In an era where storytelling is constantly evolving, how do you seamlessly engage content creators, media eco-system, and sustainability enthusiasts to become better at their craft? That’s a question near and dear to the MCI Media Viability Talks.
We organized the first edition of the talks at the MCI Media Hub on 26th May 2021 to encourage more media innovators to persist in growing their ventures despite the several barriers they face as they strive to keep their businesses adrift. These challenges could involve access to funding, unfavorable investment policies and regulations, technical know-how, building a winning team, and many others.
The MCI Media Viability Talks took a deep dive into media innovation with the goal of information for public good with a spotlight on different innovators that are running platforms and producing news and content that is relevant to the public well-being. These innovators from multifaceted media backgrounds shared their storytelling techniques, content strategies and business models with a few invited guests. This was aimed at creating awareness and action around critical issues in society.
Under the stalwart of Moses Kiboneka – popularly known as Uncle Mo, a Ugandan automotive engineer, actor, media personality, and content creator – Loukman Ali, a filmmaker and one of the event’s speakers, emphasized the need for Ugandan content creators to invest in and create quality productions that can be readily consumed outside the borders of the Pearl of Africa. He insisted that it is one way to compete on a global scale. This way, Ugandan content will be able to catch the eye of the big video-on-demand (VOD) platforms like Netflix to pay attention so they can start investing in local content production.
“As storytellers, we have to be intentional & conscious about the language we use because stories are all about language and it impacts the interpretation and perception of the story,” emphasized Samuel Songa-Stone Mwesigwa, another speaker.
His brainchild, STORYTeld, is an independent media collective with a dynamic approach to journalism that offers an alternative to the mainstream media. They highlight societal issues that are often underreported and give a voice to communities and issues often pushed to the margin.
Caleb Okereke of Minority Africa said that “We measure impact by feedback we get about our stories since numbers usually derail us towards content creation. We are a slow newsroom that publishes more of the background of the story than break it.” Minority Africa is in the current cohort of the Innovators in Residence Program. They do data-driven storytelling around minority communities such as albinos, sexual minorities, and others, mostly in Africa.
During the MCI Media Viability Talk, the media innovators also shared the various methods they have used to stay afloat while producing content for public good during the unprecedented times of the pandemic. The day ended with a networking session serenaded by band music from the Titan Band.
If you missed out, the videos of the talks will soon be uploaded to the MCI YouTube channel. The MCI Media Hub will host two more Media Viability talks before the year is done, and several other activities around the subject so look out for those if this is your area of interest.
A modern face is very much on show at the Tirupati Mazima Mall in Kabalagala. MCI staff move in and out through the front door with the flash of their identity cards. Beyond the glow of the words MCI Media Hub in bold letters, the words Amplifying Media Innovations and the glowing bulb sit on a black wall welcome you to #TheFutureOf OfJournalism.
The co-working tables surrounded by the black seats with headrests outside a glass room – our social media studio – are a pleasantry to your sight. A faint glow from five bulbs light the mostly orange-themed pantry. Stickers showing the media interconnection with a television set, radio set, camera, social media icons is a silent but loud proof that the MCI Media Hub is changing the narrative one platform at a time. On top of the wooden terrace sit the words carrying the Media Challenge Initiative (MCI) belief, Journalism Can Make the World a Better Place.
Guests of the hub engrave their signatures in a customized visitors’ book at the entrance before the staff take them around to experience and get the feel of the new media hub’s event space, office spaces, radio and TV studio spaces, training room, boardroom, and production control areas.
This media hub has been a dream come true for Abaas Mpindi and the other founders at the Media Challenge Initiative for the past three years. During his journalism school days, Abaas walked back to school crestfallen after he was denied an opportunity to do an internship at a certain media house. Deep in thought, he imagined the plight of other young people struggling to get a breakthrough into the media industry but they were denied an opportunity. An idea popped up in his mind to start an initiative that equips young people with multimedia skills to empower them to create their own ventures in the media industry. This idea gave birth to the Media Challenge Academy which evolved into the Inter-University Media Challenge and now the Media Challenge Fellowship Program. As they say, the rest is history and the hub is the next big step in that journey.
With a slogan of ‘Amplifying Media Innovation’, the MCI Media Hub is a collaborative space that will support disruptive innovators with an enabling environment to accelerate ideas and solutions for journalism and media viability in Uganda and East Africa. Media Challenge Initiative CEO, Abaas Mpindi, said MCI launched the hub due to a core belief in the power of journalism and media innovators.
“At the Media Challenge Initiative, we do what we do because we believe that good journalism makes the world a better place. We also know that this kind of journalism is becoming harder to find. We have seen journalism and the overall media industry struggle to sustain itself due to changing business models and other challenges. We have, therefore, created a home for innovations and solutions addressing the viability of the industry because we are on a mission to nurture and incubate it,” Mpindi said at the MCI Media Hub launch.
The Hub intends to serve this role by providing high-quality media support services at affordable rates including a co-working space, hosting events and dialogues, media training, a state-of-the-art radio, and TV studio for hire, a shared newsroom, and an ecosystem of media innovators who are intentional about creating solutions to the challenges facing journalism. The Hub was launched in partnership with DW Akademie, Aga Khan University-Graduate School of Media and Communications, KfW, and the German Cooperation.
The Friday event started with the graduation of the 3rd class of Media Challenge Fellows, MCI’s flagship program that trains the top 26 journalism students every year in intensive multimedia skills and solutions-based journalism. The event also included the awarding of 9 journalism students who produced the best stories in the 2020 Inter-University Media Challenge, an annual training and journalism competition for up to 15 universities of journalism. The winning students reported TV, radio, online, and photo stories on how their communities were adapting and innovating during Covid-19.
Hon. Judith Nabakooba, the Cabinet Minister of ICT & National Guidance, who officiated the graduation event, said, “I promise that as the Minister of ICT and National Guidance, we shall also find ways of supporting these young innovators and [the Hub] being the first of its kind in Africa, we shall find ways of working with you, probably even to help train some of the government communicators on how to use online methods of communication, but also the fact-checking mechanism of what is being put on the social media spaces, and I believe we will do a lot with you.”