Reliable, quality journalism key for Daily Monitor sustainability

Emilly C. Maractho  

The Daily Monitor has been part of my growth in studying, research and teaching. I wrote my first opinion piece for the Daily Monitor in 2010. Seeing that piece published, and the interest it generated, reminded me of the unfinished business that I had with journalism. The next year, I visited Daystar University in Nairobi, Kenya had a long conversation with Prof Faith Nguru, then Dean of the School of Communication, and returned after putting in an application for a Master’s degree in Communication. That debt that needed to be paid. 

Looking back, that is perhaps the turning point in my career, because it gave me a great opportunity to reinvent myself, to do what I love. There has been no turning back. I had no intention of returning to the classroom, maybe just briefly. 

My hope had been to combine my knowledge and experience in development with media to do some serious development communication work. I had grand plans, to produce documentaries, focus on social behaviour change, write books and so on. But as they say, man has their plan but God has his own. A decade later, I am still slaving in the classroom, satisfied, that I have made my contribution to the industry in ways I never imagined. 

I celebrate Daily Monitor for three specific reasons. The first is that it has weathered all kinds of storms, and continues to do fairly good journalism as we know it, albeit with some limitations. Newspapers generally, historically, have weathered some serious and significant storms, especially brought by technology. Circulation has been falling and in some economies, they have folded or gone online. Many predict that it is a matter of time before the rest of the crop will fold due to changing economic realities for news media organisations and their failure to adopt new business models less dependent on advertising. 

Yet in addition to that, the Daily Monitor has had to deal with a media landscape that my good friend and colleague, Ms Monica Chibita, in her professorial lecture in 2020, noted, rests between regulation and control. The Daily Monitor has had to walk a tight rope, but it has to be celebrated for coming this far.

The second is that the Daily Monitor has been an astounding training ground for great journalism. People spent their lives at the Daily Monitor, even when they have moved on, speak of the newspaper as having grounded them in journalism. The trouble with that has been people getting really good and leaving, creating room for a new lot to train. If the Daily Monitor were to create a distinctive journalism value, they would be influencing practice in the entire industry as they shape talent for other players, including none State actors, who eventually hire these employees. 

The third, and perhaps the most important, is the Daily Monitor’s ability to stay an open book for people of all ideologies. In the years that political parties were banned, various voices found the paper as a safe space to voice their concerns. It is not surprising that initially, it was framed as an Opposition paper and increasingly an enemy agent. It has remained true to diversity of content. Even with the perception that it is heavily political in its reporting, there is more development content and entertainment. Opting to stay open and available for people of all ideologies is the best contribution that the Daily Monitor has made in the last 30 years to our democratic and development process. 

It remains true, despite the enormous changes the media industry continues to experience, that the public has a right to be informed by a variety of viewpoints. The Daily Monitor contributes, consciously or not, to political and economic participation. 

The Daily Monitor, has over the years attempted to provide reliable and quality journalism. We hope it will continue to tell those stories that matter for the country and seek innovative ways to remain operational. Too many people rely on it to be heard and spoken for.

Major shifts in audience behaviour, media convergence driven again by globalisation, audience fragmentation and the nature of the audience, means that there is no room for staying in a celebratory mood for long. There is a lot of work to be done, to understand and respond to the current economic turmoil, political environment in which new and independent voices die every so often, and media system with little appreciation for the place of journalism in it. 

The mass communication experience is evolving. The Daily Monitor should find fresh relevance and new functions to play along and with new media. The response to the current challenges of audience fragmentation, loss of journalistic mission and commercialisation is not cutting back but ensuring quality content exists for those who support it. 

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


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