.
A sense of belonging
YMCA, a tertiary institution registered by the National Council for Higher Education (Nche) in Uganda, has built a reputation for developing programmes that prepare and shape youth into productive citizens with practical skills.
While there, Pedun realised her potential as she learnt about the journalism craft each day that went by.
The course helped her to tick the most critical boxes in the trade and before long, she was ready to go out and let the world know about her.
Her first test in the employment world came with anchoring news on radio. Top Radio and Kampala FM listeners were the first to get a taste of what she had in store.
The two media houses gave Pedun a platform to actualise what she had studied and with that the opportunity, she made the best out of it.
NTV had not crossed her mind until she had a conversation with an associate. “At a time when some news anchors had exited, together with a former colleague, we decided to apply for jobs at NTV,” she says.
Pedun saw this as the perfect opportunity to grow her brand in the industry. Getting onto national television was going to be a game-changer.
“We reached out to the editor-in-chief at NTV and luckily enough, they were conducting interviews for news anchors in form of screen tests, which we were also invited to do around July last year,” she says.
But Pedun would have to wait a little longer to get a response from NTV. Four months later, her phone rang and the good news was announed.
Pedun had passed the first test and was scheduled for a second screen test, which only had her unlike at the first stage, where she had to face off competition from a big number of applicants.
“And that is how I got hired this January,” she says in a self-satisfactory tone. At NTV, Pedun’s life has been transformed. She gets to be watched all over the globe and to her, it is an opportunity she cannot take for granted.
After close to six months of working with the Nation Media Group television, this is a step towards developing her career given the exposure that comes with it.
Finding her way to Kampala Serena Hotel, her work address every morning is food for her soul.
“Being spotted and recognised by the biggest media brand in the country because of my skill and talent is a milestone worth celebrating,” she says.
It was never a smooth route to where she is because that exposure comes with criticism that at times makes many plunge into depression
“It is not easy of course, because there is a lot of proving to do. You have to put in a lot of work to get there and most importantly be good at what you do,” she explains.
Over time, she has made peace with the fact that becoming an exceptional news anchor is a process that entails traits such as public speaking skills, eloquence and articulation, confidence, great interviewing and research skills, knowledge and most importantly, being objective.
A grip of current affairs
Viewers always want to know how anchors prepare for their segments. It appears a simple role on paper, but backend work comes with lots of technicalities.
It involves some digging, getting a grip of what is happening and going through whatever it takes to look good on set.
“When I get to the station, first I get to know what stories are being worked on. I then go through the news leads, which I compile. My next stop is in the dressing room, where make-up and hair are done. I dress up and go to the studio 30 minutes to the top of the hour,” she explains her two hour pre-anchoring routine.
Goofing on set
Even after all the required preps are done, things can go wrong and Pedun has eaten the cake of howlers. On two occasions, she has looked rattled, scared and lost on set.
“One time, I was signing out, the iPad slipped off the table and almost fell. I tried to remain composed. The second one, I stammered in the middle of the story for about 10 seconds. You do not want to be in that situation,” she says with a grin.
Away from the glitz and glamour of working on TV, being in the public eye has its fair share of challenges. “Deadline pressures, rigours of impressing the dynamic audience, being on top of the game and dealing with competition is what my life is characterised with,” Pedun says.
There is also an assumption that television personalities make a killing in this job. “There are lots of expectations,” she says.
The last five months have seen Pedun deal with unwanted attention away from her workstation. “I try to be myself, although some things will change. “With this kind of job, you change hangout spots or eateries, you start becoming an indoor person. But I am trying to remain as normal as possible,” she says.
She also avoids subjecting herself to the pressure of being a public figure. Pedun says working smart on that career goal and bettering yourself as you chase your dream will take you places.