Impact of commercial priorities on newspaper content in Uganda : a case study of the New Vision
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This study focused on analyzing the impact of commercial priorities on newspaper content in Uganda using the New Vision as the case study. In order to achieve the study objectives, the study adopted a content analysis technique to analyze the New Vision copies from February through April 2015 to determine the degree of commercialized content compared to other items. On the other side, the study obtained qualitative data from 30 respondents comprising of editors, reporters, freelances, and layout supervisors at the New Vision headquarters. The study found that; commercialization has significantly lessened the newsworthiness of newspapers in Uganda. In an attempt to realize their production cost and improve copy sales, newspapers (specifically the New Vision) have instead undermined the principles of objectivity, impartiality, balanced, accuracy, and clarity of news content. It was further found that even human stories have been sensationalized with the objective of influencing copy sales. The study has found that commercial items have the largest coverage compared to other items; in terms of space dedicated to adverts, positioning and categorized. In case a given story conflicted with the interests of the newspaper’s interest group, such a story would be dropped or twisted without giving facts to genuinely inform the readers. In one way or another, the findings reveal that the New Vision’s priority has shifted from being the apolitical watchdog who champions pluralism, and objectivity to the merchant selling news as a commodity. In context, real news is framed in such a way to downplay the big social and political picture to impress their interest groups. The study has therefore established that there is a lot of compromise, sensationalisation of news stories, and half-truths in an attempt to make profits; hence undermining news quality. Based on the study findings it was then suggested that informative-based content should be emphasized so as to address the audience’s information needs. On the other level, it is also necessary for newspapers to focus on content-led, information-based format and ‘open door policy’ in the media to empower the citizens. With regard to other areas of study, it was suggested that research be carried out on the impact of editor power and gatekeeping on content at the New Vision. This is intended to recognize the urgency for newsworthiness as a means to journalism accountability in Uganda.