FEATURED: Why Are Black People Obsessed With The Bible That Was Used To Enslave ...

31.10.2008 General News

I Am The Journalist Of The Year!

Hey, who is this immodest and self-conceited chap? That is me alright, Jomo, but keep your shirt on buddy and don't fret. The heading is merely to lure you into reading this crap.

Corporate executives of UNILEVER went to the banquet hall of State House last Saturday night wielding pens and eager to sign fat checks for sponsorship of the 2007 Journalist of the Year on an all-expensed paid training programme at the Thompson Foundation off Park Place in Cardiff city.

No thanks sirs, keep your cheques, the GJA told the UNILEVER executives.


Not a single one of the 208 entries received from journalists for the awards met the standards set by the association for crowning the nation's best journalist.

Fantastic Jomo. Absolutely fantastic. It means we are getting somewhere at last, as far as the pursuit of excellence in journalism in this country is concerned. Serves us right if you ask me:

Journalistic work totally lacking in the depth and breadth of analysis needed to accommodate a broad range of dissenting concerns and views, sloppy proof-reading and editing of published articles which leave a trail of bad grammar, lexical and structural errors all over journalists' work.

To cap it all, an unbecoming obsession with mundane and sometimes libellous social and political gossip and propaganda. 

Don't take off so fast though, for that is only half the story told: GJA president, Mr Ransford Tetteh, was the only individual I heard commenting on the anti-climax of last Saturday's awards ceremony, with the questioning mind of a journalist.

A reporter asked him whether the inability of the 208 entrants in the competition to qualify for the award implied an appalling fall in the standard of journalism in Ghana.

Mr Tetteh replied that it could well be, because the best journalists in the country have not been participating in the competition. He said the GJA has been wondering why this has been so.


 Methinks we should have answered that question more than 10 years ago, when it was first asked by former GJA president, Mrs Gifty Affenyi-Dadzie.

I recall that at the inauguration of a GJA awards committee at the former Press Centre at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle, Mrs Affenyi-Dadzie wondered why many senior journalists were not submitting entries for the awards and went on to remark that “if you refuse to submit entries, those who continue to participate in the competition will be the ones who will continue to win the awards every year.”

That was it. No one said anything about veterans still in active practice, but here is the real deal:


Somehow, it does not seem dignifying that the pensioners and soon-to-be pensioners in the media, who have already eaten of the annual meat, should continually insist on jostling with the young boys and girls year after year, for what is left of the meat, see?

I am talking plain old African cultural philosophy, Jomo. Creativity is the spice of progress, so when you have adopted a professional award system others have developed and used, as your model for rewarding professional excellence, you need to adapt it to suit the peculiarity of your own environment and cultural setting.


After having won seven GJA awards, I for one would feel uncomfortable continuing to compete year after year and probably standing in the way of younger journalists deserving of recognition and training opportunities.


I stopped competing in the awards since 1999. I guess it has been the same with others.

You can imagine a young reporter muttering under his breath: “…But this daddy koraa, why?


Every year the man dey there! Ibi you alone dey this work inside? Aba!” 

So what should be done about those who in our cultural setting cannot or should not compete, since everywhere in the world journalists must participate in a competition to be able to win awards?

Good question. That is the challenge. It is left to members of the GJA to provide inputs for an overhaul of the awards system and its governing rules.

If they neglect to, we those on our way out of active mainstream journalism will not be the losers.

The GJA did not consider other possibilities before settling on the decision not to hand out a Journalist of the Year Award.


I served on the GJA Awards Committee which chose ace broadcaster Mr Komla Dumor who is now with the BBC, as Journalist of the Year.

It was probably the most controversial decision by an Awards Committee of the GJA ever, and our committee was subjected to such a cruel mauling by some commentators who said Komla was not a member of the GJA, but that is another story.

As with the case of entries submitted for the 2007 awards, we initially found none suitable for the award of the ultimate prize.


Did we throw up our hands in exasperation at the deficiency in professional excellence and tell UNILEVER to keep their cash? Not on your life, Jomo.

We acknowledged that there were journalists out there who had not submitted any entries for the awards but whose work in the course of the year, we had observed to have been of consistent quality and impact.

We invited a couple of them to submit portfolios of their work for the year, for us to judge. One of them Mr Kwaku Sakyi Addo, promptly declined. He had already won the ultimate award twice, he said.

If he won the award again, he would be given the opportunity to benefit from the usual all expenses paid training programme, but he had already had that kind of training and international exposure. 

Obviously not the greedy type, Kwaku insisted that if he received the award again, he would be standing in the way of a younger, deserving journalist who could benefit more from the usual UNILEVER-sponsored all expenses training programme.

Inviting the public to nominate journalists for awards has its own potential problems with abuse.


Our committee discovered that one journalist had gone to a post office lugging a sack full of award nomination letters purported to be from the public.


 It was this individual who actually nominated her/himself!

Besides, the world of creative thought and ideas does not easily lend itself to evaluation and assessment by anonymous non-professionals.


If the absence of nominations from the public will kill the GJA, communication-related organisations like the Institute of Public Relations and the Chartered Institute of Marketing could make nominations on behalf of the public.

I have noticed something else: Works of investigative journalism tend to win the highest awards in journalism competitions because investigative journalism demands unusual courage and tenacity, can be very dangerous and uncovers what the public would never have known.

Unfortunately, this has also led to the wrong notion that investigative journaalism is only about snooping around in sunglasses and strange disguises, turning up stones all over the place to see what strange creatures will crawl out, so that crooked political appointees can be exposed and corrupt governments brought tumbling down.

In some countries, investigative journalism has been used to expose lies by governments regarding the level of success and impact of national policies falsely touted as great success stories.

This kind of investigative journalism is academic, tedious and requires exceptional skills in analysis and interpretation of information and data.


 It should be encouraged and rewarded here too. I guess that tidies it all up or does it?