I have reached a point where I consciously stay away from public debates about the quality of journalism in Ghana. Criticism of every profession is welcome and journalists must, and should be criticised. However, most of the criticisms as I find them are unnecessary and unfounded often faulty and borne out of the sheer desire to just criticize.
These criticisms also appear to peak soon after presidential media encounters. Most critics use that occasional event to judge the overall performance of all Ghanaian journalists.
Sadly, most of the criticisms say things that suggest that journalists are dumber than the rest of us, that they are poorly educated, shallow minded and do not know their job. And some of the people doing the criticisms forget that they sat in the same classrooms with some journalists up to the graduate level.
Moreover, some of the criticisms reflect a pervasive lack of understanding of journalism.
There are currently more than 200 registered members of the Ghana Journalists Association, not all of them are practicing journalism. There are also a large number who are practicing but are not members of the organisation, and so, it is only fair that in mounting criticisms against journalists, an acknowledgement of the population of journalists should be taken into account. Singling out just a few as an example or reflection of all can’t be said to be fair. And often some of these critics try without success in their attempts to sound fair by singling out one or two journalists as an example of excellence.
Ghanaian journalists like journalists in every country are working under severe constraints, they are underappreciated, undervalued and underpaid. But most have continued to give off their best without fanfare and their works are impacting and improving the society in more ways than people care to know and these are happening without drama.
There are journalists who are risking their lives everyday to tell the stories that need to be told.
But then people unfamiliar with the wider works of journalists are quick to literally run them down.
To a large extent, the freedom and democracy Ghana enjoys today can be attributed to some stellar works of some journalists.
And it should be noted that not all that is churned out by media is necessarily journalism, it is very possible that while there is huge amount of media activities in Ghana, not all these constitute or represent any form of journalism and therefore, it is unfair to put all into one basket and lampoon journalists.
While in a democracy everyone is entitled to freedom of expression and the right to criticize, criticisms should be situated in context and must be informed.
At least for people to be fair to themselves, they should make attempts to understand the nature and function of journalism, be familiar with the historical development of the profession and it’s contribution to Ghana’s development, at least read very widely and be familiar with the works of several journalists so they can make fair assessments.
The work of journalists is very essential to our very existence and while we criticize them, let us do so fairly, and it is high time we started supporting good quality journalism which we have but do not support, if we must encourage it.