Celebrating women in the [email protected] story

Emilly Comfort Maractho

What you need to know:

  • More women in newsroom management makes a difference for women as newsmakers. 

Part two of this piece celebrating women in Monitor @ 30, focuses on two past editors, Margie Vuchiri and Barbara Among, whose contributions to the Monitor story is as incredible as they each are. 

More women in newsroom management makes a difference for women as newsmakers. Many newsrooms now have enough sense to accept that women bring valuable contributions to media products.

So, more women are given opportunities to lead, which is a great thing. Yet, even as we near parity, very good women leave the newsroom, according to Barbara Kaija, in a publication that is fairly profound in giving us reasons as to why this is the case. 

Reading the Daily Monitor of August 5, I was struck by how many women have actually been part of the Daily Monitor story. In part two, I focus on two women who left the Daily Monitor. I know both of them closely. 

Margie is the immediate past Managing Editor of the Daily Monitor. Margie nudged me into becoming columnist. After sending my first article in 2010, I continued to write, only when provoked by a mudslide or something annoying. I did not have time to write regularly, often working and studying. 

Even when I spent most of the time out of the country studying, Margie never gave me space, writing every once in a while asking when I would return, when I would write again, and when I would take up a column. She felt that too many men were writing. She thought I brought fresh perspectives, and wanted me on her team of columnists.

I ultimately signed up as a columnist five years ago. She said I would be okay. She was right, this has been extremely rewarding. I have never failed to write a single week. Her role in making me write, tells of how little the role of women in the newsroom goes a long way to include more women in media.

Margie is very calm. When we finally met, we shared a passion for journalism. The day she told me she was signing out was one of those very bad days. I called one of the managers at Daily Monitor, asking what was going on, why they were not doing everything possible to keep her. I was just a media scholar, foolishly pushing my boundaries. 

When founding member Wafula Ogutu said he told President Museveni about how, he was patriotic and loved this country, perhaps even more than the president, I could relate. I loved the Daily Monitor and wanted its health, including having competent women in editorial.

I felt that more needed to be done. She kept the editorial team running in the difficult time of Covid-19 and had gone through an election. Clearly, even time off could have been negotiated for her. But then I was an outsider. Margie had made up her mind. We had a long conversation. I persuaded her to stay or take some time off, but failed. She is unassuming, down to earth and one of the most assertive people I know, with a clear head.

Newsrooms need people like those. She is going to be better than okay.
I met Barbara when we invited her to speak to students. I was head of department, journalism and media studies at Uganda Christian University at the time. In that talk, I was surprised by her journalism credentials. She gave a brilliant talk. 

As a regular reader of the Daily Monitor and the East African from early on, I have seen Barbara for a long time. She was managing editor of the weekend edition of the Daily Monitor for nearly a decade. Our professional paths cross often. Even then, I never stop irritating her about her professional growth.

There are women I decided I would not leave alone, that they had a lot to offer. Barbara is one of those. So when she announced her next career move, I was more than pleased. With that knowledge and experience, her place is firmly in shaping journalism talent for the future, because she is a great trainer too. We share interests in gender sensitive reporting. There are others I gently apply that pressure to, and grateful when they take that step. Seeing talent comes with being a teacher.

If there is anything I have learnt through the last many years of training journalists, it is that most female journalists already have everything, they just need someone to keep bothering them, the way Margie bothered me about becoming a columnist and how I sometimes bother Barbara. 

I always follow these women, knowing they are not just brilliant, they have their heart and soul for the newsroom, but also likely to succeed outside the newsroom. They could be part of a much greater story. Many have left, but their contribution to the Monitor story, remains. 

I hope, that Barbara and Margie, can still be part of the NMG mentorship agenda, for younger women in news and our talent re-tooling. 

Ms Emilly Maractho (PhD) is the director of Africa Policy Centre and senior lecturer at Uganda Christian University.             [email protected]

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