There?s no denying that the Ghana Journalists Association annual awards have become a benchmark by which journalists strive to measure their performance. Many outstanding Ghanaian journalists have had to climb the dais of the GJA to receive one award or the other.
Mention can be made of the likes of the Kwaku Sakyi Addos, the George Sydney Abugris the Komla Dumors, the Yaw Boadu-Ayeboafohs, the Peggy Ama Donkors, Anas Aremeyaw Anas? and of course the Manasseh Azure Awunis just to name a few from the tall list.

As a journalist, I must confess the GJA as a professional body is doing its best to raise standards of the journalism profession although there still exist some journalists who for reasons known to them deliberately spit on the face of GJA?s effort.

But just like every institution the GJA cannot be without blemish. Sometime last week when I got to know of the nominees for the 17th GJA Awards night; it was a mixture of happiness and disappointment. First of all, I was happy because most of the nominees including the overall winner Manasseh Azure were my course mates at the Ghana Institute of Journalism.

My disappointment was not due to the fact that I was not nominated because I did not submit an entry anyway but I was pretty shocked that it seems GJA is not making a case for the new media. Really, we are in 2012, and I am sure many people would agree that the new media (websites, the social media, blogs) have become very critical to our media landscape mostly providing a cover for the traditional news sources, be it radio, TV, or newspaper.

Last Saturday, as I was handed a copy the programme brochure, I glanced through the list of astute media personalities and dignitaries who constituted the Awards Committee of the 17th GJA Awards. These are personalities whose professional competence could never be in doubt.

Slowly, I checked the designation of each and every member of the Awards committee, what I found out was quite surprising. It was obvious the committee was more biased to the traditional media as depicted my previous experience.

Alas, I said to myself that could be the reason for the obvious neglect of the new media. But can we pardon GJA for this blunt omission? Well it would have be pardonable if all the gurus on the Awards Planning Committee do not in one way or the other browse the web for the latest news rather than waiting for the major news bulletins on radio or the next daily.

The fact that the GJA does not have a functional website alone is hard to swallow. The only attempt GJA made on its 17th Awards at recognizing the new media was a category named ICT (on-line journalism. As far I was concerned when GJA, having given awards in categories like Hygiene, Sports, Telecommunications etc., cannot turn around and insult our intelligence that the category ICT could mean online journalism.

In as much as I believe journalists should be rewarded for their efforts I believe some of the award categories have lost their essence and must just be modified. For instance the idea of giving the Best radio/television programmes in various languages must be reviewed because over the years the Ga Category has become the preserve of a particular radio station. It won?t be out of place to have these local languages merged into one category.

One thing I realise at the awards night was that some of the categories overlap. I don?t know whether I was the only person who saw that. But to have a category like Health and also have another one like HIV/AIDS was a little weird. Why don?t we then have a category for Malaria, Cardiovascular diseases, and all other diseases you could think about?

It was equally amazing that the entertainment category was also put together with Domestic Tourism. It is clear these are two separate fields of journalism at least entertainment as a category would not have been a bad idea, after all it is said the media, educate, inform and entertain. I am expecting the next awards to give entertainment journalists the needed recognition that they deserve.

One category which was equally missing was one that had to do with gender empowerment. Like someone would say, we had categories such as Environment, Hygiene and Sanitation, and Water so why don?t we have one to reward journalists focused on this area.

At a time when media experts have questioned the practice where corporate entities sponsor news bulletins, I believe the time has also come to debate how some organizations sponsor some specialized award category.

Having the awards sponsor driven could hurt the objectivity of news coverage. For instance, it would be near impossible for a very good report fingering a bank in some ills be crowned the best finance report when that guilty bank is sponsoring the award. I know we are not there yet but to be warned is indeed to be fore-armed.

Like it is done everywhere, the GJA must as- a matter of urgency- create a platform when the works of all the award winners would be put in the public domain, accessible at all times. These when done would also serve as benchmarks for journalists aiming at any of the categories. The GJA can do this if they have a functional website. They can upload the photos, the audios, the news reports, videos and everything that was used in winning an award. The works of the runners-up can also be uploaded there not only to serve as encouragement to them but also to serve critics the platform in analyzing the winning entries.

In case no one noticed, I did notice that in this year?s award, there was no Most Promising Journalist of the Year award. At 26 years, Awuni Manasseh Azure won that award last year. But looking at most award winners who were below 26-years, was it a case that none of them deserved it? The GJA must come clear on this and let us know what happened to that category.

Well I can?t conclude this piece without acknowledging the efforts of Manasseh Awuni Azure winning the Journalist of the Year. For me, I know his best is yet to come. I can only pray for him and wish him well.

Anyway congrats to all the award winners, I pray next year my efforts would also be recognized, Cheers!

Author: Richard Nii Abbey
Writer?s email: [email protected]

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