Saturday, July 17, 2010
“THE PRACTICE OF PROFESSIONAL JOURNALISM IN GHANA – THE EXPECTATION OF THE STUDENT JOURNALIST” A SHORT PRESENTATION AT THE GENERAL MEETING OF GJA-GIJ
Mr. Chairman and all in here gathered, I acknowledge you.
It is not by mere coincidence that I find myself before you this afternoon at the behest of my president. I am saying this because to you who are about to expire on your preset period of academic exploration in this distinguished premier journalism institution, not only in Ghana but the continent at large, an opportunity to be part of such a gathering is simply inextricably vital. This moment of your stay on campus, I reckon, is extremely crucial to you and to the entire nation because you are about to be assessed on both the theoretical and practical knowledge that you have acquired over the last two years. And, as you head for the job market, you need some vital information to aid your wrap up here and to prepare you for the outside world, and such information is best received from those who matter and I am here to attempt to do just that. And, I must say it is a privilege and pleasure in a purposeful sense to speak to you today. I hope you have already accepted me.
I should mince no words in congratulating you for choosing to train as professional journalists in this highly esteemed institution regardless of the strenuous and pressuring periods you had to endure in pursuit of academic excellence while here. Your choice of Ghana institute of Journalism and the privilege done you by the school to become part of the great family of journalists in Ghana is profoundly unblemished. There awaits you the utmost prize of success which can only come your way by dent of seriousness, hard work and perseverance. I am certain you shall overcome soonest. I believe that you have been greatly stretched and squeezed and almost getting withered but one thing is for sure, you must not look back at the past circumstances, rather, focus on the task ahead of you as this is the only way you can make the distinctive mark you have been dreaming of all these years.
The knowledge you have acquired in GIJ is beyond compare and this presents you enormous array of opportunities in the job market if you could identify and readily avail yourselves to them. Only few of the numerous journalism institutions, now mushrooming all over the place, offer similar courses to what pertains here and even those who seem to be at arms’ length with us in this direction are tutored mostly and in parts by our (GIJ) highly knowledgeable and illustrious lecturers. Furthermore, the courses here offered are tailored towards the needs of the people thus, very relevant to the development of the nation. My only worry is that after fifty plus one years of existence, this school, which has produced such greats in this profession, continues to grow leaps and bounds in glory and in stature but not in structure. This has made it almost impossible for equally qualified colleagues of yours to wander into uncharted territories all in attempts to become journalists. Failure on the part of GIJ to expand in structure in the shortest possible time will mean a proliferation of quack journalists and this will be chaotic and disastrous to our democratic advancement.
Mr. Chairman, some developments in the media front in the past decade, in my opinion, have been occasionally exceptionally commendable but generally unsatisfactory. To mention just a few positive developments, is when the first black president of the United States of America, Barak Obama, in his address to the parliament of Ghana in Accra, and indeed, the whole world, on his first ever visit to Africa since assuming office, commended the ace Investigative Journalist, Anas Arimeyaw Anas of the New Crusading Guide for his role in exposing rots in the system which were inimical to the advancement of the people of Ghana. The mention can also be made of Loretta Vandapuije of Ghana Television and Israel Laryea of Joy FM for their respective awards at the CNN Multi Choice Africa Journalist of the Year Award. The exploits of the likes of Komla Dumor and Kofi Abokyie both formerly of Joy FM now with BBC and VOA respectively, cannot be in any way overlooked. These two individuals admittedly, contributed their quota to the positive developments in the Ghanaian media front in the past decade. However, my disappointment and dissatisfaction has been with the few partisan politically motivated journalists who for political expediency have negated the principles and ethics of the profession and become inextricable “bedfellows” of politicians. I am not against those who claim fought for the liberalization of the airwaves, nor against those who masterminded the repeal of the criminal libel law but the deeds of some of them whose open bias for one party or the other keep dividing our front politically, and, this is precarious. I have always maintained that freedom of speech and the liberty to publish “anything” are very significant ingredients to the sweet taste of the soup of democracy but could also be the vinegar to make it bitter depending on their usage. I am sure you received the news of a particular senior political journalist who explicitly and unashamedly informed the entire country and the world at large of his regrets in publishing falsehood against the then candidate and now president of the Republic of Ghana, John Evans Atta Mills. Is this not what you are taught not to do? Sadly, these individual journalists undoubtedly are role models to some of us. So, are we really concern about some of these developments and what can we do to correct them?
Mr. Chairman, and my soon to be fellows of the great uncompromising profession, it is regrettable to note that the media landscape, particularly the electronic media (radio and television), is under siege by our friends from other unrelated institutions who through the “whom you know” approach and courtesy our own (GIJ) short courses are competing vehemently with us for places in the already crowded few media houses in Ghana. If you think I am just been garrulous, wait till you attempt to penetrate the sector. The situation is so calamitous that I cannot fathom and guarantee how your future in the industry is going to be if you do not put in much more efforts. Permit me also, my friends, to express my displeasure at the preponderance mediocre, naive and unethical attitudes of some newsreaders, anchors and presenters who flout the principles of journalism with shameless impunity, even some of those I am referring to might have been trained by this school. Some presenters, particularly of political programmes, do not check their facts and do not present facts, hence, allowing their guests to twist and turn them they way they desire. This is bad and sad. Not to talk of anchors who just read what is before them but do nothing close to anchoring and who again lack the voice and skill to do correct pronunciations. The airwaves and the screens have now become the main point of practice for most readers and anchors. The ambiguity and other like grammatical errors in news contents leaves much to be desired and I do often ask myself that is it just the case of “chew pour pass and forget?” Some programme hosts, I have observed, either fail to ask the right and accurate questions or simply lack the interviewing skill to perform such tasks. Not to talk of programming, time will certainly not be our best ally if I begin to go there. It is equally bad and sad. At times I ponder in almost despondency from the unyielding reconciliation of my mind the fact whether we are in the age of professionalism or “probationalism”. I cannot pretend to be the saviour of this appalling situation, though I can help in my small way, but as a pragmatist, I believe in the motto by Donewell Insurance that “if it must be done, it must be done well “. I am nonetheless, delighted about some recent developments in some media houses such as Joy FM, Citi FM and as well, Metro TV, with regards to their news content. Permit me once more, my friends, to blow my trumpet a bit. The observation I made, while on campus, about the difficulty in getting engaged in the newsroom, the heart of every news media, prompted me to write a proposal to some selected media houses requesting them to engage our (GJA/GIJ) members on a “Weekend Attachment Programme”. Out of the lots we wrote to, only TV3 responded positively in June last year paving the way for some of you to gain practical experience. But I am now been told that the effort by my predecessor (President Sanda) to maintain the programme is facing a serious challenge in its survival.
My would-be colleagues, let me advise that as you prepare to join us for survival in this industry, be here now informed that the old adage still persist for you, that only the fittest shall survive. Your fitness, in this matter, depends on two things. First, I recall the Deputy Rector and my one time Public Relations lecturer, Mr. Batse’s exhortation to us while we were in our first year in this school that “do not pass through this school but let the school pass through you”. Second, as I told my friends I first began interactions with when I enrolled here in GIJ, that “know where you are now, where you are going from here, and what is supposed to be at where you going which is not there that you are taking there?” - And here, I must say, you’ve really got to be innovative minded. If you can answer this puzzle positively, certainly sure, you are a star journalist already. My friends, notwithstanding the challenges many young and prospective professionals face in the industry, some of which I have already shared with you, I would encourage you to be conscious of the fact that there abounds a myriad of opportunities which you have to first identify and then avail yourself to them. Your professional background in journalism, as per the courses taught in this school, alone should serve you the impetus to make giant strides in your chosen profession. The Integrated Communication courses - Public Relations, Marketing and Advertising – are a huge incentive to your success in journalism than you are perhaps dreaming about. You should begin, now and seriously, to think of what different thing you can do in the industry to cause such an impact to merit the desired plaudits - in Online Journalism, the Prints and the Broadcast sectors – the opportunities are just there for your taking. All it takes to achieve this much is for you to be innovative in mind and in your approach.
Mr. Chairman and soon to be fully fledged professional journalists, in concluding my message to you this afternoon, allow me the space and time to show gratitude to those who founded this association, my predecessors here seated and you listening to me for keeping faith with GJA/GIJ and ensuring its growth and sustenance. I also thank the national executive for endorsing this association but I must admit I have never been satisfied with their operations, particularly with this pioneer students’ chapter of any journalism association in at least West Africa. Let me assure you that soon we will be witnessing more positive developments in our chosen career. To give you a gist of what to expect, I together with other friends in the profession are teaming up to establish a movement to cause a positive change in the media front and I hope you will not hesitate to come on board when the time beckons.
Well done comrades! And, may the good God and Allah bless you in your endeavours now and in the future.
6th May, 2010
OKUNYIN BOAZ-ORLAN HACKMAN- WRITER