The Observer (Kampala)

23 March 2014

Uganda: The Observer, a Gamble That Has Paid Off

March 25, The Observer Media Limited, publishers of the then Weekly Observer and now The Observer, celebrates ten years of existence.

It has been a mixture of fortunes, birth of careers, honing of talent and countless challenges. The first challenge was that eight months after the first anniversary, the founding Managing Editor, Kevin Ogen Aliro, died, on November 12, 2005.

With all the shock that his death unleashed on us, it also unfurled a bevy of doubting Thomases, including colleagues in the media some of whom gave us two weeks to fold up. We didn't take offence.

We decided not to feel sorry for ourselves but work harder. We decided that the only way we could honour Kevin's contribution was to ensure that The Weekly Observer did not fold. We have lived up to that commitment.

A lot of the comments made by our media colleagues were informed by the way the print media was socialised. Many were not risk takers. They were employed in fairly financially-stable organizations, so they didn't know what it took to run a private newspaper.

Their comments were largely informed by our history; they could be excused for there were indeed many newspapers that folded in their infancy.

But The Observer team decided to be different. We were unconventional in the way we ran the company. Where others aimed at making a quick buck, we chose to build a brand that would outlive our limitations.

As we indicated in our inaugural editorial, we undertook to be a fair medium. As a newspaper owned and run by journalists, we came onto the scene and changed the outlook of how news was written and reported.

We wanted readers to read us not for the eye-catching headlines but for the real enriching content. We provide insights and perspective on society's cultural and political affairs.

We always aim to answer the question, "so what" in our interpretive brand of journalism. Unlike other businesses that have started on sound financial bases, The Observer did not have much of that.

What we had were our journalism skills, a sense of sacrifice and commitment. This approach endeared many young talents to us. The Observer became a kind of melting point for raw talent. We are proud to have contributed to the careers and incomes of many young talents, whose futures would not be as certain if The Observer dream had not come true.

As expected, our thirst for depth and analysis brought us onto a collision course with many people, including the high and mighty. We are not infallible and when we go wrong, we are quick to say sorry and correct our mistakes. At the same time, our editorial approach has won us many international accolades.

In 2007, our current Editor Richard M Kavuma, then a special projects editor, won the CNN Multichoice African Journalist of the year award, after writing a riveting analysis of the pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Uganda.

This was barely three years after The Weekly Observer had been founded. Many other awards and fellowships have been won by our journalists both locally and internationally. We cannot thank enough all the readers who believed in us and decided to pick our copy from the newsstands, and those who chose to advertise with us. You have made us who we are today.

We may not have been recognised as investors, but we deserve that recognition because we have displaced unemployment to a certain extent.

Happy birthday, The Observer family!

Twitter:@piuskm

The author is the finance director, The Observer Media Ltd.

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