MANASSEH’S FOLDER: Casely-Hayford Vs. GIJ Students: My verdict

One is not a millimetre away from the truth to call it fire and fury. But this is not the fury of a temperamental child in the most powerful “white” building in the world, whose childish deeds are compiled in a controversial book. It is the fury of students, led by their representative council. They are demanding an apology from an outspoken member of Occupy Ghana, Sydney Casely-Hayford.

He must apologise or else?

Nothing!

I am on a number of WhatsApp platforms with some students and past students of the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ) and they are angry that the leading member of the pressure group made a comment they consider sexist and insulting. As a panelist on Citi FM last Saturday, Sydney Casely-Hayford criticized standards of journalism in Ghana and descended heavily on students of GIJ.

“Go to the Ghana Institute of Journalism, GIJ, and look at the students who are coming out. Majority of them are females and when you look at it, you will see that it is more of a fashion parade…so when we are talking about quality of journalism, they should tone down on the fashion and get a little bit more serious with the actual content,” he said.

The GIJ SRC, in a statement, said the comment was offensive.

“The SRC finds his statement to be very sexist, unfortunate, unwarranted, unguided, without basis and an insult to the values of the Ghana Institute of Journalism.”

The statement, which was signed by my good friend and General Secretary of the SRC, Nathaniel Alpha, had the following conclusion:

“It is very unfortunate that an opinion leader like Casely Hayford would not use his platform and such opportunities to discuss the quality of the state of Journalism independent of schools and of gender. The quality of Journalism, he and others should be minded, is a product of many things in this country and not necessarily the training Institute or the conduct of a specific gender. It borders on the vision of media houses, the ability of the media houses to employ professionals, enforcement of standards by regulators and stakeholders and several other contingencies. It is shocking that he, who is supposed to know better, would reduce the discussion to such sexist commentary.

“Casely Hayford has to apologize for his misrepresentation of females in GIJ and GIJ at large.”

 

I am a proud product of the Ghana Institute of Journalism. I loved and still love my school. I was the SRC President of the Institute in the 2009/2010 academic year. If this statement had been made in that period, I would have been obliged to take a stand. I’m not sure what I would have written then. But now, I am. And here is my verdict.

Sydney Casely Hayford does not owe the GIJ students an apology. In fact, the call for an apology has no merit, except the feminist angle, which is being stretched beyond its elastic limits. We are in an era of absurd feminism and so if one wants a leg for an illogical argument to stand, one must explore the feminist angle. But in this case, the leg of feminism is amputated.

Mr. Casely-Hayford explained why the emphasis was on female students. He said they formed a majority of students of the institute. The SRC’s statement did not dispute that. And the SRC cannot dispute the fact that the most important programme on the calendar of its Women’s Commission is a beauty pageant.

Not long ago, the Rector of GIJ, Dr. Wilberforce Sefakor Dzisah, announced the ban on the wearing of mini-skirts by female students of GIJ to class. He also banned male students from wearing shorts.

Some so-called feminists took him and the administration to the cleaners, but I defended the decision. Ladies of a professional institution should not go to class dressed like prostitutes on duty. And the men should not walk into classrooms dressed like palm-wine tappers at work. No one says wear uniforms like law students (who definitely know they have rights) but dress like professionals.

When I was the SRC President, a case was brought to my attention. A GIJ female student went to an Accra High Court for a Court Reporting class assignment and the judge drove her out for indecent dressing. Some editors at GTV, where I had my internship, could not send some female interns from GIJ to some assignments because of their dress codes. Sydney Casely-Hayford is, therefore, not out of order for talking about fashion when the school has stressed that point on many occasions.

On the substantive issue of standards in journalism and the products of GIJ, Sydney was again spot-on. GIJ is the premier journalism institution in Ghana so he could not have cited any other school when critiquing the quality of journalism training. The SRC is wrong to say the falling standard of journalism cannot be attributed mainly to training.

The GIJ SRC said in its press statement: “GIJ remains the topmost Journalism Institution in Ghana. Till date, GIJ has produced the finest of Journalists and Communication professionals who have served and continue to serve this country in various capacities.”

This statement is true. But there is also another truth, the painful truth. This bitter truth is that, these days, the University of Ghana produces better journalists than GIJ. I am not referring to the post-graduate level, where the university has a Department of Communication Studies. I’m referring to the undergraduate level, where the university has no journalism programme.

Media houses such as Citi FM and the Multimedia Group now rely heavily on products of the University of Ghana, who went to school to read courses such as Political Science, Sociology, Psychology, English among others without ever sitting in a journalism class. They acquired their skills in journalism by being interns at the university’s Radio station, Radio Univers.

Over 90% of the new talents in the Joy News room are products of Radio Univers’ internship, and they are some of the finest in the industry. I’m talking about Maxwell Agbagba, who is arguably Ghana’s finest roving reporter; Joseph Ackah Blay, Ernest Kojo Manu, and Raymond Acquah, one of the finest analytical brains in media today. We also have Daryl Kwaw, Karen Dodoo of Joy Business and George Addo Jnr. of Joy Sports. Nancy Emefa Dzradosi, and Maxwell Aamofia, products of Radio Univers, are doing their national service with the Multimedia Group.

Of course, Komla Adom and Bernice Abu-Baidoo of the Joy Newsroom, are doing great but the numbers coming from Univers drown those from GIJ.

At Citi FM, Bernard Avle leads the pack of Univers alumni, including Pious Amihere Eduku, Caleb Kudah, Jonas Nyabor, Marie-Franz Fordjoe, Duke Mensah Opoku, Sixtus Don Ullo and Nana Boakye Yiadom, who recently left for school.

The EIB Group can boast of Radio Univers alumni such as Bola Ray, Regina Borley Bortey, Isaac Kaledzi, Kafui Dey and Naa Deede among others.

Rabiu Alhassan, Paa Kwasi Asare, Kwakye Afreh Nuamah and Collins Essuman readily come to mind as some Univers products at the Media General Group.

The list is endless, but the message is simple. Media owners now look to Radio Univers to scout for talents. The young journalists who get employed in the top media houses are dominated by products of Radio Univers. The giants in journalism in the near future may not feature products of the foremost institution for media training in Ghana. Already, a great number of them are not from GIJ. Abdul Malik Kwaku Baako, Sampson Lardy Anyenini, Bernard Avle, Shamima Muslim, the late Komla Dumor, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, Kojo Yankson, and a host of others ruling the media space today, did not study at GIJ. Seth Kwame Boateng did not go to a journalism school.  Dzifa Bampoh went to the University of Ghana. Joseph Opoku Gakpo, one of the most brilliant young reporters around, is a product of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. He studied agriculture.

GIJ should wake up to this embarrassing reality. We are becoming uncompetitive. If engineering firms are looking to sociology departments for talents to fill engineering jobs, then the schools set up purposely for engineering programmes must sit up. GIJ also has a radio station. In my days we had a newspaper, but students would not contribute articles. Only a handful of us found it useful.

Sydney Casely-Hayford has simply told you that you have bad breath. It is painful to hear, but that is the truth. Instead of tearing him apart, find a remedy to the situation.

I know GIJ is not well-resourced, and much must be done to improve the content of the programmes and teaching, but a greater part of the blame for poor performance should be borne by the students. When I was SRC President, I brought top media personalities like Kwaku Sakyi-Addo, Anas Aremeyaw and George Sydney Abugri, to interact with students. These events often had embarrassing patronage from students of the institute. They preferred entertainment programmes, which were heavily patronized even if they were held at night and students were required to pay to patronize. They said I was boring, but thank God, I’m not boring on the job.

GIJ is not too bad to produce great journalists. The conditions at GIJ now are far better than the conditions that produced Kwaku Sakyi-Addo, who is my finest Ghanaian Journalist of all time. The conditions at now GIJ are far better than the conditions that produced one of the world’s finest investigative journalists, Anas Aremeyaw Anas. Kwami Sefa-Kayi was in GIJ. Peggy Ama Donkor was at her peak when I was entering GIJ and she was a great inspiration to me. Gary Al-Smith, Wilberforce Asare, Fiifi Koomson, Anita Odei-Osafo, were among those I worked with on the GIJ newspaper, The Communicator. You may want to check their profiles now.

GIJ is not too bad to produce marketable and competitive talents. I am a product of GIJ and I have never applied for a job after leaving school. I have rather rejected job offers. And there are more intelligent GIJ students than I, who may end up not making any impact in the media space. So my piece of advice is simple: Your lecturers are there to guide you. The greater burden of excellence is on you.

To excel in journalism, two things are key. They are the content and language of your trade. And the best way to master them is to read. I have said that any good writer who is not a good reader is a magician. If your language is good and content is poor, you won’t be read. If your content is solid but you present them in grammatically handicapped sentences, when your subjects and verbs are always drawing daggers, you won’t be read twice. When you listen to Bernard Avle, you don’t need a prophet to tell you he reads widely.

I have read every article posted on Kwaku Sakyi-Addo’s website. And I used to read George Sydney Abugri’s and Kofi Akordor’s columns in the Daily Graphic like scripture. While in school, I discovered the Pulitzer Prize’s website and printed out the award-winning stories and read them religiously. I have read almost every substantial work by Chinua Achebe.

I also read from and about figures such as Mandela and Martin Luther King Jnr. for inspiration and to build my character.

If you ask about my legacy at the GIJ, many may not remember me as an SRC President. I was the main producer of content for The Communicator newspaper in my days. Before social media became popular and blogs could easily be created to enhance self-publications, I had weekly columns written and published on tree trunks and notice boards in GIJ.

Unfortunately, when some students of GIJ approach me to mentor them and I tell them what to do, that often becomes the end of our friendship. Solomon Mensah of 3FM is an exception.

Dear GIJ students, journalism is not rocket science. But excellence in journalism requires diligence, discipline, integrity and sacrifice. All these, in turn, require a lot of energy. And spending a modicum of that energy fighting Sydney Casely-Hayford is not a wise decision.

My long mouth has fallen!

 

Source: Manasseh Azure Awuni