The fan whirrs above me. It has done so from the time I entered in here and it never seems to help that much; It’s still stewing hot. I am boiling. Everyone is boiling. I am buried in my PC, trying to bit a deadline. My editor sends me a message that we are running out of time. I am running out of ideas, too (writers block, I guess). I am in the newsroom. The New Vision. Hurled in this section where freelancers and photographers sit (I rarely sit this side.
I am here to look for space to sit and churn out my story and leave). This place is a cesspool of ideas. This is akin to New York stock exchange. It’s where stories are bred. It’s where stories go through a metamorphosis process and grow legs and wings and fly back into the world for public consumption. It’s the marketplace for assignments. Journalists walk around restless, like mothers in labor. They are asking for space to plug in their laptop. They are looking for a free computer to hurriedly send in their stories without their editors breathing down their necks (or breaking their necks). They are talking, loudly. Laughing and engaging in banter, mocking each other and discussing a burning topic. They are on the phone, calling fellow journalists in the field, scribbling down their notebooks. They are on phone communicating with their sources, quoting them and telling others to fucking keep quiet for a minute, at least a minute. It’s fun. It’s terrifying, too.
On my side sits this seasoned journalist; he remains seated, perusing through the pictures he took from the field. He pulls his chair closer to mine and hisses in my ear as he recounts how he was nearly killed in yesterday’s melee in the city. I stare back at him, listening intently as he goes on and on about how a teargas canister hovered over his head and he had to duck in a nearby manhole (he exaggerates sometimes). I want to laugh, but I can’t. Yesterday was him, today could be me. I sit up and listen to his endless diatribe that, to me, looks like a low-budget movie. If people weren’t around, he would have broken in tears and cried from my shoulder.
Anyways, elections are here. And journalists, countrywide, are polishing their shoes and checking the ink in their pens and blank pages in their notebooks. To them, this is like war; they are cleaning their artillery and arsenals to shoot stories from a distance. The newsroom reeks of elections. One journalist shows me his official ID from Electoral Commission permitting him to cover the elections; he looks as though he has won a lottery. He tells me that this is getting started. I pat his shoulder and tell him to go and nail it.
Elections are a nightmare if you are in news business. You don’t bat an eyelid. You are officially insomniac in here. You don’t whine and curse. There is no time to go shake your wee-wee. There is no room for era. It’s like fishermen, you dive in there and people except you to come out with a catch in hand, a giant tilapia, a mud fish, or worse a frog. But you have got to come out with something. Reporters have their ears on the ground. They, like greyhounds, stick their noses in the air and smell a story from a distance and write it before it hits other media houses. The newsroom is a battlefield. This is like Russian roulette. You miss, you are hit. You miss a story, you competition carries it. I can feel the election fever in here.
The editors stare on the PCs intently. Armchair journalists watch the television with their notepads in hand. Photojournalists are cleaning their lenses. Writers are polishing their words. Political writers are cleansing their manners. Subeditors are learning alphabets and mathematics because they have no room to make errors in numbers and percentages. Cartoonists are sharpening their pencils. Designers are laying the pages. Business reporters are looking for new angles. Will the shops close? And when they close, will our GDP go down? How about the dollar? I need to talk to traders. How about investors? Health reporters are Googling the dangers of teargas. Tourism reporters are studying the number of tourists entering and fleeing the country. Lifestyle journalists (where I belong) are trying to review Tubonga Naawe and that Besigye song and trying hard not to come off partisan. Education reporters want to know how elections will affect kids going back to school. Sports reporters mind less about elections; so long as teargas doesn’t find them in a bar watching the English Premiership, they are fine. Environment reporters are trying to know whether posters that were burnt can cause soil erosion and global warming. Here, you are always on your toes like a deer about to take off. The newsroom is a melting pot of pressure, but fun like folks around a melting pot of malwa.