The text message that took me to Monitor


Monitor@25It was April 2010. The date is beyond my waning memory. “Hi, I hear The Weekender has closed, what happened?” The message was signed “Kalinaki.” I was just approaching my muzigo off the Kireka market on the railway reserve. I replied explaining how along the way some hyenas had come beating around shares in The Weekender and guys got ahead of themselves and bloated it.

“Sorry to hear about that. So what are your plans?” Well, that the revered Kalinaki was chatting me up about what I planned to do from inside the belly of joblessness was itself amazing. His third text message that day followed my vague idea of what I planned to do with my idleness—at least crime wasn’t part of it. “Would you consider working with Daily Monitor as a sub editor?”

I had wanted to be a sub editor for ages. The New Vision had given me the job and then not given it. They had given it a second time and then not given it still.

I had left Makerere University with sub editing skills on my sleeves and could design pages. In fact, when we had left The New Vision to start The Weekender, I was the resident sub editor. Weeks before Kalinaki’s text message, Arinaitwe Rugyendo had asked me to join Red Pepper. I had given it a shot. Rugyendo is one of the few journalists who ever told me that I was a talented journalist. The others were Nigel, Carol Natukunda, Dora, Julius Mucunguzi–former news writing and reporting lecturer–and Denis Ocwich (RIP)–my former Specialised Writing lecturer.

Rugyendo had wanted me in Namanve and he still does to this day. He had set up a meeting with the bishops. But after the brief interview where the guys asked if I could play football, the bishops had asked how much I was willing to work for and I had said Shs700,000. They said they would call me. They never did. Kalinaki texted. Maybe Red Pepper would have used my inverted sense of humour to their fill, but that is past now.

I told Kalinaki that I would think about it. “Okay, when you are ready, holla at me.” Like a peer. Just like that. The last time I quoted our private conversation, it was wrong, but this time Kalinaki will understand. I had said I would get back to him in a week, but within five days I had sketched airtime and texted Kalinaki saying I was up for it. “Great! Just what I wanted to hear. You made the right decision. Thank you.”

He had thanked me. Kalinaki had thanked me. I found that strange but then I realised that perhaps the tough lecturer I had taken him for at campus wasn’t the real him. He forwarded my matter to Don Wanyama, then chief sub editor, to work on the rest.

Back in Makerere, Kalinaki and Charlotte Ntulume were our final year Newspaper Editing lecturers. While Charlotte was “good with marks,” everyone said Kalinaki was “mean.” In fact, he “gave” me only 56%. Yes, 56% and that is the marks that will live with me for the rest of my wretched life. As students, if you scored 70-plus marks, you would proudly say you got it, but below 60, “the lecturer gave me.” And so it was with this 56% in editing.

Now, let me tell you something. The best editors and line supervisors I have had have been at Monitor. Don was so good with interpersonal skills. I still consider Don my best line manager ever. When sulked over not being given a column when Monitor was redesigned in 2011, Don offered me his Letter From Kireka. He had just started it and was so serious about the offer. He loved his team and kept them closer to himself. Bettie, Harriet, Tony, Allan, Anna, Mark, JT and JJ. That was the basic composition of our team.

Carol was thorough like a woodpecker. It was difficult to imagine a comma would miss her eye and she read copies religiously. Before I had moved to subbing, Carol was my line manager as I wrote features. She would scrutinise vouchers so intently before signing them off. I later learnt it is something in her genes, thanks to her father who was with the central bank. Carol’s thoroughness once got me when I had ‘doctored’ voices of psychology lecturers at MUK in a story. An apology and she instead thanked me for apologising, saying many she had caught in plagiarism before had defended their mess rather than own up.

There was Alex and his easy personality. He was the first editor to say “okay, let’s keep it and have the reporter redo the story,” in response to my email that a particular article was too wanting to run. He also once spiked a story upon my advise.

Fred and Barbara, the two who kept pulling one of my legs to weekend desk, and Aidah, our dimpled kayungirizi. These two were tough between 10am and 3pm. After that, the early edition would be out and you would relax and hit out in betting.

Talking of betting, I actually learnt the damn thing from Monitor. That place was so lively and easy on staffers that freedom extended to betting too–although management tried to control it.

The Namuwongo newsroom was lively. It was the first and only newsroom where I saw alcoholic drinks allowed on special occasions. Drink responsibly and so we did. Wines, beers and spirits. Beyond the newsroom, Monitor was that place where editors joined the rest of the foot soldiers at social dos. We had this regular outing habit that Natty so religiously observed even when she was out of Monitor.

Sometimes I think I became a journalist as the kid who would steal newspapers from our next-door neighbour, Erinesti Lulua (RIP). He was the labour officer for Kakira so he got free office copies. He would neatly stack up the papers on the table and I would tiptoe into his living room to make away with them. I would then read from the sugarcane where I had a ‘library.’ One day I walked in there after to find the downpour had beaten my dry-leaves canopy. The papers were wet. What more, the only colour copy was wet.

Monitor had made inroads to become the first newspaper to publish a colour masthead and I had nipped that copy and thought I had me a great souvenir, only for the rain to get the better of me.

However, the childhood play with stolen copies was nothing, the real deal was joining Monitor and becoming part of a family that allowed views to thrive. The independence of Monitor is not just in a mantra but rubs you from the skin to the heart’s content. This is because, at Monitor, you express your views freely and where such independence of views thrive, the rest fall into place.

May the Truth Every Day continue to inspire journalism The Monitor Way.


NTV Fourth Estate Cast In Line For Parliament Job

We are back, dear followers of this blog who love reading media-related posts. It is electioneering period and a lot is going on. Every evening, chaps are streaming like Wimbledon tennis updates into homes of NRM power brokers and money handlers to pick fat envelopes. A couple of fellows have been seen smiling like a lodge attendant tipped in dollars by a European tourist.

Then there is this one who picked phones meant for aiding journalists fight Mbabazi and Besigye on social media. Nice gadgets, but rather than deliver, he decided to sell them at giveaway price.

Details will surely come. For now…

Word reaching us that the NTV Fourth Estate talk-show pair of host Charles Mwanguhya-Mpagi and panelist Chris Obore have been lined up for a juicy job at Parliament, with Speaker Rebecca Kadaga torn between the duo and another former journalist turned PR guru Onapito Ekomoloit.

Unconfirmed reports indicate that Onapito had indicated to the Parliament Commission that he was not interested in the job, although other sources insist the Nile Breweries corporate affairs manger, sat interviews alongside the two Fourth Estate fellows.

Kadaga is said to have handpicked the trio but after noting Obore’s increased attack on the person of Amama Mbabazi, her nemesis, she has now decided Obore should be the new director of communications at Parliament.

Ironically, the development comes as some managers at NMG are feeling awkward over Obore’s political utterances on social media, considering him too politically divided and are pondering whether to completely cast themselves of the journalist earlier sacked by also sacked Monitor executive editor Malcolm Gibson.

Three years ago, Don Wanyama, now in NRM fold, was suspended for using social media to campaign for Nandala Mafabi, but Obore seems to have had it going well with a blind eye from each of the managers, until those sympathetic with Mbabazi started feeling offended by his posts. Obore could be kicked out of NMG but with the Parliament job beckoning, he will welcome the kick.

Meanwhile, Parliament had also contacted former Monitor managing editor Daniel Kalinaki, now exiled in Nairobi, Kenya, for the same job, but the journalis asked for a return ticket from Nairobi as a condition for his attending the interviews. When they played snake and ladders with his demands, he allegedly told them he was not in dire straits, job-wise.

This blog post will be updated later.

Ex-Monitor’s Njoroge Now Dines With The CEO

Njoroge smiles on the job at the desk of then news editor Alex B. Atuhaire. Facebook photo.
Njoroge smiles on the job at the desk of then news editor Alex B. Atuhaire. Facebook photo.

John Njoroge, the tenacious workaholic is back. Back to do what he loves doing: journalism. This time, though, Njoroge will be the editor in chief of the CEO magazine. Yes, the same magazine that Muhereza Kyamutetera has been running, the same magazine that Kyamu had decided, in March, was no longer worth printing and turned into an online publication.

Until this news, we thought Kyamu was the A and Z of Fireworks PR firm and CEO magazine who decides what happens according to the sounds in his restroom and snores in his bed, but we were wrong. Apparently, Kyamu is just like Piga Panga: he has bosses. So to say, the bosses, or is it the board of the company, sat and decided that Kyamu’s March decision was premature whatever likely to cause stillbirth. A preemptive decision was made to ensure the magazine is back on the newsstand. Njoroge was, thus, tasked to lead the new CEO team in revamping the magazine.

It has been a while for the man who, we can claim, started his journalism career at the now forgotten The Spy newspaper. In late 2010, Daniel Kalinaki hired Njoroge as a special projects writer for Daily Monitor. His nose for investigative stories was the death of him. Before the ongoing troubles of MTN came to public light, Njoroge had snooped around and dug dirt. He took some evidence and paperwork to his managers but unknown to him, he was already a target. Months earlier, Kalinaki had been lifted like some tired feather and thrown out the window toward the railway line on Eighth Street.

His exit saw the ‘purge’ of ‘Kalinaki alies’ and Njoroge and others like Barbara Among who were recruited during his tenure and with his blessings were considered PNG. The bosses Njoroge had submitted his investigative story idea to asked him to forget it. He refused. He went about digging, coming out with a lot of electric juice. Some troubles soon ensued after MTN was placed on the spot by Monitor and in the following weeks, Marsha Nyonyozi, the then head of HR who had joined the party that sent Kalinaki packing, asked Njoroge to tender in his resignation letter.

Njoroge was sacked for refusing to back down from an investigative story he had pieced together. Facebook photo.
Njoroge was sacked for refusing to back down from an investigative story he had pieced together. Facebook photo.

Njoroge refused. But he could not refuse his defenestration.

We don’t know what he has been doing, but he has been seen posing by some weird ghetto graffiti and other such hoardings advertising manhood enlargement. Say he was enlarging his journalism touche, eh?

Now back with a print medium, Njoroge is said to be talking big. Word is that he says he will change the outlook of how business reporting is done in Uganda. We wonder how. We shall wait patiently for his maiden issue as editor in come come June 1 so we can glean some of the trends he is setting. However, word is that Njoroge has been combing the market to come up with a new business reporting strategy. Again, we are eagerly waiting for that will be.

For now, we say congrats to Njoro and wish him all the best.

Ironically, Njoroge’s return into print media business follows some bizarre events. One of the guys who hurled him out of Monitor like he was some used tissue is now on the other side of the misery we call life. This guy is said to have filed a proposal to train RDCs. The budget submitted for the training is Shs150 million. The proposal is pending so to whet the ballpoint pens of the brokers and others pawns on the giant chessboard we call Uganda, the fellow decided to publish a dubious article in Eagle Online, a news portal.

The article, under the headline, ‘D’Mighty Breakfast show host Aisha in trouble over politics,’ was edited but this blog is in possession of the original allegedly filed with the editor of Eagle Online. Although the published version saw names edited, it was still easier to decode the identities of the people being dragged into this imaginary mire.

It follows that Charles Bichachi, the Monitor managing editor for Weekend Editions, was in the office on Monday. Some chaps quickly told this fellow that Bichachi was in the newsroom, upon which they cooked up a good story, dressed with the touch of a Frying Pun blog post for a dessert. And that is what hurts. Sure, style is not copyrighted, but if you are going to write so that some fellows begin to ask if we are the ones who wrote that particualar article, then we shall serve you a response.

These guys are ingenious. Very perfidious but clever lot. They know the MPL policy on politics. In fact, this guy was once on the spot for actively supporting an FDC politician in the party’s presidential race, so he knows rules. By the book, Aisha Alibhai is expected to resign if she makes up her mind on joining politics. Media reports indicate she will be tussling it out with Fred Opolot, the foreign ministry spokesperson, for Soroti Municipality seat to replace Capt Mike Mukula.

In the event that Aisha opts for politics and resigns from KFM, the cleverly preened article will score in the feeble-minded readers, who will turn guns on Monitor accusing it of persecuting staff leaning toward the ruling NRM.

In the Eagle Online article, this chap writes: “In January there was a national debate [Wow! National Debate? Wow!] after the newspaper sacked its Managing Editor for the daily editions, Mr Don Wanyama, on grounds that he had published the results of an opinion poll that painted opposition candidates including ex-premier Amama Mbabazi as being weaker than President Museveni. Again, it was this politician and his protégé who were said to be at the centre of Wanyama’s sacking. That time the call was placed to stand-in MD, Steven Gitagama, who, with the help of then Executive Editor, Malcolm Gibson, wielded the axe.”

What a way to do your own PR! Uganda is a country of many words defining one thing: talent. To further appeal to those who will approve the budget to ‘train RDCs’ the fellow goes on: “A month before Wanyama’s exit, MPL had again sent its Managing Director, Alex Asiimwe, packing on grounds of poor business leadership. Watchers, however, suggest that again this mafia could have had a hand in Asiimwe’s sacking.”

These strange things makes us want to reveal from who and how we got to know Asiimwe was sacked and why.

Strangely, Aisha does not seem to be aware that she was grilled.