Mr. Kweku Baako Jnr, “Islammed”- Abdul Malik Kweku Baako, son of Madam Gloria Aba Addison and veteran politician, Kofi Baako, husband of Ayisha Baako and father of Ama Ghana and others, is a celebrated Ghanaian journalist.
His accolades are numerous – Bombay, man with the documents, the chief interceptor etc. All these describe one man, the most regular voice on Joy FM’s Newsfile. Perhaps, the only Ghanaian journalist who can match him boot for boot is, his bosom friend, Kwesi Pratt Jnr, Aka, ‘Massa’.
When I was in Journalism school, I took a special interest in Mr. Baako’s rather long news stories. Some of them were even serialized – watch out for parts 2, 3, 4 etc. What glued me to his writings, from The Guide (Now Daily Guide) to The Crusading Guide, was his power of narration. Therefore, if any of you is enthused about my narration abilities, please blame it on Abdul Malik. Yes, blame, with a tongue in cheek though. I studied his articles like a subject as a student-Journalist.
You can credit him with 10% of my writing prowess, 5% to Prof. Kwesi Yankah (Woes of a Kwatriot (The Mirror), 5% to Henry Ofori (Carl Mutt-The Mirror) and share the remaining 80% among; Ben Ephson (The Daily Dispatch), Kwaku Sakyi Addo (The Chronicle), Ebo Quansah (The Chronicle), Francis Doku (Watching and Listening-Graphic Showbiz), Letter to Dora (Graphic Showbiz), Merari Alomele (The Spectator), Dornu Adjokacher (The Mirror), PaJohn Bentsifi Dadson (Bentsifi’s title- The Mirror), Elizabeth Ohene (Daily Graphic) Enimil Eshun (Daily Graphic) and lately, Manasseh Azure Awuni (Manasseh’s Folder) – I read columns/op-eds, features and editorials a lot.
On GBC radio I used to listen to ‘radio commentary’ by my latest friend Affail Monney, My class mate at GIMPA, Justice Mingle, Maxwell Yusifu, my Facebook friend, Teye Kitcher, Rayborn Bulley, Marvel Tarr, and Richard Quashigah.
Kweku Baako is a colossus as far as journalism in Ghana is concerned. At a point, he introduced a very unpopular kind of journalism- ‘Publish and they will react’. If I recall correctly, he used this as a panacea for eliciting information from public and private institutions that have come under his radar, but were refusing to respond to efforts to get their sides of the stories under consideration, for publication. This approach worked like magic. The one-time Journalist of the Year, has copies of all secret documents in the country. This earned him the chief interceptor of documents accolade.
He may not have a Diploma, Degree or Masters in Journalism, but he has educated himself enough in this profession for his sense of news to be considered super. That the renowned Investigative Journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas, is his protégé, speaks volumes with regard to what Bombay knows in respect of journalism.
He doesn’t even need such certificates. Even honorary ones that were offered on a silver platter, he has declined. First, it was GIMPA and recently, University for Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA.)
What is news?
Let’s go back to Journalism School. News writing 101. News is information about current events. Its elements include; Immediacy or Timeliness, Proximity, Consequence, Prominence, Drama, Oddity and Conflict.
In the wake of the Caleb Kudah-National Security operatives incident, Abdul Malik had cause to question the news sense of the editorial managers of Citi FM, an Accra-based radio station. In order not to misrepresent what he said, let me reproduce parts of his comments as circulated to all media houses;
“A Journalist is released from security custody after 5 hours. He proceeds to his workplace after his release and is instructed to go home by his superiors and return to work the next day.
The next day, the Journalist is on air (on his radio station), alleging that he had been tortured whilst in security custody prior to his release.
Prior to his disclosure of having been subjected to physical assault/torture, one of his superiors appeared on a major television network to recount what had happened to him (the arrested Journalist) and the events which had transpired at the media house (workplace of the arrested Journalist) earlier that day. No hint of the reported physical assault or torture was/is communicated to the audience of the programme or the nation.
Apparently, this was because the physical assault or torture was unknown to the superiors of the arrested/incarcerated Journalist at that point in time. And this was because the Journalist was instructed to go home and rest. And return to work the next day. What if the effects of the reported torture had taken its toll on him the night before? He returns/returned to work the following day to reveal that he was physically assaulted and tortured while in security custody. And this is reported on his station’s radio and television networks.
Some citizens and analysts raise issues and cast doubts on the new twist because of the delay in disclosure of the physical assault. For me, the allegation of physical assault or torture was/is a more significant feature of the unfolding saga. I called the Management of the station and indicated that the omission or delayed disclosure could have the effect of undermining the credibility of the subsequent disclosure and provide some skeptics and cynics with the basis to cast doubts on the significant disclosure.
The decision not to run with the story of the physical assault or torture timeously was explained to me. I am/was told that there were good reasons for the delay. Emotional trauma among other reasons. I respectfully disagreed. Subsequently, I appear on a high profile programme (Joy FM’s high profile/flagship NEWSFILE) and articulate the view that the Management’s decision to delay disclosure was/is not the best practice or idea. And that it could reinforce the view that the physical assault or torture story was an afterthought or not factual. I did not categorically say the torture story was an afterthought or not factual. In such matters, it helps if and when the victim of the alleged or reported physical assault or torture gets a medical examination/report early”.
Well, if you doubted my praise for Abdul Malik’s power of narration, you have the evidence. This is only the tip of the iceberg.
From the journalistic perspective, I agree with Abdul Malik in toto. In fact, Management of Citi FM should count themselves lucky that no news-hungry reporter ‘intercepted’ Caleb on his way home. They would have been scooped. They would have realized that news is served hot. “Drop it like it’s hot”, as the young ones would say. You dey bab?
Indeed, ‘timeously’, as used by Kweku is synonymous with ‘timeliness’ and ‘immediacy’ as listed in the elements of news aforementioned. So Kweku is spot on journalistically speaking.
But clearly, other considerations informed the “decision not to run with the story”. To say that one disagreed with that decision portrays a lack of appreciation for varied perspectives on any particular issue. That every coin has two sides is a fact that everybody must acknowledge.
In this case, I even see a quadrilateral (four-sided) issue rather than a coin. I see four perspectives to the matter- the Journalistic, Human Resource, Public Relations and Traditional Wisdom perspectives.
I, therefore, wish to humbly offer my writing mentor, three other perspectives that may have informed that decision.
Differing professional perspectives
In my over two decades of experience in Journalism, Public Relations and Administration, I have come across many instances of various professionals differing in opinion over pertinent issues.
Whether or not pre-auditing is necessary is a constant bone of contention between Auditors and Accountants. Medical Doctors differ with Nurses over the milligram of medication to be administered to a particular patient. Pharmacists question the basis of a particular drug combination prescribed by a Doctor and advise patients against proceeding accordingly. Herbalists differ in opinion over whether or not there is a permanent cure for illnesses such as Diabetes and Hypertension. I could go on and on.
Personally, in my capacity as Public Relations Officer, I had cause to differ in opinion with the Legal Adviser of a previous employer over the cancellation of results of students who had engaged in examination malpractice. The Lawyer that she is, when the matter came up for discussion, her advice was, “the rules are clear, you don’t take mobile phones into an examination hall, so cancel the results”.
I respectfully begged to differ. I viewed the issue from the perspective of the affected publics- the students, their parents and families, totaling hundreds. These students had gone through those anxious moments of writing the examinations and all they hear is, “your results have been canceled”. For me, that would only serve to feed into a prevailing perception at the time, that the organization intentionally failed students because it made much money from the fees paid by re-sitters.
I suggested that the errant students should be offered the opportunity to state their side of the story. My contention was that the “audi alteram partem” (Listen to the other side) rule, must be applied as the principle of natural just demands (Credit: GIMPA and UG Administrative Law class). My proposition was upheld. The students confessed and asked for forgiveness. However, as I have come to know, when trust is broken, sorry means nothing. Their results were canceled.
Nevertheless, I have no doubt that between the period when they were invited for the hearing and the announcement of the verdict, they would have psyched themselves enough for any possible outcome, hence the impact was mitigated.
The HR perspective
As regards the matter in issue, therefore, I wish to use my little knowledge of Human Resource Management (HR-I wonder why they take out the ‘M’ from the abbreviation), to disagree with Kweku.
HR can be defined thus, ‘Human Resource Management is the process of recruiting, selecting, inducting employees, providing orientation, imparting training and development, appraising the performance of employees, deciding compensation and providing benefits, motivating employees, maintaining proper relations with employees and their trade unions, ensuring employees safety, welfare and healthy measures in compliance with labour laws of the land. Source: https://www.whatishumanresource.com/pre-employment-tests
My focus is on the safety, welfare, and health bits of the definition. And in disagreeing with him, permit me to mimic my mentor’s mode of narration. A journalist is released/set free from 5 hours of detention/custody in the hands of national security operatives. He tells his boss/superior about the beatings he has endured. His boss/superior, who witnessed part of the incident on their premises, deciphers/determines that the Journalist is disoriented/confused and you say the boss should sit him down and debrief him and run with the story? What do you want to hear from a disoriented brain?
My view is that Bernard Avle should be faulted for asking Caleb to go home instead of the hospital. And Kweku mentioned that. Good.
I also read similar comments from Madam Elizabeth Ohene. Seniors, please if you doubt the truth in Caleb’s report regarding the assault, I think the release of the four operatives by Minister Kan Dapaah should be enough evidence.
The PR perspective
Like every discipline, Public Relations (PR), is defined variously by different scholars. I found this rather simple and suitable to my cause definition, on the website duly acknowledged below:
‘Public Relations is the practice of deliberately managing the release and spread of information between an individual or an organization and its publics in order to affect the public perception.’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_relations
Here, I dwell on the perception bit. The way your publics/stakeholders perceive you constitutes your reputation as an individual or organization. In very simple terms, your reputation is what people say about you in your absence.
As an individual, it is what attracts you to someone who will entrust his wealth into your hands as a business. It is what attracts your friends and family to your memorable occasions. It is what attracts the numerous comments from your friends when you post anything on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram. If you didn’t, now you know why nobody likes, comments or shares your posts.
For the organisation, your reputation is what attracts the best talent. It is what attracts the most lucrative business deals. For a radio station, it is what attracts the listeners and the advertisers. It is the conviction that when the advert is logged to be played at a particular time, it will. It is the certainty that the number of spots agreed will be played. It is the belief that a particular programme will start at the advertised time and end accordingly.
It is the trust that when Kojo Yankson, Winston Amoah and Raymond Acquah, with indefatigable Sammy Odame as Producer, hit the airwaves every morning, between 5:55 am and 10:00 am, with the Super Morning Show, the listener can expect nothing but an informed discussion of pertinent issues. It is the assurance that if the news is on Joy News, then it is accurate. Not so much the speed with which the news is delivered? No!!!
No wonder IPR Ghana has, “image is everything” as its credo. At Stratcomm Africa, Ghana’s leading total communications consultancy, where I used to work, it is implanted in our DNA. To bring it home, it has been rendered in Fante, the native language of our Founder, Madam Esther Cobbah- ‘Dzin pa ye sen ahonya’ (Good name is better than riches).
Now to mimic mode, “a Journalist is released from 5 hours of detention/arrest in the hands of National Security operatives. During this period, his wife/girlfriend, brothers, sisters, mother, father, grandfathers, grandmothers, uncles, aunties, cousins and friends are worried/disturbed because they may have tried reaching him without success due to the fact that his phone was taken from him.
Then they suddenly hear him on air narrating his ordeal. He later goes home and tells them about the gruesome/shocking details of his incarceration. And when they ask why the superiors/bosses would not wait for you (the arrested Journalist) to recover from the shock?, He answers, “because they wanted to run with the story otherwise we will be scooped”. What do you think the Journalist’s relatives will think of the organization?”
The traditional wisdom perspective
Our forefathers, for the sake of gender equity, and foremothers, have long told us what to do under any circumstances; “afeo noni he hia, dani afeo noni sa”, “ye ye nia ese, ansa ya ye nie efata”- you do what is necessary before you do what is important.
In this case, what was necessary, was for Caleb to recover from the shock and trauma that he went through, before being subjected to the news needs of Citi FM’s listeners and the nation at large. And I am with the Management of Citi FM on that.
Evidently, for every issue, there are various perspectives. It pays to appreciate these other perspectives and let that inform how we proceed thereafter no matter our profession.
‘Farvel mine venner’- Danish, for goodbye my friends.
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