Taking an international approach

By Gus Bode

Ugandan journalist addresses SIUC students Wednesday

Sitting before the maroon and white of the SIUC flag, miles away from her homeland of Uganda, Sarah Namulondo fondly recalled her best experience as a journalist, writing the story of a young girl, which also helped her earn money for law school.

While remembering the experience still causes her to smile, there are many stories she has tackled that were far from pleasing.

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“When people think about Africa, they tend to think of war and starvation,” said Namulondo.

Namulondo, editor for Ugandan publication, spoke at SIUC Wednesday evening in the Communications Building during a presentation sponsored by the National Association of Black Journalists.

“We live in the U.S. so we don’t get a lot of coverage of nations like Uganda,” said Alyceson Gillespie, a senior in radio-television from Chicago and NABJ member. “When we do receive coverage, it seems to be negative, so it’s nice to hear someone from the country speak firsthand.”

While these images are common in her homeland, Namulondo wanted to provide SIUC students with images other than the ones presented on television.

“We want to try to get more black speakers,” said Norman Greer, a senior in radio-television from Carbondale and vice president of the SIUC chapter of the NABJ. “It’s a good opportunity for all people in communications fields to see someone like this.”

According to the African journalist, spending her youth in the presence of her 25 brothers and sisters contributed greatly to her desire to be a reporter. Needing a way to express the frustrations that come from living in such a packed house, Namulondo began using writing as a form of catharsis.

Though Namulondo never took any journalism courses in college and was actually a literature major, she gained experience by writing for her college publication.

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“I love writing but I was never really interested in the creative side,” said Namulondo. “I’ve always been more interested in writing what I see.”

Her ability to write all that she observed brought her to the Ugandan publication, “The Monitor,” where she eventually became an editor. It was at this position that a Scottish journalist attempting to recruit African women to share their experiences approached her. She was one of nine women selected to write stories to be submitted to a website for African women.

Namulondo currently works for the St. Louis Post Dispatch as an Alfred Friendly Press Fellow, a job established by the late journalist of the same name to give reporters from other nations the opportunity to experience American press firsthand.

In her three months working for the Post Dispatch, Namulondo has noticed a number of differences between United States publications and those in her homeland.

“You can’t write about a lot of things in my country,” Namulondo said. “If you talk about the army you can go to jail.”

Namulondo spoke briefly of those and other experiences in her speech to almost 50 students. After sharing stories about Sept. 11 and her country in general, she answered questions from several members of the audience eager to hear a speaker from an unfamiliar nation.

“There are a lot of differences between here and the United States,” said Namulondo. “But the important thing for any journalist to remember is to get your facts straight, no matter what country you’re in.”

Reporter Jessica Yorama can be reached at [email protected]

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