Sydney Abugri Writing and Editing Services

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While tending livestock in northern Savanna bush in the very early 1950s, we got quite a thrill goading two rams or cocks to a fierce fight to the finish and sitting back to watch the poultry feathers fly and ram horns clash again and again with a heavy thud. 

Radio appears to have rediscovered our script and is using it to keep the tempo of political propaganda on morning talk shows high: A talk show host calls up a leading political or public figure who has just made bad press, thanks to a round of bad-mouthing from a political rival and says:

So-so-and-so has said this and that about you, what is your response? His response naturally, is a rage-fuelled tirade against So-so-and-so, whereupon, the latter calls into the radio programme to let down his hair. A big fight starts.

Insults are usually the weapons of choice in inter-political rival fights facilitated by radio. Radio talk shows are not the only battle grounds for the brisk early morning trade in insults across the political divide.

Newspaper editorials and columns, radio phone in programmes, radio panel discussions and even what should normally be straight, hard, dispassionate news reports, all pack heavy doses of insults.

The quality of media criticism and professional responsibility are both dependent on the quality of the media, aren’t they?

Except perhaps for the case of undemocratic societies, media with high levels of professional quality will in spite of occasional unintended errors, not need to worry about threats to their freedom, do they?

Ghana is yet to see the very first big-time entrepreneur invest in the production of high quality weekly news magazines and newspapers of truly international standard employing highly trained professional editors, writers and reporters.

In some countries these days, the average reporter in the news room has at least a Master’s Degree and a growing number of professional journalists with PhDs are working on newspapers and magazines. It shows in the quality of mass media products from other countries.

There are many training institutions in Ghana which are turning out many products annually. Probably less than two people out of ten with an interest in the development of the media will admit it: Some of the products cannot write a darned straight forward story even after all the years of training.

Whenever I travel on our continent, the very first thing I always do after checking into my hotel is seek out the facility’s magazine and book shops and buy a copy each of every newspaper and magazine on offer.

Apart from a few exceptions, no newspaper in Ghana can compare with the average newspaper on the newsstands and the streets of Lagos, Abuja, Dar-Es-Salaam, Nairobi and Johannesburg in terms of editorial and literary quality, size, clarity of print and pictures and depth of reporting and analysis. {We are probably in the general category of Uganda when it comes to quality of newspapers.}

One of the proposals submitted to the Constitutional Review Committee not long ago, was the promulgation of laws to regulate media practice in Ghana.

Trying to license journalists to practice wont work. It is too late: New and advanced technologies for the collection, and very instant processing and dissemination of news and information have broken down the frontiers of traditional journalism practice completely.

The result has been the emergence of the numerous variations of journalism practice which go by such descriptions as “alternative media” and "citizen journalism”: Online newspapers, personal blogs, independent news websites etc.

No sir, we cannot license journalism practice. What we can do is invite investment in a thriving mass media market where popular brand names produced by highly trained professionals can easily be distinguished from fake products coming in the form of pornographic, poorly written and unprofessionally packaged products.

Some media never see anything commendable in the government’s policies, programmes and general performance and everything right about the conduct of the opposition and its leadership. 

Conversely other media insist that the political opposition is a hostile, power-hungry and subversive lot and that the government does no wrong. The media in Ghana is yet to develop to a stage where media organizations and their editors and journalists will defend the truth even in spite of their own political biases.