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TALKING DRUM: 37 years a journalist, the incredible tale of the man who ruled the airwaves!

Every June 4th, Jerry John Rawlings’ 1979 coup in Ghana inspired by his Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) readily comes to mind. This year, as in previous years, the story was not different. I knew nothing substantial in history― worldwide― that occurred on the aforementioned date than Rawlings’ coup.

Then, in the afternoon, as I watched Aljazeera, I heard something that was totally new to me. The anchor mentioned Tiananmen and that it was a protest which happened in Beijing, China, in 1989. The news report said many people died in that protest. After I had watched the news report, I sought to find out more about this mass death in history.

“The Tiananmen Square protests, commonly known in mainland China as the June Fourth Incident, were student-led demonstrations held in Tiananmen Square in Beijing during 1989. In what became known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre, troops with assault rifles and tanks fired at the demonstrators and those trying to block the military’s advance into Tiananmen Square. Estimates of the death toll vary from several hundreds to thousands,” so is it captured by Wikipedia.

Whereas I was thrilled to have learnt something new, what really got me excited was the Aljazeera reporter who filed the story from Beijing on the 30th anniversary of the protests. The reporter was Adrian Brown – a foreign correspondent in Beijing – and as if by design, he was the same reporter who covered the demonstration and subsequent massacre 30 years ago.

Adrian Brown and his Tiananmen reports make me miss many Ghanaian journalists currently on retirement. One of such persons who readily comes to mind is Teye Kitcher who proceeded on retirement from Ghana Broadcasting Corporation [GBC] few weeks ago. For me, journalists must not retire, especially when they are strong and healthy and so much on top of their business.

Born to Mr. Joseph Richard Wentum-Kitcher from Osu and Ada and Vida Mercy Wentum-Kitcher of Sempe, all in the Greater Accra Region and Saltpond, Central Region, the then little Teye Kitcher began his education at the Osu Presbyterian Boys Primary School in 1965.

“I attended the Ada Foah Presbyterian Boys Middle Boarding School from 1970 to 1973. I thereafter attended the Ada Secondary School and then Ghana Institute of Journalism [GIJ]. I studied Diploma in Journalism and completed in 1981. Luck smiled on me as I got to start work at GBC on 7th of April 1982 till I retired this year on the 7th of July,” Mr. Kitcher tells me in a WhatsApp chat.

A whopping 37 years of service to mother Ghana as a journalist!? Incredible! I got to personally know Mr. Teye Kitcher when we sat in the same lecture hall at GIJ for a degree in journalism. That was in 2014/16. Nonetheless, I had heard his soothingly deep voice on Radio Ghana as far away as Wamfia in the Bono Region when I served as a mentee during my third year at the Berekum College of Education in 2010.

Teye Kitcher’s voice and fantastic pronunciations of words in the English Language urged one to listen to the news whenever he presented it no matter how badly one wanted to switch the radio dial.

“About 15 years of my time at GBC was spent as a correspondent at the Castle, Osu, during the time of former President Jerry John Rawlings. I began work at the Castle at the rank of a reporter; the lowest rank in the newsroom,” he narrated.

“My work at the Castle took me to places as far as Newfoundland; as far west of the world to Los Angeles; as far east as Brunei and as far south as New Zealand,” he continued.

He tells me that while he so much enjoyed his job as a journalist working in the newsroom and later as a presidential press corps member – flying to countries around the globe – that joy was punctuated with shock and pain at a point.

“My most challenging assignment was during the coverage of the Kokomba-Nanumba-Dagomba conflict in the 90s,” he said sending me an emoji depicting his painful experience. Mr. Kitcher says the coverage of the conflict was very much challenging for him mainly because of the weight of emotional strain it had on him.

“I had never seen so much destruction and deaths in all my life. Solo, trust me! I left the Castle 6th January, 2001. I came back to the newsroom to assume the role of Shift Leader. I later produced and presented Ghana Today – a news magazine program. I went on to become a supervisor and retired as Head of News.”

Without exaggerating issues, whoever listened to the retired broadcaster present Ghana Today on Radio Ghana would attest he lifted the stories out of his scripts, making it hard for listeners to switch to Focus on Africa [on BBC radio] which aired at the same time – 1500GMT.

“The time is three o’clock and this is Ghana Today where we bring you reports from our correspondents across the country,” his introduction would go. His style of questioning whenever he engaged his correspondents was spectacular.

This aside, another news segment Mr. Kitcher fronted was the Major News Bulletin at 1pm on radio. It was always a delight to hear this amazing broadcaster read scripts on News Commentary [a segment on the news].

Undoubtedly, here is a man full of rich experience as a journalist. Must such a person retire from journalism because he is 60 years old when he could actively be a walking institution in the GBC newsroom?

I am an ardent viewer of Aljazeera and, I perhaps think, I know all of the station’s reporters and correspondents. Talk of the old but active Mike Hanna who reports from Washington DC in the United States, Adrian Brown from Beijing, from Pakistan Kamal Hyder and Diplomatic Editor, James Bays, among others. Watching these phenomenal journalists is such a pleasure. This is because it is not about them being old but being full of rich experience as they have done what they do repeatedly.

I believe that we need such experienced folks in every newsroom to help shape affairs. I am not, in anyway, suggesting that the young folks are not on top of their job. The point, however, is that there are some old folks whose knowledge the young crop of journalists earnestly need to better their trade.

I am sure you have heard of TV3’s Stephen Anti of News@10 fame, right? Truth be told, the likes of Stephen Antis and Teye Kitchers drive the news. I have produced the former for over three years now on 3FM [92.7] as he reads the then Newshour [at 6pm] now Hot Edition [at 5:30pm].

Stephan Anti – though not overly old – is that type of a newsreader or anchor who basically needs no scripts or prepared questions. Yes! Just get him the microphone and it is as if he was destined to do what he does.

A mention could also be made of the former GBC newsreader, Mercy Sowah. Although I never have met her before, having monitored her from afar – via radio – aside her overly soothing voice, I could tell that GBC had a treasure that it perhaps never knew.

I understand that GBC has been engaging its men and women on retirement to teach at its training school. This, I must say, is commendable and must be continued. We must tap the experiences of the doyens.

Anyway, did you know that the man whose news reading gift you so much enjoyed never wanted to be a journalist? Interesting!

“My earlier interest was in architecture. I was, however, encouraged to pursue journalism by my big brother, Paul,” he tells me. Fate, indeed, has a way of turning around things in our lives.

Mr. Kitcher says he is much grateful to all and sundry, especially his listeners, who made his career a success. He hints that there are three people who, however, were very instrumental in his professional career as a journalist.

“My professional life was shaped by three Johns. John Nyankuma, a former Head of News [at GBC] who taught me all I know about broadcast writing; Johnnie Ashie Kotei, one time Head of Programming at GBC and my father-in-law who taught me presentation skills; and Jerry John Rawlings who mentored me in critical thinking.”

Mr. Kitcher is today thanking persons who shaped his life but, probably, little does he know that he has himself shaped many lives, especially people he directly worked with.

“He was my boss who later became my friend. He was a boss-friend who knew how and where to draw the lines between professionalism and friendship. He also knew how and when to combine the two to get the best out of me,” says Abdul Hayi Moomen, one of the celebrated broadcasters in the country, to me in a WhatsApp chat.

“I would miss his friendly but stern and strict nature― fair but firm. He was one person who was passionate about seeing the state broadcaster take back its place as the pacesetter of broadcasting in Ghana― and for that, I will miss him. This is because I share the same sentiments. In his absence, there’s almost no one left to look up to,” he adds.

For Nana Achia Aboagye, also at GBC, Mr. Teye Kitcher is a role model who keeps inspiring her even when he is out there on retirement.

“I consider him my father and I was fortunate to have sat in the same classroom/lecture hall with him at GIJ. He’s such a wonderful figure whom I look up to in my career. He has been my source of inspiration since day one,” she said.

“Mr. Kitcher is very knowledgeable, humble and affable. What I miss about him is his jovial nature. He plays with everyone in the office. He doesn’t discriminate at all. He appreciates and respects everyone,” Ms. Aboagye intimates.

If it is the case that the retired broadcaster never received any award or citation, I do not consider such a big deal. I have always told my close friends that the best award in the world is giving other people [and even animals] the reason to live and this has been confirmed by Mr. Moomen and Nana Achia.

Mr. Kitcher is 60 years old but, mind you, he did not retire on a ‘simple note’. He bagged Masters in Communication Studies, majoring in Media Management, from GIJ in 2017. You can only wait to see him lecture in a communication/journalism school near you as he is currently doing so at the Wisconsin University College in Accra. All said and done, however, let the broadcaster’s passion for excellence and higher heights in education motivate you to achieve that dream. It is never too late to be that wo/man in the mirror in front of you!

By Solomon Mensah

The writer is a broadcast journalist with TV3/3FM. Views expressed here are solely his and do not, in anyway, reflect the editorial policy of his organization.

Email: nehusthan4@yahoo.com

Twitter: @aniwaba

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