2013 was an eventful year for most journalists in the country.
But it was even more eventful for Marie Louise Uwizeyimana as she was crowned journalist of the year 2013. Uwizeyimana is also the owner of Intego, a Kinyarwanda bi-monthly news paper. Women Today caught up with the journalist hours before her departure to Arusha for work related purposes and she gave insights into her journey from freelancing to having her own paper. Excerpts;
You are not only a journalist, word has it that you are an entrepreneur in the media industry, how do the two ‘hats’ fit?
I began my own newspaper in 2013. By then I had experience of nine years after working as a journalist in various print media houses in the country. I began as freelancer, and then went on to a salaried writer and later I worked as an editor.
Having worked with various media houses, I learnt the challenges of the industry. Some of the publications I worked for were not regular, which would leave me out of work at times. As a result of all the above I began my own paper, partly to correct flaws I noticed, often.
You must have made enough money to start your own paper. How did you raise the capital ?
I used to put aside some of what I earned as a worker. I had also learnt how the news paper business worked. So when I decided to start a newspaper I was able to draft a business plan within the financial resources I had.
Did everything go as expected?
Some of it worked as I expected but not all. I figured I had enough money to put out at least the first 10 editions of the paper, pay my reporters and other people I would be working with before returns would begin coming in.
But as I later realised printing expenses were high as I had to do it from Uganda. I did not sell as many copies as I thought I would and not everyone honoured the access to information law. But I stuck with what I was passionate about.
What kept you sane through the hard times?
Not to say that I have it easy now, but if you want to excel at times you have to get the thought of money out of your mind. See, in journalism you have to be wary not to be influenced by the money, give readers value for money and give the worthy insights at the same time. You should never lose sight of your goals.
Somehow you did all that and managed the top scribe award last year, how did you do it?
Let’s be clear on how I won the award first, I had sent in my pieces for consideration but that is not how I got the award, I got it because I was nominated by fellow journalists for my contributions to the profession. My contributions as a female journalist, as a media house proprietor.
You seem to have the profession close to your heart; do you always remind fellow scribes on ethics and what it takes to be a good journalist?
I try, we have journalists who are very professional and follow ethics, I try when I can to remind them that we have to do our bit to not only respect the set conducts but also contribute to development and progress through our work.
What keeps you up at night in your profession?
May be social media, but not in a bad way. I am in the print business and I sort of have to keep up with trends. We need to make money and keep the profession alive.
There is talk that ladies are outnumbered in media circles, what do you think of that?
Previously it was not easy for women to get through, many media house owners preferred male journalists for obvious reasons. Some thought that women would not make it through the conditions, doing investigative pieces, going out to the field. At times women too lacked self confidence or never wanted to perform. It is not as bad now, we need to sensitise women that they are as capable and can have a place too in the profession.
So what is your next step professionally?
I cannot predict what is coming next; to be honest I did not set out thinking I would get to where I am this fast. But I want to make sure I continue to make a difference where I can through my words and let people know that they can come from far and get to heights they never imagined. I hope I can keep up with new trends in the profession, hire and pay staff accordingly. At times I am humbled by the feedback I get.
What is your take home message?
Journalism is not about reporting the negative, it should be about contributing to the progress of society and to positively transform society.