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the trials of a first time ugandan journalist (standard:humor, 585 words)
Author: DAVID TUMUSIIMEAdded: Feb 19 2004Views/Reads: 2785/0Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
good god! what the journalism life is about down here in uganda, and some of the fun...


I always knew I was very good at writing from the first time English, a
classroom, a pen, paper and I met.  The marks said so. Which is why it 
is strange that until a friend suggested I earn a few Museveni 
shillings on my own by writing for a newspaper, I had never thought of 
it myself.  It seemed so obvious I was amazed how blind I could have 
been to not see it for myself.  Admittedly, he was tired of me 
borrowing bitanno (500 shillings) for lunch everyday. 

In a week anyway, I had fashioned a piece of work over which I could
stick out my chest and strut like a cock crowing in the morning.  A 
heartbreaking work of staggering genius that would put me at par with 
our most famed local author Okot P'Bitek, I believed.  My teachers 
would say, “I taught him! Yes, he was my student. He used to sit right 
there.”  As I sent this work in to the newspaper I thought most worthy, 
I was already rehearsing my Nobel for Literature speech. 

I was confident it would appear in the very next issue of this
newspaper. So I waited for publication. And waited. And waited. A week 
passed. Two weeks passed. The third week began and still my piece had 
not been used. 

My heart, as they say, was in my boots. I gathered all my indignation
and went over to this ungrateful newspaper to demand an answer as to 
why they had not used my piece. Could they not realize Uganda's 
greatest writer had deigned to recognise them? When were they using my 
essay? (I did not call it that low down name: an article.) 

It might be me but I think editors go to a certain secret academy that
must specialise in intimidation courses. The phrase, ‘he fixed his eye 
on me,' is exactly like that. I froze where I was standing as soon as I 
came face to face with the editor who had consigned my glorious piece 
to the proverbial newsroom dustbin. 

I do not stammer but that is what happened as I asked him about my
article. He did not even remember it at first! When he did, I wished he 
hadn't. “We are a newspaper. We don't publish soap operas. That is what 
you wrote.” 

“Yes, sir.” 

“This soap opera is set in Uganda, right? You seem to be an observant
young man. Tell me, since when did Uganda begin to experience seasons 
like autumn and winter as you wrote?” 


“I may not be a writer like YOU WRITERS (he emphasized those words.) I'm
only a journalist. But if you want to write for ME, you have to prove 
yourself. Can you do an assignment? Good, come back tomorrow morning at 
nine sharp.” 

There was light at the end of this dark, dark tunnel! I came armed the
next morning at eight with all a journalist's implements. Two pens, a 
writing notepad, even a recorder and received my assignment. 

“I want you to go to one of the mortuaries in Kampala. Mulago or the
K.C.C. one and see the conditions there. Talk to the mortuary 
attendants, write a story about it. I will use it.” 

I smiled broadly and appreciatively at this chance given to me, noted
down all the story angles this editor wanted, walked out of the 
newsroom on my first assignment and was never seen again in that 


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