By Andrew M. Mwenda
In December 2010, The Independent celebrated its third birthday. Given the high mortality rate of newspapers in Uganda, it is really a miracle that we are still alive – and growing. Over the last three years, The Independent has consolidated its place within the Ugandan news and opinions market and grown into a respected and influential publication. We at The Independent take little credit for this achievement. The real heroes in this unprecedented growth are you, our readers and advertisers, who have supported us even when our work has fallen below your expectations.
Given this support, we asked ourselves what more we can do for you. Should we host a big party to celebrate with you this achievement? Should we send each one of you a souvenir? Or should we place a big advert in the magazine thanking all of you for your unwavering support? We know all our advertisers. But we do not know all our readers because they are a large number of anonymous people in Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and Juba. We decided that the best reward is first and foremost to uphold and improve on our mission to promote free and unfettered democratic expression.
However, that was not enough; we felt the magazine needed to improve its look. We agreed to give you a better designed and printed magazine, a look that will be attractive to the eye and a design that will allow smooth eye navigation of its pages. But we also decided to improve the editorial content of your magazine – make it more in-depth, introduce an international column and add more variety and guest writers to supplement our team of young, talented and ambitious reporters.
The new product we have designed for you will be Shs 4,000 per copy and the new advertising rate card will be communicated soon. We are confident that you will find this product more informative, more analytical and better designed, but most important, true value for money. If there is any part of the improved design and content that does not please you, kindly inform us as always via the emails provided on the content’s page. We will be all happy to listen to your concerns and respond to your need in every possible way.
The Independent is not a business like any other. It was set up first and foremost to expand the frontiers of liberty, freedom and democratic expression. However, we realised that we can only pursue these objectives when we are financially viable and economically sustainable. Thus, the search for profit is not primary to our business model; it is only derivative. We seek to be profitable only in as far as this helps us sustain ourselves as a platform for professional journalism that is not beholden to political and business interests.
This is not to say we are blind to the political imperatives of the country and the interests of business. In fact, The Independent believes in free choice of citizens in both politics and in markets. We believe that the best economy is one organised around a free market ethic; where the state creates an enabling environment for individuals to innovate and create wealth. However, we also believe that man is not subordinate to the market. Rather the market should be subordinate to man; hence we need a strong state that can ensure an effective regulatory framework to cushion society against reckless behavior by unscrupulous individuals in the market.
We welcome views as diverse as diversity itself. We encourage our readers to participate in the magazine by contributing articles and letters to the editor. We have a website where anyone can go and upload any opinion, however offensive but not insulting or insensitive, and we leave it there. The debate on our website is often heated, although sometimes it degenerates into unsubstantiated allegations and indecent squabbles. We appeal to our readers to exercise the freedom to use our site with responsibility; if you abuse any free platform, you create justification for its curtailment.
We are redesigning the website to make it more interactive and to give it more features – a social media section, complete with audio and video interviews and daily podcasts. We will have also a section for freewheeling debate on major national and international issues. The new website has created a section for our readers to engage in citizen reporting. You can write a story for The Independent online and upload it yourself from wherever you are.
We know that we can never be perfect. Many times our stories impress some and annoy others. Our opinions, especially my personal opinions, do not always agree with those of some of my most committed readers. Many of you get frustrated and angry at this. But always remember that The Independent was not set up so that people can agree on beliefs. On the contrary, it was set up to harness the intellectual diversity in our society, to show the world that can disagree without being disagreeable.
One of the challenges our democracy faces is that many participants in national debate are intolerant of the opinions they disagree with. Instead of responding to issues, they answer with personal insults and false accusations. This behavior is injurious to the creation of a democratic culture where people agree to disagree. Across Uganda’s political divide – whether it is the opposition or the ruling party – there is too much intolerance of diversity. We implore our readers to enjoy even those opinions they violently disagree with.
Thus, as we enter the new year, we at The Independent promise you more hard work – to always strive to our level best to uphold the principles of professional journalism: to be truthful and accurate, fair and balanced. We will also continue to give you better insight into the news events and better analysis of those events enriched with the most details of what goes on in the corridors of power.
We hope that you will find the new product enjoyable to read and educative and illuminating in its editorial content. We also hope you will find our redesigned website a wonderful experience. Please accept our best wishes for the new year.