Journalism is one noble profession that revolves around diligence and cross examination on their daily reportage. It is a profession leveraged on the pillars of authenticity, verification, cross examination and follow up confirmation. The tedious nature of their nature is because any negative reportage is practically impossible to withhold even with a rejoinder or an official apology. The ink on the tip of a journalist’s pen can give fame to a political figure, sports icon, banking expert or the medical doctor. Guess what, same pen can be used to run down a whole reputation that was built with years of hard work.
A profession that was one time monopolized by hard working media practitioners has suddenly lost its lustrous nature in the eyes of the public. What has changed? Could it be the influx of ‘social media journalists’ into the profession? What happened to the code of conduct of the noble profession that made it a dream job? For the purpose of this write up, I am limiting the argument to Ghanaian journalists and specifically, the sports industry with linkages to the political terrain.
Many are those who believe a mad man with a loaded gun is the most dangerous creature that can be found in the human society with the tendency of mass deaths in the offing. Was it a mad man that generated the whole concept of Rwanda genocide? Have you for once, ever thought of acting with wrong information from the media and insulting officials in charge of various departments? How many times have ordinary civilians won cases against the media because the journalist(s) failed to do due diligence? The volatile and global nature of the journalist’s platforms rules out any form of retraction in the event of an accidental brand bruise. It takes just one word to run down the image of a personality by a journalist who could have protected the hard work of this victim with follow up questions and investigation.
An industry that has produced the likes of Kwabena Yeboah, Mohammed Amin Lamptey, Ekow Asmah, Rosalind Amoh, Ibrahim Saani Daara, Rahman Osman, Sheikh Tophic and Gary Al Smith in an endless list of top class journalists, one is forced to ask, which direction is the profession heading to? Exponential growth or retrogression? Commentators used to protect the brand of the league, present facts about players, entice fans to storm match days and create positive aura around the league. They majored on positives and minor on the negative components of the league in what can be traced in PR work. Corporate world joined the sports train with the likes of Kinapharma and APC from the pharmaceutical industry leading the domestic league. We never heard or read on any media out such comments like ‘league fuo’, ‘league tantan’, ‘jon league’ and the likes. When conflicts pop up at match venues commentators generates balance between the conflicts and other positive news on the match day. What we hear today can be printed on any media house governed by media principles.
I am in no way damning the quality of the current crop of journalist but the vast contrast in their presentation certainly raised question marks about their professions. One factor misleading many houses is that they mistake quality presenters for top class journalists, an argument that lacks common base to even stand. It is possible to see a top class journalist doubling as a very good presenter but been a good presenter is not a certificate enough to be tagged as a profession journalist. One is an art that is learnt and one is a profession with codes and conducts.
Like many African institutions, we are quick to paint bad pictures about our internal issues to the world with lightening motivation. A professionally trained journalist must be able to protect the brand with education, information via entertainment moods. If only journalists know the impact of their utterances or written articles, half cooked stories will be preserved until enough evidence is pocketed. Itemizing examples in this article will colorize it but have we wondered what the society places on the shoulders of these journalists? “I heard it on the radio station and you are here saying it is not true”, a basic statement to confirm the trust placed on journalists.
Social media’s volatile nature means not everything circulated has elements of truth embedded it. Question is, why must a professionally trained journalist pick news from WhatsApp platforms, Facebook, twitter or other such handles and just report without cross examination? People’s reputations have been dented, political ambitions have been thrashed and communities plunged into endless fighting thanks to the pen of a journalist or the voice of a presenter. Their employers cannot be left out of the picture because, cheap they say, are costly.