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Opinions of Saturday, 18 December 2010

Columnist: Alpha, Shaban Barani

Journalists, Media Coverage And Speeches

*The whole concept of journalism in the context as I know it being a practicing journalist myself, is hinged on educating, informing and entertaining one’s audience, be it the readers, listeners and viewers. *

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In the line of duty though, we the men and women of the inky fraternity the world over encounter some challenges as we strive to accomplish the tasks of informing, educating and entertaining our audience. The challenges I must be quick to add, come with a certain level of peculiarity whereas others cut across the global media landscape.

The most known global set-back that journalists face are, threats on their lives, especially in trying to unravel cases of corruption and in some high profile cases. Carlos Cardoso’s death in East Africa in a corruption investigation is just one of many journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

Also detrimental to the pursuit of journalistic standards is technology, which to an extent looked like was coming to expand the frontiers of telling the news but it has by far threatened a traditional form of the journalism practice, the print media – newspapers, magazines, etc.

The internet has been described as a medium of transmitting information and news at zero-cost base value. The internet, comparative to the print media, is a fast-paced type of journalism where information can be put through at any point in time.

To put it bluntly, the net breaks news with much more ease than other media sources sadly, with the increasing number of internet portals day-in-and-day-out, coupled with internet service affordability, the print media would not necessarily breathe its last but would experience a massive blow in terms of patronage, more so in a largely illiterate setting as ours.

Indeed, newspaper corporations across the world are either merging to stand any realistic chance of staying in business or diversifying into other media broadcast modules to cut losses and to keep afloat in the media business.

With respect to peculiar journalism challenges faced by media owners and journalists, especially working in the print media, sale of papers has, if at all, decreased by the years except when hot news items like the exploits of leading investigative journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas hit the news stands.

In any case, with the multiplicity of newspapers around and with each one going for GH¢1.00, one may wonder if the average Ghanaian can afford to patronize newspapers and for how long; even if he decides to patronize a minimum of three each day. That adds up to an awful lot every month on newspapers alone.

Then come situations where most private papers are silenced – for want of a better word. Company adverts in the absence of paper patronage are a viable source of revenue generation for most papers, but when they (papers) have threatened to expose these companies, adverts have been used as a means to pull the brakes on our pen and sometimes, the facts.

The days when journalists reserved the enviable position of content creators is long gone as in contemporary times, entrepreneurs, free lancers and to some extent, bloggers, have all proven to be challenging journalists for their once unfettered role of creating media content creators.

I was privileged to have listened in to a *BBC* programme, *“The Interview,” * on which Amand Goldsworthy, a translator to three French presidents, was being interviewed. She spelt out clearly that as a translator her job was more like that of a journalist, choosing to call it a dictate profession akin to acting.

In the view of Mademoiselle Goldsworthy, her job involved a mental exercise that required the use of the mind, eyes, ears and the whole body. She further opined that to do a job well, a person had to get into the mood of the speaker and to be able to interpret the views of whoever one is listening to.

Challenges over the time she worked for Francois Mieteron, Jacques Chirac and Nicholas Sakorzy had more to do with translating jokes, proverbs and sayings - circumstances she described as worse than nightmares. To sum up her views, she opined that,* “Translating was like jumping out of a plane without parachute.”*


Listening and taking notes concurrently are what print journalists largely have to endure, considering that their compatriots in radio and TV have recording instruments that afford them ease of having speeches and deliveries on tape for delivery and nature of work.

You should be at programmes and see how most journalists sit aloof in waiting, as if nothing was at stake, only to go scrambling for prepared speeches after a programme has ended. A sour situation the writer witnessed was when some journalists threatened at a programme that they were not going to write stories because they had not been provided with speeches delivered.

It therefore was no surprise to me when spokesperson of Ghana’s vice-president, John Jinapor, said during a TV discussion programme that their office almost always had problems with journalists, Reason?

Here was a vice president who almost always preferred to note down important points in the course of an event, then speak extempore rather than from a prepared speech, so the subsequent request for a speech he (the veep) is supposed to have delivered actually leads nowhere, all because some journalists refuse to take notes.

The effects though, are far-reaching as journalists without any concrete notes will do one of three things - deny the public whatever information was intended to be put out by not writing the story at all, in the case he/she does, it is usually shoddy and as last resort, he/she might wait for a fellow journalist to have his story published from where he/she would draw information to write the story.

The media in Ghana, I say without fear of contradiction, have grown and keep growing by the day. Journalists keep passing out of training institutions with no vacancies to fill, and people trained in other professions are challenging trained journalists for space on what has become a very lucrative landscape, especially in the electronic media.

All of this in my opinion, should not in any way compromise basic standards of a practice as delicate as ours. So at this juncture, one may ponder and ask; what are the standards and who sets them? That in itself is a topic of discussion for another day.

But till when that day comes around and a platform to that effect presented, I guess the only straw we can clutch on to, I dare say, desperate efforts at making this profession anything to be proud of and safeguard the gains so far chalked by some illustrious predecessors, is to *brighten the corner where we are* and pray our individual light will make the media terrain on which we are majority stakeholders, well lit-up in the near future and for unborn generations.

*© Shaban Barani Alpha (The New Crusading GUIDE)*