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Opinions of Friday, 10 May 2013

Columnist: Tawiah-Benjamin, Kwesi

Tarzan’s Take: Wereko Brobbey As A Journalist

The same week ‘Tarzan’s Take’ hit our screens, some 40 journalists in a popular media organisation in North America lost their jobs. One of them, Paul (not real name, but he wouldn’t mind me using his real identity) is a close beer buddy. He loves his trade and has devoted his life to it. He jokes it is the reason he is not married, because he was never able to move away from his first love–newspapers. He had poured some 29 years of his boring life into the newsprint. Then one day, management wakes up from the wrong side of the bed and sends the shocker: we are downsizing–to 40 jobs down.

At our usual pub, we lamented the professional minefield that journalism has become. Another buddy who joined us, a photo journalist, is going back to school to start all over as a social worker, where there are lots of jobs. It seems people can do without photographs in the newspaper when they have smart phones to store sharp, editable pictures. Well, at least the photographer has a plan. Paul concedes he has no plan; he is confused. He is pushing 50 years and doesn’t see going back to school a practical option. He occupies his time by attending book launches and theatre productions in the province.

It may not be in the best of shapes and the standards may not be the greatest, but journalism in Ghana is not doing badly at all. From lazy morning shows, as President Mahama has identified, to sensational newspaper reviews, the media scene today is a bustling enterprise championed by good professionals who would not disappoint if they were thrust before the consoles at CNN or ABC. My favourite newsperson is Joy FM’s Evans Mensah. The young man has guts and asks some good questions. Even when he sounds like a rhetorician, he is clear on his ethos and pathos, and also succeeds in making a good case with the logos. That is journalism, broadcast journalism, that is.

Everyday a new newspaper or Television show is born, a whole generation of readers and listeners is born. ‘Tarzan’s Take’ is a vindication and an instant redemption. Are we surprised to see him do this? Well, it helps that he has a canny understanding of the English language; he would make a masterful application of its mechanics any day, to make his views and strong opinions count. That may be the inspiration behind the new TV discussion programme ‘Tarzan’s Take’. It may well have been the driving force behind ‘Radio Eye’, that audacious move that challenged the sentiments of the times and ended up defining the times with a certain sentiment. The times have changed a lot since 1994, when Radio Eye was closed down. Today, we are all busking and indeed luxuriating in the pluralism that is the media. Suddenly, there is too many to choose from. And there is many more to come, to help extend the frontiers of our freedoms and bring information closer to those who need it. The sacrifices have been grave but it is well.

Apart from traditional journalists, who are those helping with the news and information business? From my suburban settlement in Orleans, Ottawa, I could only watch the maiden or perhaps the second recording of ‘Tarzan’s Take’ on the internet. He chose his discussants wisely: Kwame Karikari and Yaw Boadu-Ayeboafo would move any intelligent discussion to intelligent levels. The topic was strategic and also timely, while we continue to wait for the passing into law of the Freedom for Information bill. Tarzan’s moderation was quite sharp, occasionally steering the conversation for context. It was altogether well thought through and discharged, even if there was too much meat in the preamble. Intelligence sometimes needs everyday style to flourish. Otherwise, ‘Tarzan’s Take’ was all the Tarzan it could be.

From the good old days when you either had to stick with Ernest Thompson’s ‘Talking Point’ or tune off, we are thankful that we have many other good discussion programmes on TV and radio. Kwaku One on One may be gone, but we have had equally competitive additions in ‘Time with David’, ‘PM Express’, ‘Newsfile’ and other radio talk shows like ‘Alhaji and Alhaji’. The issue of unprofessional journalists is going away because you would expect the average journalist to have received some training in broadcasting and news writing. We should be proud of these developments. The remuneration may be another sad thing, but the Ghanaian journalist is in a much better situation compared to many others. At least, newspapers are not folding up daily as has been happening elsewhere. Today, Journalism offers good career prospects than say accountancy and architecture.

There are still lots of challenges to overcome. Tarzan talks of the big hand of the government surreptitiously controlling the affairs of the media. Well, I don’t believe it. Some state control is always necessary, and the state media would usually play good towards the government of the day. These do not detract from our fettered freedoms and the independence of the media. Pick up a copy of the Daily Graphic of any edition, and you would notice a very objective and balanced newspaper. GTV is everybody’s TV. If there are state controls, they are only obvious to the fastidious professional eye. I wish Tarzan all the best in his journalism ‘career’. I also wish to commend Kabral Blay-Amihere Jnr for filling his dad’s very large shoes.

Kwesi Tawiah-Benjamin is a journalist. He lives in Orleans, Ottawa, Canada.