JOURNALISM can be a very lonely occupation.
True, some fellow journalists are very good company. They are witty and can offer insights, new information and – above all – good laughs.
But after one has left them and gone back home, one has to confront the blank, empty screen of one's laptop.
What should be one's topic for the day? One decides that entirely by oneself.
What line should one take in tackling the topic? Ditto!
Oh – what's the MOST TELLING WORD that can be used in describing one particular situation? Sorry, chum – you've got to dig it up from memory yourself. Alone, alone, alone! All the time.
Self-reliance may be a virtue, but by God, it's difficult to practise -- especially when one is seated in front of a blank laptop screen, with a deadline rolling past at a very fast rate.
In a crowded newsroom, the possibility of useful discussions exists. Not all newsrooms are convivial, of course. But I have been blessed to work in a few.
By far the most challenging newsroom I've ever operated in was that of the News Division of the Ghana Broadcasting System. We worshipped accuracy and clarity And we helped one another to make our news broadcasts as good as possible.
Stuck for a word? A date? Or a name? To lend background to a story?
Ask Robert Tabi (Editor 1957-58; ex-Vernacular Literature Bureau); Dan Awere; Osei Acheampong; Charles Segbefia; C S Buckman (Ex-Hansard) ; Danquah-Smith or “Akwan” (News-Librarian); Ben Sackey (Ex-Daily Graphic). Shang Simpson (also ex-Daily Graphic)might also be asked, but he's so feared that he's only approached if there's no alternative to doing so!
But as a columnist, operating from home, I've only got my own head. Yes, Google is invaluable today, but it's not the same. Danquah-Smith would stammer first before the word came out of his mouth; Charles Segbefia would slap his thigh or tug at his goatee -- and out would pop the word! (Segbefia was the first person to recommend George Padmore to me; he had read Padmore's banned book -- Africa, Britain's Third Empire! I didn't ask him where he got the book from! It was also he who informed me that someone called 'Rutherford' had split the atom!
Charles Buckman might ask you to wait whilst he phoned somebody in Parliament House. He knew everybody. He also loved films greatly – it was he who made me go and see Alan Ladd in Shane. All great fun.
Osei Acheampong was the funniest of all the journalists. Late at night, when the teleprinters were silent, he would relate political anecdotes. He told us once about a guy who said on our Kumasi radio station that a “bucket” of flowers had been presented to the Duke of Edinburgh by a schoolgirl on the Duke's arrival in Kumasi (instead of a “bouquet”!)
In the absence of such workshop entertainment, writing can become a drudgery. But relief comes when one remembers the effect one's writing had had on people; complete strangers who take the trouble to come up to one and say (for instance) “You're very courageous” (said to me out of the blue at the Kumase Cultural Centre); or “You took me back to my school-days in your article”; (said to me very often by fellow villagers who'd had problems similar to mine, with disciplinarian school-masters.)
But the best thing is to read what somebody else has written, which makes one smile broadly because the person's thoughts run in tandem with one's own. Recently, I was pleased to write to commend to readers, an article written on the destructive effects of galamsey by a Daily Graphic features writer called Timothy Ngnenbe. See:
It was the sort of article I had silently been praying that some Ghanaian journalists would be inspired to write, so that our water-bodies might be saved from destruction by the conscienceless galamsey operators, who prefer gold to the preservation of our good drinking water for the children we have brought into the world to inherit our nation. We inherited good drinking water from our parents. But if we are not careful, our progeny won't know what good drinking water is.
QUOTE: GALAMSEY – WHEN A NATIONAL ASSET BECOMES A CURSE
“We have a serious situation here. Our lands that provide us with food is being destroyed on a daily basis; we can no longer drink from the Tano and other water-bodies that quenched our thirst; our cocoa farms are being destroyed.“If you go to our towns and villages and see the extent of destruction illegal miners have caused to our land, cocoa farms and water, you will weep.” These were the lamentations of the Paramount Chief (Omanhene) of the Aowin Traditional Area in the Western Region, Beyeeman Tano Kwawu Benbuin III” UNQUOTE
The article sounded as sweet as honey to me. I have been hoping against hope that other Ghanaian journalists would allow the galamsey tragedy to take first place in their heads and that they would stop wasting newsprint writing so much about entertainers and their romances (or lack of them!); politicians and their vicissitudes; and false prophets and their inane, financially rewarding predictions that are nothing but adverts clothed in the garb of news.
And my prayers are continually being answered: I opened the Daily Guide of February 10, 2021and was elated to find this piece:
QUOTE: “If nobody understood the President when he pronounced that he was ready to put his presidency on the line in his fight against galamsey, at least I did and still do. What he said in the run-up to the 2020 general election meant that if even Ghanaian voters would vote against his government for fighting the galamsey menace, so be it.
“During the electioneering campaign, all those who were involved in galamsey in almost all the gold producing areas threatened to vote against the President if he failed to stop the fight against the menace. The President stood on his grounds and accelerated the fight even in the face of some members of the Taskforce charged to check galamsey, going wayward and allegedly colluding with galamseyers for their own parochial interest.....
“What is consoling is that the majority of Ghanaians who are not involved in galamseyvoted for the President. It therefore, stands to reason that, whereas the President boldly put his presidency on the line, he came out successful, since majority of Ghanaians supported his effort. It takes a courageous man to make such bold statement, and the President will go down in history as a man who dared the devil in his attempt to save our environment....
“I happened to attend a funeral in one of the galamsey operating areas where I saw dyed-in-the wool supporters of the NPP, including a constituency secretary, who was also involved in galamsey operations, opening campaigning against Nana Akufo-Addo..... The President had enemies within and without in his attempt to save our river bodies and the environment as a whole....
“But now....what should the President and well-meaning Ghanaians do as far as the fight against illegal mining is concerned? …. Should we look the other way, as these nation-wreckers continue with their illegal operations?
“Should we succumb to pressure from a few businessmen who gain from the operation of illegal miners? The answer is a big NO – because posterity and children yet unborn will never forgive us if we allow the environment, which we collectively hold in trust for them, to be destroyed by some few greedy and irresponsible illegal miners......
“We are a country awakened to danger and called to collectively defend the environment and our river bodies. Our failure to rein in these social misfits has now turned to anger and anger has turned to resolution. The time has come for us to use all means available to tackle this menace.”UNQUOTE
Eric Bawah asked: “So, now that even the military (which we respect so much for their ability to drum sense into the minds of these galamseyers) have seriously betrayed the cause, what should we do next?”
I shall discuss the solutions he proffers and add some of my own, in a future article. Meanwhile, he deserves warm congratulations from everyone who considers that our rivers and water-bodies, as well as our cocoa farms, should not be allowed to be destroyed by selfish individuals with whom we are cursed to live on this beautiful land of ours.
Our ancestors dug so much gold out of our country that foreigners named it TheGold Coast. But they dug the gold so expertly that sometimes it is difficult to find the pits they dug when we go to our farms and forests. They would turn in their graves if they heard that their children's children are so stupid that they use excavators to turn riverbeds upside down, as they look for gold!
Or that they go to a far-away place called China to bring expert
river-murderers to come and teach them how to find gold in rivers and water-bodies.