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[Feature Story] My Newsroom Manifesto

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Political parties will soon broadcast their manifestos and dreams to us, as we enter 2020. It’s all for your mandate on December 7th but I need to pass this across , before they bombard you with pages from their colourful books.
I have a dream. I dream about making journalism the best practice than what it is at the moment. I want this dream as soon as possible, especially ahead of elections 2020.

I dream that the newsroom in 2020 will become a powerful department, transcending the screen and mic to tangibly affecting people and products.
I dream that radio-TV practitioners will be truly recognized as elements of the forth arm of government in whatever political setting and regime we may find ourselves in.
I dream that, like Cuba, this country can export human resources like journalists one day, anywhere to add value to the receiving countries; the new journalist for Africa’s development. I guess I want to say something along the lines of creating an atmosphere necessary for the good guys to work without any kind of unwarranted challenge.

A lot argue that Ghana’s situation as far as press freedom is concerned is better than others but I argue Germany, Norway is still churning out policies every day to make the economic lives better in their countries.

Whereas not overlooking this achievement, it is too simplistic to assume good press freedom index for Ghana means we are doing better than others, especially here in Africa. Nothing prevents us from being the ideal type.
My Ghanaian (Journalistic or media) dream begins in the newsroom. Like we do for and with most matters of national importance, the conversation about the Ghanaian journalist, the industry now versus what it ought to be as prescribed by the constitution should start in our various news studios.

Article 162(5) of the 1992 constitution of Ghana;
All agencies of the mass media shall, at all times, be free to uphold the principles, provisions and objectives of this Constitution, and shall uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people of Ghana.
Clearly, a provision such as the one above prescribes the framework and lengths of the profession. It means that any person or entity working outside this framework is illegal. Another angle to this provision may be the quality of practitioners today versus how they fit into the facility above.

This is more like the open conversation about legal education. My intention is not to snub anyone’s position on the matter but we cannot avoid the issue of opening up the system to allow more education without compromising standards because everything comes down to the crucial role of the judiciary in the state.
That’s the kind of newsroom attention I crave for in 2020.

About us.
That an agenda and conversation to evaluate and explore the roles, identity, values of the Ghanaian journalist in the past, today would be started and followed through to a reasonable conclusion.
I dream of a newsroom that will be bold to discuss the future of the profession; a newsroom that understands it is not about competition but more of a mission, and is not ashamed to acknowledge and accept (or borrow) values such as community (not the wishes of an individual) because it understands there are diverse methods to reporting the news.

Leadership.
When I think of the newsroom in 2020, I quickly associate it with leadership. Leadership or management that inspires talents, novelty and provides these individuals with opportunities like networking, guidance, education. In 2020, I dream of leadership that thinks of the future leadership and follows through immediately to offer mentorship, training across the various fields in the newsroom to hold the news together and to uphold the confidence of the public.

Fake news, Deep fakes & RTI.
Fake news is a big conversation across western media. A lot of the stories journalist tell is at the peril of their lives, therefore it would be a shame, too unfortunate or even silly for any newsroom to lose members or come under some indictments of peddling fake news or related.

This phenomenon is to expected more and guarded against in 2020. I don’t know if newsrooms can afford (money and time) the new algorithmic- news analytics-fact checking scan-stuffs, and the other little new soft and hard technologies to help the stories we will carry but I know there is an insane genius (apart from the geeks) in every progressive newsroom. That person or group of people who worked out puzzles and still told beautifully balanced stories before the passage of Right To Information.

The method is “old school” but that in the framework of the respective newsroom’s purpose is enough.
However, my dream in 2020 is to see newsrooms take advantage of all the technologies in the story telling process.

Structure and Culture.
What culture has your current newsroom leadership created?
Is this culture in line with the organization’s core mission and purpose?
Maybe another honest conversation about our experiences, our various units, about our organizational structures, about our leaders, the owners, the producers, on air staff, the listeners and etc. might help, don’t you think?

I dream of a newsroom in 2020 where leadership focuses on creating better cultures, reconciling the mismatch between the vision and reality to create real alignment and paying attention to the attention given to feedback especially from the public.

Wait, do we (media organizations) understand our relationship with the public?
Most banks understand the people they do business with, No?

Truly successful decision making (in the newsroom) relies on a balance between deliberate and instinctive thinking”. Malcolm Gladwell

Remuneration.
One of the reasons why some professions especially friends in the sports, education fraternities among others may be more successful is because we know how much boxers, footballers, teachers earn.

There is too much privacy around the incomes of media practitioners. It has bred unfairness.
Teachers, lawyers, doctors may not be cheated so much because there is no secrecy about how much they earn. Why can’t I know how much my favorite sports presenter earns when I know how much Dede Ayew earns in a week at West Ham.

In 2020, newsrooms should encourage healthy conversations around salaries and welfare. The anonymity has festered the vibe (if not) of unfairness for too long and perhaps encouraged corruption. If I know, I do better and minority groups like interns, starters, women, differently abled friends should be given some reasonable accommodation. Giving enough to media practitioners only means you understand they are passionate human beings (with families).

Women. I dream of a better place and protection for women in 2020. Radio-TV comes differently to women. Pregnant or not, old or young, or differently abled. It’s mostly about what each individual can offer.
Can we have women in 2020 doing more than reading news bulleting?
Can we see and hear more women doing morning shows, and doing some of the “hard stuff”?
Can we have more qualified women head the newsrooms, lead production teams, marketing departments and hold top jobs in our various outfits?
I believe we can.
I dream that if women are better placed in our newsrooms in 2020, the elections would be more than peaceful.

The fourth arm of government should be your agenda for the 2020 elections.

Ebenezer De-Gaulle.
Producer, Class FM.

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