Wednesday, October 29, 2008

WHERE ARE ALL THE JOURNALISTS?


As usual, over the weekend last Saturday evening 25th October, I found myself working from home. I was in mine makeshift office-hall preparing a piece for publication on this blog. I was scurrying busily through stacks of papers looking for sacred facts. It’s important to lay facts bare once you decide to have opinions on diverse issues in order not to dangerously misinform readers, who most often depend on those of us who belong to writing fraternity.

Unexpectedly my phone rings, the call was from a much respected experienced senior journalist. He put his pen down just about a year ago after a vibrant thirty years or more practice without a blemish. He happens to be the longest running editor of the Daily Graphic, Ghana’s biggest selling newspaper. I’ve known him virtually all my life. He didn’t mince words at all; he wanted me to represent him at the 13th Ghana Journalists Awards Night at the Banquet Hall of the State House. I told him I was very much interested in attending the august and prestigious awards that features the crème de la crème of Ghana’s journalists.

As a young and upcoming freelancer, I knew this was an opportunity to have a sneak peek at the faces and personalities behind the columns, front page headlines, voices on the radio and the news anchors on prime time television.

Quickly I put everything on hold and headed towards his residence for the invitation. With the invite in hand, the next moment saw me majestically walking into the Banquet Hall. It was my first time at such grand event, usually over the years; I would be watching the Awards live on television, sometimes ended abruptly without any reasons. This time, I was a guest; in fact I was part of the show. I wouldn’t blink an eye.

What started off well as a meticulously planned Awards night had much to be expected at the end. In my opinion the most honest and objective solidarity message came from the Chairman of the National Media Commission (NMC). He pointed out by admonishing the journalists that they had totally forgotten about their main role of reporting on issues that really affected the lives of Ghanaians, other than waging into politics. To think of it, the media front, especially the print medium has become so politically polarised. Front pages have become avenues for launching screaming banner headlines with scathing attacks on political opponents. Allegations and concocted stories reign supreme these days. Allowing people who do not even belong to the profession I ask that, what more can we expect when these same politicians are the ones who bankroll some these media houses? Whether these smear tactics are for scoring political points or for the profit motive, they get me confused, please be the judge.

The NMC boss delivers a more powerful punch when he charges at the media men that on countless occasions that they’ve been called to book by the commission on matters that bothered on their reportage and ethics, they did not show any courtesy to apologise. Clearly, Ghana’s the fourth estate of the realm has sold its soul to the executive. That’s why they’ll openly show disregard when they are cautioned. He offers them a simple advice,

“It’s your duty to allow what is in the greater interest of the public to prevail.”

There was an even silence as he descended the rostrum. He told them the truth in plain language. Interestingly, they’ve reported the import of all the speeches that were made on the night, from the vice president, the lady Chief Justice through to Ghana’s ambassador to Ivory Coast, nobody has dared to report the rebuke vented out by the NMC chief. Why? Maybe they are shying away from the blatant fact.

So it happened that, a lot of journalists did not submit entries for the awards, not even features from radio and TV. The awards committee could not present the top prize for the day. For them nobody qualified for the most enviable honour, with regards to the standards and instructions that were laid out for presentation of entries. There were others too who entered but did not follow the guidelines.

The question then to ask is whether the committee itself did its work well in setting the parameters straight? How come that the entrants sidestepped the rules? Perhaps, it wasn’t clearly spelt out. The next morning after the event, I was amazed to hear one journalist on radio saying that he did not hear about the calling for entries, at the time he heard, entries were being closed. I said “wow”. But whether indeed the standards have fallen is another matter that is debatable. Lets’ not also forget that it was in this same country that a journalist of the soil, Israel Laryea was presented with the CNN/Multichoice African Journalist Award for news reporting. Its’ strange he didn’t put in his bid for the local version. I stand to be corrected.

It’s not so surprising to me that the awards committee could not find a worthy journalist to receive the most prestigious, journalist of the year award. To say it’s an indictment on the work of journalists in the country might be an understatement. It’s a shame. But checking the records I found out that this phenomenon occurred in 1974,82,83,84,85,92,94 and 1997 since the awards was started in 1971. Clearly, this year’s omission has hit everybody so hard. Much is been expected from them next year.

At the end of the event, if it even ended at all, something disgraceful happened. This was after it had been announced that nobody qualified for top prize of the night. The sudden announcement was a shock to most guests present, since that award was the toast of the entire event. In a moment nobody moved, but before one could say “jack” after the instrumentation of the national anthem, everybody was heading out of the doors, by passing the vice-president, the ambassador and the lady chief justice. What? They were not accorded the respect of exiting before anyone else could. I bowed my head in shame. The M.C had to make a quick announcement to call people to order for the sake of protocol. This too they’ve not mentioned in their bulletin so far, not to even apologise to the esteemed guests.

The upcoming December 7, elections offer all journalists a fresh page to right all their wrongs. Sensationalism should be a thing of the past. Objectivity and sound analysis is what many like me will be expecting. In these times, everybody’s hand is needed in holding the Nation together in one piece.

I can only hope that things get better in this country. All the journalists must stand up and be counted. They play an important role in nation building, keeping us informed and making our voices heard.

Without them, many would’ve been voiceless.

All the same, the pen like they say, is mightier than the sword, I salute them.

1 comment:

charles said...

hmm my broda this is the same problem they have had for years.
Not announcing things till very late so that close friends can apply for awards to plump up their resumes.
same thing happens with job/tender announcements in the paper.
small announcements or announcements made with misleading information and tender docs with incomplete info...