Why My Profile Picture Is Not ‘Frenchlising’

Posted in Uncategorized on November 16, 2015 by SongaStone

My only issue with the sudden rampant huing of profile pictures with French flag colors is that most of you are less likely to do the same if what happened in Paris happened elsewhere. Even Facebook is less likely to create that ‘hue your picture in solidarity’ function. YouTube won’t change its favicon to resemble the flags of those places and most of you won’t even hear about it or even know where it happened. Yet, such, and much much more (no I’m not belittling anything) happens every day. Even in places that could fittingly rival Paris in beauty and memories.

While we have a collective and an independent right to select what we grieve over, as a species, we ought to reflect on what we’ve become given how global all our problems have become. Ebola is not an African problem for it can kill Americans and even end up on British streets. Non-Muslim whites can become terrorists. A child whose parents are killed in a drone attack sanctioned by your country can become the suicide bomber at your child’s school…

In the wake of the Paris attacks, much of the rhetoric from world leaders promises more bombs over Iraq and Syria where the same countries they lead have normalised death. Take note dear people whose argument is such that Paris is making headlines because bombs are rare in the City of Lights. The corrupted minds behind those attacks are saying otherwise. No place is normal today.

As more and more people colour their pictures red, white and blue, I wonder whether they are setting a precedent that will see them learn the colours of all countries given that nihilism knows no boundaries (one of the explosions was in the same vicinity as the leader of a ‘super power’). After all, if no human life is more sacred or important than the next, we should all be huing our pictures with different colours every weekend. Or, they are doing so because well, it’s Paris.

@SongaStone

Here’s to the next chapter: NBS TV

Posted in Uncategorized on October 22, 2015 by SongaStone
Photo Credit: Jjumba Photography

Photo Credit: Jjumba Photography

I am humbled and equally excited to announce my latest appointment at Next Broadcasting Service (NBS) Television where I join the digital department as the new online content editor .

The journey from one life chapter to another is sometimes strewn with depressive uncertainty, a tonnage of unanswered questions, detours, almosts and firsts. At many bends over the last year or so, much of me felt like it was losing to the resultant ghouls that haunted me. But to be human is to soldier on and be hopeful, especially during those times when there is barely anything to look forward to. Or so I continue to learn.

This next chapter brings with it more reasons to be hopeful and bespoke challenges that make taking the step even more exciting. I’m passionate about new media tools whose advent is endlessly changing newsroom dynamism and directly affecting how today’s journalist disseminates information, while empowering the public. Being part of the revolution on a stage such as NBS TV, a key player, is a welcomed experience. I look forward to being a part of a widely handpicked team of hard working and creative people aboard a ship that’s set sail.

Finally, a special thanks to those who extended a listening ear and firm hand these past many months; naming names only seems to dilute the special feeling your kindness brought and continues to bring. Asante!

And to the people who have entrusted me with my newest responsibility, thank you, too. Rolls up sleeves. Girds the loins. 

Songa Samuel-Stone MWESIGWA

@songastone

This Is What I Have Been Up To: athingunderstood.com

Posted in Uncategorized on October 7, 2014 by SongaStone

Dear everyone, hope this finds you well.

Been a while since I last put up something detailedly personal here. October makes it 10 months since I left Radiocity 97FM and moved to Nairobi for school at the United States International University.

A number of you, through comments, tweets, emails and inboxes, have been asking what I have been up to (which is evidence that school has had me pinned down). I hope this post, with which I intend to share where my journalistic journey is at, will answer the what-have-you-been-up-to question.

Moving to Nairobi reminds me of the first time I swam in the deep end. Those first moments when the coach threw me into the water, I had two options. Sink and drown. Or use my newly-acquired floating skills and stay afloat. I chose the latter.

The media environment in Kenya, or Nairobi specifically, is deep in many aspects. “More” might be the righter word. More zeal. More competition. More money. More radio and TV stations. More people who are good at what they do. More international channels setting up base. More possibilities and opportunities. More and more more.

To keep afloat in this deep end, I have found myself dedicating time to bring to existence an idea which first came to mind back in 2012. Coincidentally, the idea seems to sync with a growing trend at big news outlets such as the New York Times.

This is the idea in a couple of lines.

More than ever, the internet has made the consumption of news a very pacy and dynamic experience. With breaking news just a click away, journalists and those who employ them, have found themselves flying with this must-have-it-first kind of news dissemination.

The jostle has somehow shifted journalists from the initial responsibility of angling whatever it is they are disseminating in a manner that helps the consumer understand it. Rather, the commonest way of doing things today is breaking the news…more breaking until we have to break another story. Before the consumer can understand what the Marburg hullabaloo is about, we are telling them about Eurobonds and throwing numbers from a new alarming study. Factors such as limited resources make this model the affordable option.

Affordable as it might be, this way of doing things definitely leaves a gap that can only be filled if, as journalists, we pause and explain things once in a while. At the moment, there is a noticeable shift in newsrooms around the world to bring back the explanatory angle. Not like it had gone extinct but clearly, it’s been overshadowed by the BREAKING NEWS way of doing things.

My idea, athingunderstood.com, can somewhat be described as an addition to this movement in which journalists, media owners and even consumers, are starting to realise that breaking the news or having the scoop first is not enough. Information today is often carrying a never-seen-before story e.g. the ongoing Islamic State story in Iraq. If local audiences are to understand the issue at hand, which is every journalist’s intention, the role of explaining things is inevitable.

The A Thing Understood website is ready to go online and will be launched on October 9, which also happens to be my birthday. It is not a breaking news website. No. It is a place whose goal is to attempt and explain certain aspects of the news cycle as much as possible.

I look forward to hearing your comments about the site and while this makes for a lengthy read, it cannot end without a THANK YOU to everyone who wishes me well.

Thank you.

Songa Samuel-Stone

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When Small Miracles Create A Smile!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on April 14, 2014 by SongaStone

Image

One of those days when something magical happens. For the past nine days, alongside five other young people from across Africa, I have been part of efforts to help one organisation find a way out of its biggest concern. The 10-day event is the first Social Innovation Safari in Kenya. In fact, in Africa.

Operation Smile Mission in Kenya has for the last twenty seven years offered free world-class corrective surgeries to children (and even adults) born with cleft lips and/or pallets. The organisation is keen on being more visible and attracting more funders. Today, my team put our strategy on trial by going to one of the malls in Nairobi armed with attractive messages asking people to smile, and then telling them about O.S. We talked to nearly 100 people.

While we were not there to ask for money but rather to spread the word, one moment made everyone smile. As he drove his shiny SUV past us, he just couldn’t help but do what one of the posters said, SMILE 4 ME. He stopped and asked what was going on. Soon, he was interested. In fact, he wanted to do something. He liked the Facebook page and went ahead to send $300 to the organisation’s mobile money account. That amount is exactly what Operation Smile needs to carry out one surgery.

Our plan was to practically test our strategy but it turned out to deliver a moment that just lit up the entire group towards seeing into it that more is done. Change is alive. Kind people, too. A S/O to the driver of KBP 448A and all the people who spared their evening minutes to listen.

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Goodbye Home…I Am Going Home!

Posted in Uncategorized on January 6, 2014 by SongaStone

As a boy, the best gift ever was the collection of C.S Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. The books introduced me to a world of imaginative thinking and as early as ten, I was already building my own daydreamed-empire. No mythical beasts or talking animals but every passing day, I kept visualising myself, many times during boring torturous Mathematics classes, as a journalist. The arrival of 2014 for me brings what is no doubt the most exciting chapter of my life’s journalistic journey, which long ceased to be fictitious. A chapter that starts with me leaving home, saying goodbye to many familiar faces and stepping out into the vastness that is Nairobi, Kenya.

Unbeknownst to many, I am currently degreeless. Yes, this 23-year-old is yet to earn his first degree.

At the end of my Greenhill Academy high school days, my evidently abound interest in becoming a journalist just couldn’t let me do the obvious. For a person who had grown up overdosing on the World Service and 24-hour TV news channels to a point that I knew most jingles by heart and can up to today name almost all long-standing faces and voices, enrolling for the staple Mass Communication degree offered by many Ugandan institutions just didn’t excite me enough. After years of an education system that bored me to hell and back, I wanted more out of school. I was beyond the study-and-get-done excitement. The fact that some institutions’ chances of closing indefinitely are beyond 90 just didn’t help in my search for that school. I explored options of studying beyond home but the money factor was a high hurdle. Next move? I decided to look for work and raise money. Even my understanding parents couldn’t stop me.

I knocked on every door that had any possibility, however slight, of taking in an ambitious boy whose only experience as a journalist was a few stints at magazines that died faster than the iPhone battery. But people inside the rooms I entered just kept throwing slices of how the world works in my face. One comment inspired me to search on. This hot day I knocked on an ageing door that let me into the most dreadfully untidy office I have ever endured. Between struggling to swing on her squeaky swivel chair, haranguing me and endlessly smiling at her laptop, she blurted, “all you have is ambition…I have seen many like you and I’m sorry to tell you, you will need about five years to ever climb the ladder.”  Months later, that same person was to unknowingly ring a stranger (me) proposing that he joins her new workplace as a newscaster because she’d listened in and loved what she heard. I have never enjoyed saying no to anyone.

The truth is, I was no ordinary nineteen-year-old. I have never been. Unlike many my age, I had the resolve, I already knew what path I was to take (was even already shunning those I felt didn’t pass my expectations)…I even had four years of experience as a school assembly news reader during my days at Kitante Hill School. I wasn’t about to give up. Frustration drove me to take a job as an office assistant at a child care organisation. I hated every day. Before long, I convinced a manager at a Christian radio station to give me a chance to go on air. Before long, I was a sit-in anchor, an anchor…then the weeks flew by.

Prior to that job, I was willing to even work for free but four months after I went on air, I wanted the money.

The first paying opportunity came when a budding radio station called me for a newscaster job. The past two and a half years at Radiocity 97FM changed me. They proved further that my calling, my vocation was in the newsroom. That I managed to garner the success I did during the last three years also proved that the journalist is more likely to be made by what they bring to the table when the spotlight shines down on them…not whether they hold a degree in journalism. Or not. Contrary to common reality that whiz kids are exploited, my salary soon doubled to what most radio anchors in the city don’t take in, it arrived on time and everyone treated me as an equal.  I had no option but to thrive.

Screenshot of my profile on radiocity.ug

Screenshot of my profile on radiocity.ug

But as I cashed in, the idea of school lingered heavily. Especially, when my aspiration to venture into television met opportunity. When Victoria University added a Media, Communication and Journalism degree program to its menu, I was in. But before I could graduate, 2013 delivered the most frustrating news. VU closed in what later turned out to be a decision aroused to fruition by the now-passed Anti-Homosexuality Bill. As much of the world around me went on ignorantly praising the institution for standing by the “accepted moral standards”, I was deflated. After working very hard to get in, I was back to the school hunting game. Buckingham University’s decision to severe ties with Victoria University victimized a few hundreds but as I went on air with the news that January 8 afternoon, I realised how much of a victim it had left me. My job cushioned much of the low moments that ensued.

And 2013 wasn’t done with its ‘almosts’. From a D.C World Bank opportunity that nearly swung my way to many other such opportunities, I gloomily waded through the year searching for any opportunity that would quickly get me back on my feet financially to aid my return to school. I even auditioned for a singing competition whose $50,000 prize seemed reachable. Later, I couldn’t appreciate enough that I never proceeded any further.

One of 2013’s best moments was when my name was read out as winner of the “Best News & Information Personality” category at the maiden Social Media Awards.

Truthfully, I expected NTV Uganda’s Maurice Mugisha to take the award which also had KTN Kenya’s Joy Doreen Biira, my friend Raymond Mujuni (URN) and David Muwonge. The award re-ignited the hunt for a way out of my educational limbo. On my way home, I remember asking God to guide me to the best solution out of my educational dilemma. Not like being degreeless had ever bothered. Not at all. But I wanted it out of the way yet I was keen on not just getting it out of the way. I wanted it to be a real experience.

The very month I won the award, I started my application into the John-Allan Namu-producing United States International University which on December 19th returned positive news.

My acceptance into USIU (B.A Journalism) meant I had to leave my job at RC that I dearly loved. But I more than anyone know that the journalist I see myself being in five years requires that I make this detour. I deferred school to make money. That money – of course coupled with parents’ and friends’ support – is taking me to school.

Born to a Kenyan-Luo man and growing up in Uganda, the journey to Nairobi, arguably the media capital of the region, is a chance to experience the land of my father beyond the short trips from my childhood. It takes me away from a pair of eyes I wish I could see everyday, it distances me from my comfort zone and promises to stretch my abilities to points I have always yearned for. The challenge of being thrown in a larger pool means I must work extra hard lest I am swallowed by the crowd. I would never have imagined or accepted a better challenge.

I am grateful for my ever supportive family that long accepted my fate. To my few but special friends that have always diversely cheered me on, thank you. Special thanks to Lisa Edmisten, my first journalism teacher, you might never fully know what getting to know you did to this journey. To everyone who gave me a chance to prove myself including the people and organisations that boosted my income by paying for my social media knowledge, asante! And to myself, thank you for dreaming. And thank you for never tiring from working towards that dream. To Kenya, be kind to your son. At least try.

Goodbye home, I am going home.

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Have Two Gay Men Been Killed In Uganda This Month? Not Yet.

Posted in Uncategorized on December 29, 2013 by SongaStone

UPDATE: Uganda’s Constitutional Court annulled the anti-gay law on Friday August 1, 2014 on grounds that it was passed by MPs without the requisite quorum and was therefore illegal. 

I’m aware of the homophobic attitudes in Uganda and from social media comments, many people seem to have the resolve to kill a gay person if they had a chance. But I’m not falling for this “graphic” video titled ‘Another Gay Man Killed In Uganda – Kampala‘.

At 0.36, the truth seems to flash by. Fast and almost inaudible but to keen ears, there seems to be a difference in the sound of the man seemingly narrating and the extra voices. As the clip ends, it almost seems like the man at the receiving end is one of the many who fall prey to mob justice, a very Ugandan thing, sadly. The narrator seems to talk over the man who uses Luganda to say the victim was caught trying to enter somewhere. That contradicts somehow with the caption on the video:

“Ssekasi John aged 29 was a business man who always hosted male friends at his home in Kasangati. On Sunday as he was at Kalerwe Market stage, one of the boda boda riders refused to ride him home simply because he one of the riders on the same stage had informed him that he (Ssekasi John) was a gay who at one time wanted to have annual [sic] sex with him….Its at that point that other riders started attacking him and hence ended up using mob justice onto him…..Its now official that being a gay or lesbian leads you to life imprisonment in Uganda.”

This video comes days after a picture of a charred body made rounds on a number of beyond-Uganda websites. Guess that explains the use of the word “another” in the headline on the video above. The picture’s caption: “Man burned alive for being gay in Uganda as crowd looks on“. The picture might have been taken months or years ago most probably somewhere in West Africa.

So, what could be the story behind these questionable images?

I have listened to some journalists (people who are expected by the rules of the game to be as unbiased as possible) say they wouldn’t cover an incident of violence or mob justice towards a homosexual! Some would therefore argue, the incidents captured in that picture and the one in the video did happen [to gay people in Uganda] but the media shunned them. Maybe. Maybe not.

With no evidence to blame journalists for shunning incidents of brutality towards homosexuals, these are the other suspect scenarios.

1) The images are the work of some people [probably activists] who feel a charred body or a bleeding man being hit with a huge stick will help pass on the message of the hate this country rides on. That anyone would see this as an exploitable option is beyond me.

or

2) The images are the work of people out to make those part of the call for equality be better liars than they’ve been portrayed already. And if this is surely the case, it is working. The activists are being blamed for thinking shallow and being desperate to pass on a message. Even if that means voicing over a clip or sharing an unverified picture online and claiming, this is what is happening in Uganda.

Recently passed by Parliament, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill [even before it becomes law] has awakened tonnes of irony-infested bigotry much of which is hinged on how “unAfrican” being gay is. That is if the comment is not God-Hates-Homosexuality religious.

One doesn’t need a video or pictures to know what some people’s attitudes towards homosexuals are. Just look at the comments on the ensuing news stories. People that say they are religious calling for the killing of gay men. It is intriguing how creative a human mind can get when it allows savagery to bloom. One comment on a newspaper Facebook page wanted government to provide the public with acid to be used on anyone suspected or known to be gay! The picture and the video seem to fall within the level of hatred in that comment [respondent quoted a scripture at the end] but even such doesn’t justify the use of unsubstantiated images.

People that consider themselves gay activists need to come out and denounce these images because clearly, they are a threat to what they stand for. The international community in its efforts to rein in also needs to be aware of the effects random collective conclusions might bring [or are already bringing] to the campaign for equality. Proving a fact based on lies is buzz generating but soon, the case is watered down.

To people that consider themselves good journalists, now more than ever, step out and tell the balanced story. Beware of the viral pictures. Verify the facts. Even when they turn out to collide with your views on the issue of homosexuality. If a man is stoned to death and the perpetrators claim it was because he was gay, the good journalists expose the injustice. They don’t join the clapping crowd. I am planning on visiting Kalerwe Market soon to ask about a Sunday incident in which a man was beaten . It will be a surprise if my doubts turn out false but I am open to that, too.

My earlier take on this widely criticised, widely welcomed, headline-making bill stands; the bill would be fantastic if it made it impossible or more realistically, very hard for instances where adult men and women take advantage of minors from happening. But from the look of things, there’s lots of attention towards what people that qualify to be adults do. In private. Sounds like an ambitious law. I wish it success. It even goes ahead and proposes punishments for those who know homosexuals but fail to report them! I wonder if Ugandan Prison Break fans will have to report Wentworth Miller or else they face time in jail.

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HOMOSEXUALS & SOUTH SUDAN COMPETE AS ‘MEN OF GOD’ DELIVER CHRISTMAS SERMONS

Posted in Uncategorized on December 25, 2013 by SongaStone

Anglican Church Archbishop Stanley Ntagali in his Christmas message: “If sorcerers & murderers don’t ask for recognition, homosexuals in Uganda shouldn’t too”. 

St. Johns Kijabwemi Church of Uganda Rt. Rev Amos Friday has advised gays and gay activists to “go to hell”. 

In his first Christmas message, Pope Francis has called for peace in Syria, Central African Republic, South Sudan and all other regions in the world affected by conflict. 

In his first Christmas sermon, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby has called on Christians to “challenge the causes of poverty”.

Christians have been cautioned against adoring political leaders but instead turn to God. Pastor Calvin Oule made the call during his Christmas Day sermon at Watoto Central.

“Christmas is not about how much you spend today but about how you spend it,” Pastor Jackson Ssenyonga (CLM). 

Meanwhile, as Catholic observers come out with numbers of how many Christians are killed because of their faith annually (9,000-100,000), a bomb has ended at least 15 lives in Baghdad as the church members dispersed after a Christmas sermon.

She might not be a “man of God” but well, Princess Ruth Komuntale at her first public appearance has thanked those who stood by her during her divorce (her words not mine…had no idea they divorced) and wished everyone a merry Christmas.

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