The one-day boot camp themed “The Interface between Journalism and Social Media Activism” held on February 20, 2016 at the Ghana-India Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT in Accra, afforded participants an interactive session with the resource persons and each other, on the basic principles and ethics of journalism and social media. Resource persons placed emphasis especially on potential minefields on social media platforms.
Among other things, the objectives of the Boot Camp were to identify the opportunities inherent in journalism as a mechanism for change and good governance; to evaluate the current situation and chart a new course for improved performance in reporting; to reiterate the ethics, standards and professionalism in the practice of journalism in Ghana; to identify the relevance of new media, particularly social media; to reiterate the importance of the unwritten rules and regulations of social media and to learn to maximize social media for effective activism that yields results.
Veteran communications specialist Vicky Wireko-Andoh began with the difference between journalism and social media, the defining functionalism of journalism as well as other differences between the two, and the requisite skills for a journalist’s arsenal.
She pointed out to the participants that it was important for journalists to be transparent about their political biases, urging them to avoid being influenced by interest groups in the pursuit of their duties, especially to the public to whom they have a responsibility.
Participants were taken through the essentials of good storytelling by freelance documentary filmmaker Selase Kove-Seyram, in light of today’s monumental explosion in the availability of storytelling mediums. He advised journalists to be self-critical, skeptical and specific in their reportage.
Raymond Yeldidong Bayor, a communications specialist who majored in the field of radio at Columbia University in the City of New York, also took participants through the basic tenets of radio journalism.
Stressing the need for fairness and objectivity, he said reporting only what one is told, is “lazy reporting”, and journalists need to seek out the other sides to a story and avoid being one-dimensional.
“To report and write a story without attempting to contact those who are involved and are likely to disagree, is unprofessional and unethical conduct,” he said.
He also asserted the importance of self-regulation to the media, as the oxygen of free speech is central to democracy and thoughts of gagging the media cannot be entertained.
“You can’t speak to the same expert on the same subject more than once on radio. Get another view,” he admonished.
The media training also offered another opportunity for discourse on the shortcomings and neglect of ethics by some sections of Ghana’s media.
Among the topics discussed, participants expressed worry with Ghanaian journalists’ choice of experts, the lack of multiplicity of voices in stories, and sources that unnecessarily prefer anonymity.
Emmanuel Dogbevi, the Executive Director of NewsBridge Africa and Managing Editor of ghanabusinessnews.com, stressed that online media must not be any less bound by the rules guarding traditional media.
Ghana’s growing online media space currently sees a lot of plagiarism and a significant section often simply copies and pastes what appears elsewhere, putting the media at great risk of rapidly and widely diffusing erroneous and blatantly false stories.
A panel made up of all the panelists answered questions from the participants. The panel was moderated by Dr. Etse Sikanku of the School of Communications Studies, University of Ghana, Legon.
Mr. Dogbevi indicated that more such training on journalism and social media as will be necessary for journalists, would be held in Ghana and beyond.
The participants were also unanimous in their evaluation of the training and called for more to be done in the future.
Among the participants were health professionals including a medical doctor, communications and PR practitioners, journalism students, journalists and a banker.
Tigo Ghana and Accra Brewery Limited sponsored the training.
By Emmanuel Odonkor