The Headline Struggle

Recently I attended a media forum on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) organised by Reach a Hand Uganda (RAHU) dubbed Share 101. I was on leave from my day job when I received the email inviting me for this event. I had no idea what to expect. All I knew is what the email said which I did not understand that much.

In case you had doubts

I later got to find out that it was meant to be a dialogue  between the media and the different stakeholders in the field of sexual reproductive health and rights. It was meant to give the people on either side an opportunity to understand each other so that these SRHR issues as they are referred to can be reported on and reported on correctly.

Several issues came up during the course of the dialogue which took on many forms. (Thank you RAHU team for making sure you kept it interesting.) Ranging from panel discussions, Q & A sessions to group activities and presentations, everything was effective and showed careful thought and consideration.

One issue stood out for me which was also the focus of the group activity that we were involved in and that was the titles that we choose for our stories. In more ways than one, it had been made clear that stories on health or more specifically SRHR are not considered interesting. They are not considered by editors as the stories that will bring in the ratings and yet all these media houses that the various people represented were businesses that have to make money.

This issue brought to light that even the journalists that covered these stories may be bored(for lack of a better word)  by the subject of SRHR . This could be seen in the sorts of stories we wrote and worse still the headlines we choose for them. Headlines that read like Health reports for a Master’s class.

But what really is the problem? As a writer, I will be the first to admit that finding a suitable title for a piece of writing can be challenging. However, I have discovered over time that it is more challenging when I’m not sure what I’m saying or to whom I’m saying it.

As one of our colleagues in the media fraternity pointed out, the journalists are so often called in to cover events celebrating closure of projects we were never part of. We therefore end up seeing it as the same old story all the time hence the generic headlines. On the other side, we as the media were reminded of the value of curiosity to a journalist. The character that desires to dig deeper and ask questions.

On top of that, we have to recognise that different media communicates to different groups of people. Overtime we have grown from having Television, radio and print media as the only and major communication platforms to the inclusion of social media. It is therefore important to note that there is a demographic that pays more attention to the latter than the former .



What is the bottom line?

The issues concerning Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights are vital and should be treated as such. We should therefore take it upon ourselves as stakeholders to find a way to deliver the message in such a way that the intended recipient will actually want to hear it. However, as no man is an island, this shouldn’t be one person or organisation or profession’s fight. If we all work together, bring what we have to the table, then we shall see it getting the coverage it deserves.


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