No journalist picked the prestigeous 'Journalist of the Year' award when the 13th edition of the event was held at the weekend in Accra.
After a long wait to hear the announcement of the best journalist of the year to climax the well-organised and heavily patronised ceremony, Mr Affail Monney, the Vice-President of the GJA, mounted the podium to read out how the best journalist was selected and in the end dropped what many described as a courageous pronouncement on the part of the association.
According to him, none of the 10 award winners for the night merited the prestigious award, which had been the expectation of all present at the function.
Amazingly, a record 208 entries were received by the awards committee for consideration but none merited the highest award in the profession which has attracted more members.
In the end, Unilever, the long-time sponsor of the best journalist award, the prize of which includes an all-expenses paid six-week journalism training in London, had to reserve the package probably for next year.
Most of the attendees filed out of the Banquet Hall of the State House disappointed at the turn of events and wondering how that could have happened.
Instead of taking to the floor as the last item on the programme for the night, the attendees could be seen in groups passionately discussing the issue and wondering why, among the many journalists in the country, none could be found worthy of the prize.
The attendees, most of whom were retired journalists, described the decision of the GJA as bold and an indication that the association had come of age.
In a brief chat, the chairman of the GJA Awards Planning Committee, Mr Berifi Apenteng, explained that after a thorough selection process, none of the 10 winners stood the chance of winning the overall award.
He said the committee could not single out any of the winners for the night because it did not want to compromise its position as far as the criteria for the selection were concerned.
On whether the situation meant that the standards of the profession were declining, the President of the GJA, Mr Ransford Tetteh, replied in the negative, saying, “It was not our intention to deny any deserving journalist of the award”.
He said it could mean that the best among the journalists in the country did not file their entries for reasons the GJA could not tell.
As a step to forestall a future occurrence, he said the GJA would consider the organisation of the awards again in its entirety.
Mr Tetteh said at it stood now, it was clear that most of the media houses did not take interest in the awards and, therefore, did not get involved in the selection of stories to be presented by their reporters.
That, he said, was part of the recommendations of the awards committee which would be worked at vigorously.
Mr Tetteh said to select someone to present the face of journalism in the country, it was crucial to have one whose work was of a high standard.
He said the GJA executives would collaborate with all the partners in the profession, such as the editors and the organising committees, to ensure that things worked out well.
The GJA President expressed the hope that in future the public and journalists alike would nominate one journalist in the country and justify why the one nominated deserved the award.
In all, 13 out of 22 categories were rewarded during the ceremony, which was full of glamour and fun.
Mr William Asiedu, a reporter with the Mirror, the leading weekend newspaper published by the Graphic Communications Group Limited, was adjudged the Best in Environmental Reporting.
He also won a special award to become the only journalist to annex two prizes in the night.
Mrs Hadiza Quansah of the Junior Graphic also captured the prize for Best in Rural Reporting, while Nii Laryea Korley of the Graphic Showbiz grabbed the Arts/Entertainment/Domestic Tourism award.
Mr Innocent Appiah of the Ghanaian Times was adjudged the Best Reporter in the News Reporting (Print) category, while Mr John Vigah of the Times Sports carried away the Sports Journalist of the Year award.
Claire Banoeng Yakubu of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) won the Health Reporter of the Year award, with Ms Lauretta Vanderpuije, also of GBC, taking away the News Reporting (Television) category award.
Mr Merari Alomele of the Weekly Spectator won the Best Columnists award, with Mr Edward Nyarko of GBC winning the Business/Finance/Economic Reporting award. Mr Samuel Dowuona of the Ghana News Agency (GNA) emerged winner of the Best Features Writer (Print) award.
There were also special awards presented to individuals who had contributed immensely to the growth of the journalism over the years.
Story by Charles Benoni Okine