AWARD-WINNING JOURNALIST: Herbert Benon Oluka

By Herbert Benon Oluka

Criticism of the respective decisions by Chris Obore and Don Wanyama – among others – to swap journalism for government of Uganda service continues to dominate social media and beyond.
After observing this for a while, I want to offer an unsolicited view from the vantage point of someone who practices journalism. Initially, I didn’t study journalism. I studied human resource management (so don’t get surprised to see me swap media for HR one day). But I was drawn into print journalism by my passion for the written word.
However, after 12 years of practising journalism, and putting yourself in the firing line yo break some big stories, the reaction of your readership sometimes makes you wonder if its worth.
Its a question that I believe Chris and Don, both of who were in the media trenches before me, must have grappled with at some point.
As the investigations editor at Daily Monitor, Chris broke some of the biggest stories in the land on corruption, abuse of office, name it. But beyond the tweets and facebook shares, those stories were almost always forgotten by the next week – or even the next day.
So before you criticise Obore or Wanyama (today’s poster children of the many journalists who have moved on from the vocation), you have to ask yourself this very important question, “what civic action did I take on any of the many issues that these journalists investigated and exposed during their time?”
If you did not take any civic action to make government accountable for the many wrongs that these journalists exposed, then don’t you think these journalists would at some point get fatigued of doing the same things without getting any reaction from the public that they wrote for?
So the next time you read a story that I have investigated, please think of a way of following up the matter and bringing those accused of wrongdoing to account. Otherwise, we are all going around in circles and at some point either journalist or the passive reader gets fatigued of the same things.
The other criticism is that these journalists have betrayed their readers and followers of their work to go after money. Of course we conveniently forget that media practitioners are professionals who studied their vocations so that they could earn a living.
So if you want these professionals to continue earning a living by informing you through the media, then you had better support them by buying their products.
Dear reader of this opinion, if you were to be honest to yourself, how regularly do you buy a newspaper? When was the last time you bought a newspaper from Monday to Sunday? If you are not supporting the media by buying its products, then you might understand why some of the industry’s best eventually move on to do other things, including taking up jobs in government.
Although journalists often join the profession fuelled by passion, the reality is that they eventually grow up to have children, families and the demands of being providers. And if the media does not support them to do this, they may move on to other jobs that offer them the capacity to fulfill their obligations to their dependants.
Those are the realities we often don’t talk about.
So if you want your country’s best journalists to remain motivated to do their best, at least do these two things, if nothing else:-
(1) When you read a story they publish or broadcast, organise groups to demand action from those responsible – until action is taken. Don’t just put a link of the story to your fb page and write, “LOL.”
(2) Buy those newspapers off the stands so that we can pay our bills and so that we can finance good journalism. Good journalism costs money. It doesn’t happen in a vacuum.