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Opinions of Sunday, 12 August 2018

Columnist: Sulemana Braimah (

Are our newspapers just publishing their obituaries?

On Thursday August 9, 2018, President Nana Akufo-Addo made some changes to his ministerial appointments. It was no news really, because ahead of the news, it was in the news. The media had put out almost the same changes that happened. The number of ministers did not reduce and no one lost a job.

As soon as the statement announcing the changes was put out, I got a call from TV3 at 5.30pm for an interview. By the time I was done with the five-minute interview on TV3, more than 10 people had shared the statement announcing the reshuffle with me through WhatsApp.

At the same time, different radio stations were treating the announcement of the reshuffle as breaking news and were busily interviewing people about it. The major online news platforms had also put it out with different headlines. And of course, Facebook had been kept busy with copies of the statement all over and the usual NPP, NDC debates and propaganda was in full swing.

By 8pm, the story of the reshuffle had become dead news. Everyone knew about it, everyone knew which minister had been re-assigned or replaced. Everyone knew that the Vice President’s office now had a minister of state, and it was no news that Otiko was going to cool off in Italy. That Kojo Oppong Nkrumah had been elevated from Deputy Minister to Minister was no news and so was the fact that at the Energy Ministry, Mr. Peter Amewu was becoming the boss of his former boss at the Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP).

So when the next day you find majority of the country's newspapers including the leading ones using what had become a ‘dead story’ as their lead story and basically reporting that there has been a reshuffle, you wonder whether the newspapers really want to be in business or they are just publishing their obituaries.

The Daily Graphic said: Shake-up in gov’t … Abdul-Hamid for inner- city, Oppong-Nkrumah promoted. The Ghanaian Times had: No Casualties … as President makes 15 changes in maiden cabinet reshuffle. Daily Guide had: Nana Drops Otiko in cabinet reshuffle.

As at the next morning when the newspapers were out, what was news about these headlines? If one is not a regular subscriber of any of the newspapers, what about the headline or story should motivate someone to spend both time and money on any of these newspapers? What will a reader of the newspaper learn that will be new to him or her?

The electronic and digital media platforms had capitalised on their advantage of being able to report the news as it happens, to extensively report and discuss the announcement yesterday. We could only expect the newspapers to also capitalise on the advantage of time, to do what is expected of newspapers – providing further details, analysing the issues and connecting the dots.
Elsewhere, knowing that the electronic and digital media would make the news go stale by the next day, the major newspapers would have certainly served their readers with a better and a more sumptuous news meal that will be worth the their 2.5 cedis and their reading time.

Elsewhere, journalists would have researched, searched, analysed and utilised their sources and contacts in government and those close to government to let their readers know why which ministers were moved where; what may have prompted the gender minister’s removal; whether the reassignments had affected the constitutional requirement of regional balance; why a deputy minister may have been promoted; why a certain regional minister is becoming a sector minister; why the Vice President’s office is getting a minister of state; the profile of the two new ministers designate for Gender and Upper East region; etc.

Around the world, the newspaper industry is struggling to survive. Both sales and advertising revenues have dropped. Newspapers are starving and are really famished. Many will die, only a few will survive. The only key to survival will be RELEVANCE - relevance to audience in a globally competitive and turbulent media environment will be the key.