The Role of Newspaper Columnists and Challenges

Daily Monitor
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The Daily Monitior is one of Uganda's major independent newspapers.

Harold Acemah

It will soon be nine years since I started writing a weekly Column for Uganda's Sunday Monitor newspaper in December 2012. I would like to thank Monitor Publications Limited (MPL) for the privilege and trust placed in me by Uganda’s leading daily newspaper which, despite blackmail, bullying, intimidation and threats from some unfriendly quarters, continues to publish the truth every day. I tell you, it’s not easy to tell and publish the bitter and unpleasant truth in most African countries, but the search for the truth must continue for the good of Uganda, Africa and the world.

I would also like to thank our esteemed readers, especially those who have sent me feedback on my Opinion pieces. Most of the messages are constructive and positive, but occasionally I receive hostile and negative feedback which I treat as an occupational hazard.

When I began to write for Sunday Monitor the template for a column could fit about 700 words, but this was reduced last year by MPL management to 600 words which is frankly not sufficient to do justice to a subject matter. Even the font was reduced which senior citizens with weak eyesight tell me makes reading the newspaper difficult.

Columnists are the conscience and voice of the people, especially the voice of the silent majority of wananchi. We interpret the feelings, views and wishes of the people, analyze and discuss political, social and economic problems facing wananchi and propose concrete solutions to address and solve people’s challenges and problems.

From the feedback we receive from our readers, I get the impression that many readers do not either know or appreciate the role of columnists. In this regard, I need not reinvent the wheel. Let me share with our readers what Kenyan columnist, Professor Makau Mutua, of our sister newspaper the Sunday Nation of Nairobi, Kenya wrote in an Opinion piece published on August 22, 2021.

“Much of the ink in any newspaper is dedicated to passive spoon-feeding of the hapless public. Which means the reader opens her (his) mouth and news is shoveled into the cavity willy-nilly. That’s not the purpose of the opinion pages.

“Op-ed writers are the closest thing to the intelligentsia in a newspaper. They think, digest and spit out – don’t laugh – wisdom. Their job is erudition. They are reductionists of sorts. Theirs is a labour of the intellect.”

They tell you not what, how or the where, but rather the why and the why not. They extrapolate and elucidate. Whereas the reporter stops at the finish line of the hundred meter dash, the columnist keeps running and asking why?”

That in a nutshell is what yours truly and my colleagues Mr. Alan Tacca, Dr. Muniini Mulera of Toronto, Mr. Norbert Mao and many others have been doing every week over the years. We are the equivalent of marathon runners.

It has been an honor and a pleasure to share my personal views every week with all of you on a wide variety of topical issues. I am grateful to all readers who have sent me feedback. We are all passengers in the same boat, facing more or less similar challenges and problems. I believe we can and must learn from each other. Nobody is perfect in this world, nobody knows it all and as Scripture teaches, all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. 

Aluta continua!

Arua, Uganda

October 7, 2021.

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