The Ghanaian society has been called upon to demand more issue-based stories from the media instead of the flashy, sensational, click-bait kind of stories that are preferred today.
Ms Sara Stealy, the Press Attaché at the US Embassy, said this was critical, particularly, in the run-up to the elections.
“Voters have a responsibility as well to be smart consumers of media and to demand that sort of issues-based, fact-based reporting,” Ms. Stealy told the GNA at the closing of a two-day media training for journalists in Northern Ghana, held in Tamale.
She, therefore, urged journalists to embrace their role as watchdogs and to go beyond simply transcribing what candidates or campaigns say to critically analysing, fact-checking and presenting it to the audience so that they could make the right choices on Election Day.
She pledged the commitment of the United States Embassy to support the continuous training for journalists in Ghana because a free, fair and professional journalism corps was crucial to democracy.
On the training programme, Ms Stealy said: “The group of journalists that we had together in this room were very enthusiastic and vocal and it was interesting for me to listen and hear what they have to say about being a journalist in Ghana.”
She urged the participants to apply the skills and knowledge they had acquired to their work to deliver above par.
The programme was under the theme: “How to Pitch a Story and tell it better”. The participants were, therefore, schooled on the Rudiments of Pitching Stories, How to Assess and Report Press Releases, as well as Storytelling.
Basically, pitching is selling a story idea to your editor, using a detailed and well-structured proposal.
The story idea will be based on a hypothesis and outlines the objectives of the story, the questions to be asked, sources of information to answer questions. It also gives timelines for doing the story and the expected Impact.
Mr Emmanuel Dogbevi, the Executive Director of NewsBridge Africa, and the Managing Editor of Ghana Business News, organisers of the workshop, said pitching stories helped journalists in narrowing down the scope of the story and enabled them to address specifics instead of taking a broad approach to it.
The participants were also taken through the need for and how to critically assess Press Releases to determine their newsworthiness and more importantly, to probe for the news behind the release.
Using examples from major news outlets like Reuters, the session highlighted the need for further questioning of the information contained in press releases and seeing them as a source of sometimes, breaking news.
“Not all press releases should be published,” stated Mr Dogbevi.
Mrs Makafui Abla Fiagadzi, a participant, said the training session had been very informative and it had better equipped her to be a better journalist, especially in light of the upcoming elections.
This, she said, was very important as journalists in the North faced various challenges, which impeded their work.
Mr Lansah Musah, another participant, said the training had equipped him with the skills to tell more compelling stories, in spite of the challenges.
He, however, urged media owners to invest in their regional offices and their staff in order to facilitate their work as journalists.