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Makers of Ghana’s journalism: The journalist

A journalist is a person who practices journalism. Journalism is described as the systematic and reliable gathering, processing, packaging and dissemination of public information, public education, public opinion and public entertainment.

Public information, education, opinion and entertainment are passed on to the people through certain instruments such as news, news articles, feature articles, editorials and others.

News is a first-hand accurate and reliable report of an event, occurrence or idea that is of interest to the mass media product consumers and is profitable or beneficial to the mass media owners.

News reports and feature articles in the mass media – newspapers, magazines, radio, television and online publications – must be accurate, balanced and fair.

Journalism is one of the principal professions that include law, medicine, architecture and engineering.

They are principal professions because society cannot function properly without them.
Care is taken, therefore, to ensure that practitioners of the cardinal professions are properly trained to avoid risks and promote efficiency.

In medicine, for example, substandard practice can cause death; in law, unwarranted or incompetent practice could land innocent persons in prison or face capital punishment.

Engineering and architecture involve the building of machines and houses that are safe, durable and reliable.

In medicine, law, engineering and architecture, a first degree, academic and practical training and pupillage are compulsory qualifications for practice.

In some cases, professional practice is monitored and licenses are renewed periodically.

The link between the training schools and the practising fields is kept tight and constant to ensure high professionalism.  For journalism, when news is not treated professionally, it can kill, maim or destroy a person’s reputation or property.  At the national level, misinformation, disinformation and fake news can lead to national poverty because information is key to national development.

In journalism, a high national diploma or first degree in journalism, practical training, a period of pupillage and practical experience should serve as minimum qualifications.

Besides academic qualifications, professional qualifications and creative and productive practical experience are what employers are looking for in modern times.

Employers, these days, bypass higher paper qualifications, such as master’s and doctorates and engage university diplomas or first-degree holders – because of a lack of creative and productive skills.

It should be remembered that in performance assessment at the workplace, academic qualification is apportioned 15 per cent of the marks, and attitude, creativity and productivity, 85 per cent out of one hundred.

Journalism is a profession that can lead to other areas of writing such as novels, short stories and poetry writing, playwriting and others.

In the history of the profession, some journalists have stood up and out for many reasons.

They were conscientious, and discerning and moved beyond the usual bread-and-butter professional practice to make great contributions to human knowledge.

The following are journalists who have been successful in journalism practice and who have also established themselves most prominently in other areas of writing or public service:  Rudyard

Kipling (1885-1936), journalist, poet and novelist; Karl Marx (1818-1883), journalist, economist, sociologist and philosopher and founder of Marxism-Communism; Daniel Defoe (1660-1731), journalist, novelist, writer and author of Robertson Crusoe.

Others are Basil Davidson (1914-2010), journalist, writer historian and author of many books on pre-modern African history; George Orwell (Eric Blair) 1903-1950; journalist, poet, novelist and author of Animal Farm, and Nineteen Eighty Four; Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961), journalist, novelist, short story writer and author of Farewell to Arms; Nnamdi Azikiwe (1904-1996), journalist, publisher and former President of Nigeria; and Kwame Nkrumah (1921-1967), journalist, publisher, politician and a former President of Ghana.

Arthur L Carter Journalism Institute, New York, has listed the following as among the 100 works of journalism of the Century: John Hersen, Hiroshima, 1946; Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, 1962; Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, Watergate investigations for the Washington Post, 1972-73; Edward R Murrow, this is London, 1940; Ida Tarbell, The History of the Standard Oil Company Investigations, 1902-1904.

Others are: Lincoln Steffens, The Shame of the Cities, 1902-1904; John Reed, The Days that Shock the World, 1919; Ernie Pyle, Report from Europe and the Pacific During World War Two, 1940-1945; and Edward Murrow and Fred Friendly, See It Now documents…1954.

In Ghana, Sir Charles McCarthy, the first Governor of the Gold Coast was the first editor and publisher of the first newspaper of the Gold Coast established in 1822.

Mr McCarthy’s Gold Coast Royal Gazette served as a source for news about trade, commerce and other occurrences of importance.

He was killed in the first Anglo-Ashanti war, the Battle of Nsamankow, in 1824.
The newspaper ceased publication in December 1823 because of the death of its founder, publisher and editor, Sir McCarthy.

The disappearance of the Gazette created a gap that was filled by the Accra Herald published by the Bannerman brothers – Charles and Edmund Bannerman — from 1857 to 1873 as Ghana’s second newspaper.

James Hutton Brew established the Gold Coast Times as editor and proprietor from 1874 to 1885.
His second newspaper was the Western Echo – from 1885 to 1887. He was assisted by his nephew, JE Casely Hayford.

Casely Hayford himself edited the Gold Coast Echo from 1888-1889.
A team of Gold Coast journalists – Isaac Vanderpuye, JH Cheetman, Timothy Laing and JE Casely Hayford, established and jointly ran the Gold Coast Chronicle from 1890-1896.

John Mensah Sabah was proprietor and editor of the Gold Coast People from October 1891 to August 1894, then to October 1898.

Dr JF Easmon, A. Cole and Bright Davis established and managed the Gold Coast Independent from 1885 to 1898. Bright Davis was the Editor.
Another Independent newspaper appeared in 1918-1955. It was founded by JJ Akrong and DG Tackie. Both were editors of the newspaper alternatively.
Dr FD Nanka Bruce and his family were believed to be owners or financers of the publication.

According to the records, there was the Daily Echo, a sister paper of Dr Nanka-Bruce’s Independent and Martin Therson-Cofie was its assistant editor.
Attoh Ahuma and Rev. Agyir Asam edited the Gold Coast Aborigines (1898-1909) as an organ of the Gold Coast Aborigines’ Rights Protection Society.

Gold Coast Leader (1902-1933/34) was a weekly newspaper that had many associates such as JE Casely Hayford, Attoh Ahuma, John Buckman, Gaddiel Acquaah, Kwabena Sekyi and K Sekyi Armah.

A Boye Quartey-Papafio was proprietor and editor of the Gold Coast Advocate (1904-1914).
Timothy Laing edited the Voice of the People changed its name to Vox Populi (1917-1939) and probably until 1948.
Some records showed that the newspaper was once founded, owned and edited by T. Kwasi Orgle.

RW Dupigny was the first editor of the Gold Coast Spectator (1927-1955). He was succeeded by RB Wuta-Offei.
The newspaper was owned by Alfred J Ocansey, an Accra merchant.
Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe was editor of the African Morning Post also owned by Alfred J Ocansey.

Dr Azikiwe was a Nigerian who later became the first President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
For the introduction of mass circulation newspaper journalism into the Gold Coast, now Ghana, in 1950, credit should go to the Mirror Group of London.
The Group bought the title, Daily Graphic, from the Ashanti Goldfields, publishers of the Ashanti Times and was then edited by Martin Therson-Cofie.

Daily Graphic was established in 1950 in Accra with Cecil King as chairman of the West African Graphic Company that later became Ghana Graphic Company and Martin Therson-Cofie as founding editor.

Ghana Graphic Company later introduced other newspaper titles – Sunday Mirror (now The Mirror) in 1953; Gold Coast Yearbook in 1956, later Ghana Yearbook, and Junior Graphic, in 1959/1960.

With those publications, modern mass-circulation printing machines and effective distribution systems, the Ghana Graphic Company became the country’s dominant and powerful newspaper organisation.

To compete with the Mirror Group newspapers in Ghana, Dr Kwame Nkrumah and others established the Guinea Press in 1956. The company published the Guinea Times which became Ghana Times, now Ghanaian Times, and Weekly Spectator, now The Spectator.

In 1971, the National Liberation Council that overthrew the Nkrumah regime nationalised the Guinea Press and renamed the company New Times Corporation, mainly because Guinea Press was established and operated with public funds.

Earlier in 1965, the Nkrumah government had purchased the Ghana Graphic Company with its assets and incorporated it under the new name, Graphic Corporation, now Graphic Communications Group Ltd.
Ghana became a one-party state in 1964 and state control over the mass media was complete with the banning of all opposition newspapers, including the Ashanti Pioneer, a stubborn opposition publication and the last to go.

Sam Arthur, a journalist, a former director of the Ghana Institute of Journalism and a former editor of the Ashanti Pioneer, stood out as a symbol of opposition or alternative journalism in Ghana.

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