Does it matter whether man or woman writes/edits story?

Odoobo C. Bichachi

What you need to know:

The issue of “gendered content” has been a subject of discussion in media and academic circles for years...

The issue of “gendered content” has been a subject of discussion in media and academic circles for years...

Our regular reader Atujune Dragan has in the last one month raised two complaints about gender representations in Daily Monitor. First it was the use of the term weatherman instead of the gender-neutral weather forecaster in the story, “Weatherman warns of heavy rains this month” (August 3), and then in another story three weeks later, “Weatherman issues 10-day rainfall forecast” (August 21).

The issue of “gendered content” has been a subject of discussion in media and academic circles for years, with many postulating that the gender behind the editing or reporting desk has an influence on how the final story is constructed.

Because the media in Uganda – and indeed most of the world – is largely male dominated, the case has been made that the portrayal of women and men in stories and their contribution as sources, news subjects, etc is heavily biased in favour of men.

If that be the case, perhaps let’s begin by looking at the gender spread in Uganda’s newsrooms.

Journalist-cum-gender activist Brian Mutebi in an article published in Arise magazine (Issue 61, November 2016) shared the following statistics under the title, The Current Situation of Women in Ugandan Media: General Overview”:

  • l Women in the print media: news writers (13 percent), photographers (15 percent). No statistics for editors.
  • Giving popular opinion: 25 percent women and 75 percent men.
  •  Spokespersons: 24 percent women and 76 percent men.
  •  Giving opinions based on specialist knowledge or expertise: 27 percent women and 73 percent men.
  • Narrating personal experiences: 56 percent women and 44 percent men
  •  Eye-witnesses: 8 percent women and 92 percent men.

It may be a little different seven years later. But assuming the same pattern represents the gender distribution in Daily Monitor, can we therefore surmise that the sex of the reporter and or editor had an influence in the stories complained about?

Well, one story was written by a man and the other by a woman. So the reporters perhaps had little input on the final structure of the stories. I did not establish the gender of the editors and sub-editors that handled the story but there, usually, this is where headlines are crafted and structure straightened out. Would a woman editor have written a different headline?

NMG Editorial Policy Guidelines do not provide for or prohibit specific terms deemed to be or not to be gender neutral. However, the policy guides that editors avoid use of judgmental language or language that perpetuates stereotypes – be it social, sexual, political, ethnic or religious.

I shall be joining a conversation by Uganda Media Women’s Association (UMWA) on September 29 on this subject. The theme of the discussion is, “27 years after Beijing Platform for Action: What are the wins, trials and resolutions in Uganda media”.


 Otolim Joshua Moses: On September 3, I came across a call for proposals through Seeds of Gold magazine. However, it appears only farmers within Wakiso District are invited yet NMG content is consumed countrywide. Kindly clarify on how you chose to limit invitations to this region. Isn’t NMG-Uganda pushing other regions of the country to the margins?

Public Editor: The call is sponsored by a private firm whose interest is in the central Uganda region. We are exploring other partnerships to enable us to spread this competition to the other regions as well.

Tom, Mbale: Thank you for allowing the public to speak to you about your newspaper. Your journalism is tops! Kudos! One wishes you would stick your necks out a bit and venture out into the investigative line, e.g. are you going to leave the Isimba Dam debacle like that or are we expecting more?

Public Editor: Daily Monitor has comprehensively covered the Isimba Dam defects since 2017. The recent story that broke news of the shutdown was followed with other stories on the dam explaining what went wrong.

Juba (Ugandan): Refer to your article about recent Lubigi wetland evictions. I am a resident of the area and threatened to be evicted, but we own the land with documentation from Mengo [Buganda Kingdom].  Secondly, we have been evaluated by Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) and some have been paid. I personally have documentation from the city council with a value that I rejected due to the extent of the damage that affected me during the process . We request you to do some investigations on this please, I will contribute.

Public Editor: Thank you. This shall be shared with the editorial team for possible follow up with you.

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