BY OHENE AMPONSAH, A JOURNALIST.
Errors are part of every field of activity or human endeavour and to our very lives. Some can slide and others hardly do. It is so and undoubtedly a part of the journalism profession. A word of error in journalism could bring the entire media organization to its knees or out of business. Two decades ago, one could say the media in Ghana, though not perfect, was very responsible.
Senior Journalists and colleagues would painstakingly read over and over and proofread scripts to cross all “ts” and put dots on all “is”. This would normally make the scripts come out to near perfect pieces, from language, tone, ethos and even settings and time. Choice of words and the audience were very critical.
New and already existing news presenters will wake up at dawn to do voice training, some will read off-air, read used bulletins for months, before they are allowed by their Heads of Presentation to go on air.
Costume was another critical part of the presentation process, because it must be easy for the targeted audience to assimilate your message. Above all these, was the issue of professionalism.
Professionalism in media work is the epic of it all. The use of appropriate and precise words is of essence to tell the listener or audience the message being conveyed. A few decades ago, loose language or the use of words were not associated with media practice. And so is the unpopular usage of the phrase “breaking news” or “break in news.”
Arguably, it depends on every media organization across the globe and the way they handle topical issues or fresh news, partly due to structure and ownership. This can be seen in the way the BBC for example, announced the death of the Queen of the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth the second. The BBC kept the announcement of the real death of the Queen, though there was every indication, mood and actions pointing to the fact that the queen had passed on, until the official announcement by Buckingham Palace. The BBC adopted statements, such as, “doctors are worried about the deteriorating health “, “The queen’s health was failing, “The Princesses and Princess were heading towards the Palace”, among others. With the sequence of unfolding events, the elements of speed, accuracy and first to break the news comes to mind.
One may then ask, assuming the death of the queen happened in Ghana, how will the Ghanaian media handle it? Many people will dare say that the Ghanaian media has thrown professionalism, accuracy and to add, truthfulness and honesty to the gutters. Once the lies, exaggeration and over embellishments will please the pay-masters, some journalists are good to go. One also wonders why some media men and some Senior Journalists these days are so unprofessional, contrary to what they were taught and what the ethics proffer. The BBC waited until the official announcement before it came out to tell the world of the death of the Queen. In Ghana, some former Presidents, Chiefs, and prominent people have passed on, but without recourse to the emotions of families, communities and the nation and even cultural etiquette and protocols, some media outlets invaded the privacy of loved ones and went ahead to publish and to put them on social media. The manner in which such publications are made or done is actually the bother.
Some readers and presenters will ‘butcher’ or mispronounce words in social announcements and news, without first educating themselves on what really the issues were or get the proper pronunciations of names and words. Some readers will go in circles on issues, pretending to know everything, sadly, they leave listeners and the audience in a state or land of confusion. One is barely able to differentiate between “The News” and “Opinions” of readers or presenters, especially, our colleague local language news readers. Like olden days teachers, whose teachings and information were sacrosanct and consumers take it like the “saint’s message”, some media houses’ information and news were authentic to the extent that it could pass for evidence and pure, due to the meticulous manner of production. The less said about content in today’s news and programming or programmes, the better.
By the time the Ghanaian authorities and the National Media Commission realizes the need to fix some of these problems, it could be irreparable. Media outlets have a responsibility as to what to put out, because media managers and Journalists have the responsibility to shape, inform, educate society to make informed choices. Unfortunately, this is not the case today and it appears, now, Journalists feel like “celebrities” and are not bothered about how society sees them. Once their salaries put food on the table, they are fine and therefore forget about their core mandate. Children and adults alike watch the same content these days, sometimes children will watch, not because they want to watch, but that’s all they will get anywhere you switch the channel to. So, the question most people are asking is, can we go back to the basics? Is there a group of people who do not like reading? Can it be said of or referred to Journalists? Let us update ourselves, read-wide, know What, Where, How and When as Journalists.