TALKING DRUM: Why the GJA must go beyond organizing awards!

GJA Award1
This year’s best journalist receives a car prize
Once making a walk pass the premises of the Ghana International Press Center (GiPC) together with a friend, we spotted something spectacular.
At the forecourt of the GiPC sat two cars on two separate wooden platforms. Curious to know why such cars would be showcased at the premises occupied by the Ghana Journalists Association, we drew near.
On the cars were written: “Journalist of the Year 2015,” and “GJA Best Financial Reporter of the Year 2015” respectively.
For many critics of the GJA Awards, this has been one thing that is long overdue. Indeed, such critics see no reasoning in giving journalists laptops and television sets as their take home prizes.
In making their argument cogent, they would cite the example of most beauty pageants giving out cars and other valuables to winners. So, for these critics, a journalist who would have to trek the mountains and the hinterlands being given a car is not only important but needful.
I must therefore, first, commend the sponsors of both cars that will go to lucky persons who will win the GJA journalist of the year, and the GJA Best Financial Reporter of the Year awards. More so, the Ghana Journalists Association also needs to be commended for, finally, listening to the voice of the people.
Tonight, media practitioners, friends of the media and Ghanaians at large will either be at the Banquet Hall of the State House or sit at home to watch the GJA awards unfold.
The GJA Awards, though colourful, I think, needs massive improvement this time round. I look forward to seeing the GJA showing Ghanaians the [three] finalists selected for every category of the awards. As well, the works of such journalists (be it TV, radio, print or online) must be projected on a screen for some few minutes for Ghanaians to appreciate it rather than merely announcing the winners.
After all, is the night not to celebrate journalists who forfeit their leisure and pleasure to work seven days a week? Often, prolong musical performances and speeches take the shine of the awards.
In America, the coveted Pulitzer Prize Awards for journalists is one award scheme a journalist would not miss.
Indeed, aside the Pulitzer being open about how its judges select the winners for all the categories of the awards, it as well offers the outside world the opportunity to freely access the works of all the award-winning journalists.
Then a freelancer, I once wrote on Radio Ghana’s News Commentary suggesting to the GJA the shining example of the Pulitzer Prize. But it fell on deaf ears.
Here in Ghana, if one needs to make reference to say the story that saw the Journalist of the Year 2014 being crowned winner, such a person would have to personally contact the journalist. It is but shameful that the GJA cannot boast of a website of international repute not to talk of compiling the works of journalists.
But wait! This is just a tip of the iceberg of GJA’s woes. For many of its members, it practically does nothing aside organizing annual awards. The GJA is likened to a newspaper vendor in Sunyani with a lost direction.
In 2002 when I had successfully convinced my parents that I needed to wear lens, I was taken to the then Sunyani Municipal Eye Clinic.
At the wait-room together with other patients to see Dr. Asuboteng, I shivered. I was told by friends that one cannot acquire a lens without being operated upon. I just feared that notion.
It was, however, not long after I had sat at the cemetery-like wait-room that the place resounded with laughter relieving me of my fears. Why?
A newspaper vendor had stormed the eye clinic pitching his newspapers to patients of various degrees of eye conditions. Sitting at my far right, a man of about 45 years old buried his chin in his left palm. He had the right eye plastered.
“Yes Graphic, Millor [he meant The Mirror],” the young man called on his prospective customers to purchase his newspapers.
For close to three minutes the newspaper vendor walked through the eye clinic eagerly announcing his presence. Then, the one-eye man gently called him.
“So when you look through all these patients,” he said to the vendor pointing his hand to the patients, “do you in your wisdom think we have eyes to read your papers when we buy them?”
What ensued was what seemed like an unending laughter.
The Ghana Journalists Association, like that newspaper vendor, has content to sell. What has, however, become the challenge to the GJA is the targeting and focusing on the very people for whose interest it represents.
Aside the annual awards, the GJA must standby its members but not undeservedly. When most Ghanaian journalists dropped tears following the passing away of Ghanaian Times’ Samuel Nuamah, I was saddened how the GJA President, Dr. Affail Monney, handled matters. In his interview with the media on the account that led to the Presidential Press Corps’ accident, I think he sounded more a spokesperson of the ruling government than a ‘caretaker’ of Ghana’s journalists.
In a sharp contrast to the above, I think it was undeservedly appalling the GJA’s ‘excitement’ over the pardoning of the Montie 3 by President Mahama. Free speech does not mean the journalist can trade insults. So, the Montie 3 needed no sympathy from the GJA. What do you think?
Aside the annual awards, the GJA must be reminded that most of its people are either wallowing in poverty or being exploited by some unscrupulous media owners. Indeed, many are journalists who seem to have ordained poverty as their God just that they cannot publish their own predicaments as they do for others.
It will be prudent that the GJA in consultation with appropriate offices draft a pay structure for media owners. Here, a red line is drawn such that a journalist cannot be paid less than a stipulated amount depending on the journalist’s qualification.
Aside the annual awards, the GJA must be able to get every media house to own what I refer to as ‘newsroom wardrobe.’ In this wardrobe are reporters’ working gear including helmets, bullet proof vests among others.
Whereas the newsroom wardrobe may sound laughable, I think it is high time we as journalists realized that we are not supper humans from people who suffer injuries during protests and demonstrations.
Not too long ago, I listened to a Joy FM reporter who narrated how he narrowly escaped being hit by a bullet somewhere at Kasoa during a demonstration. If we are to give a platform for journalists to share such moments they nearly kissed death, we will perhaps need a whole month to chronicle such accounts.
Elsewhere in the Whiteman’s land, these protective gears for journalists are considered paramount. Election 2016 is just around the corner and, again, journalists will dare reporting from hotspots without taking into consideration their own safety.
I am not in any way demeaning the office or rubbishing the awards of the GJA. I look forward to competing in the near future. What I am trying to drum home is simple; that the Ghanaian journalists’ happiness must not be a fleeting-funfair of annual jamboree.
The GJA must wake up for the sleep that last from one market day to the other becomes death. Congratulations to the GJA Journalist of the Year 2015!
By Solomon Mensah
The writer is a broadcast journalist with 3FM 92.7MHz. Views expressed here solely remain his opinion and not that of his media organization.
Email: nehusthan4@yahoo.com
Twitter: @Aniwaba

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