Journalism
Journalism

We made several bold claims about the present state of Ghanaian journalism in four previous essays, titled ?The Danger of Free Press to Ghana?s Democracy? and ?Ghana?s Unrepentant Ugly Face.? Some of these assertions, we believe, require additional contexts of elucidation lest we be grossly misunderstood. The first of these questions regards the complex relationship linking journalism as a profit-making venture, ethics, and objectivity in a graphic theory of moral accountability. On the other hand, we recall making a general statement to the effect that journalists should avoid making their profession subservient to the allure of financial gain. We argue here that this statement should be allowed to stand alone, outside the general concerns of profitability with particular reference to media houses. This proposition must be taken within context.

Journalism
Journalism

The context we have in mind is a critically accommodating one. Moreover, part of this accommodating context relates to the question of ?intent.? We are hereby treading the narrow line between business decisions and journalistic conventions on the one hand and the actualities of political democracy on the other hand. Thus our accommodating context requires clarity of purpose. Two concepts readily come to mind: Profit-making and profiteering. Critically, we acknowledge that profit-making is not necessarily bad if its generation falls within parameters of the law. On the other hand distinguishing between the two is necessarily called for. Profiteering may point to situations where origination of profit short-circuits the bounds of ethical considerations. For the most part, concern for human dignity does not take center stage in the commercial empire of profiteering.
In other words, ?profit-making? assumes the exploitative character of ?profiteering? when profit generation becomes a conscious manipulator, or an enemy, of the law, defying ethical sensibilities in behalf of corporate greed and personal aggrandizement. Economic democracy presents itself as one of the moral antidotes to portfolios of business decisions in which usurpation of human dignity aligns with the investiture of profiteering, becoming the beating heart of commercial relations. This is not the moral junction where we hope to see the soul of Ghanaian journalism. Journalism should be fundamentally about human dignity, in defense of human dignity. However, it is not suggesting that moral defense of human dignity should be pried from the alluring clench of the profit motive, granted that the mystery surrounding money is part and parcel of the human experience. Then again, it is no hidden secret that budgetary constraints pose one of the major, if not the major, problems facing Ghanaian journalism.

 

This question has serious implications for Ghana?s social facts. Budgetary constraints also negatively impact qualitative research and the overall quality of news reporting. Fact-finding is another major casualty of budgetary constraints. Therefore, media houses need to make decent profits from their publications. That way, media houses can recoup their overhead expenses, honor dividend arrangements with shareholders, keep businesses afloat, remunerate employees for their hard work, and expand into other ventures in the interest of the common good. These utilitarian considerations nourish ideational possibilities and add material value to human spiritual existence. Our primary contention here is that, the profit motive should be within acceptable economic-legal limits so as not to compromise employer ethics, employees? professional ethics, and quality of journalism, apparently since no business entity can expect to survive in today?s competitive world at break-even point. After all, it is not in doubt that the profit motive constitutes one of the engines driving ingenuity and competitiveness.

 

That the profit motive should stand on the strength of a set of operational variables in order for the invisible hand of success to make material presence in human and business relations is not in question. Honesty, accountability, loyalty, transparency, objectivity, confidentiality, motivation, industry, and decorum have a place in the obliging heart of this set of operational variables. The point is that there exists a point of operational convertibility, however tenuous, between a business?s profit margin and quality of ideational resources. It is also not a secret that these nonmaterial variables are tied to the bottom-line of business operations. Moreover, the conversation about profitability is the same whether the yardstick is socialism or capitalism or any system between, democratic socialism. Human beings, then, are direct yields of their intellectual beingness, a proposition we have consistently belabored.

 

Again, what is not in question is the essential goodness of human beings. This innate goodness of humanity needs to reflect in the aggregation of Ghanaian journalistic outpourings. As a matter of recollection, we have implied elsewhere that Ghanaian journalism, overall, is not structurally, epistemologically, and emotionally different from their counterparts in other parts of the world. However, we cannot fail to ignore its outstanding deficit which directly points to a lack of activist cutting edge to news reporting, moral or otherwise. In our opinion, we affirm this activist lack to be identifiable with the general landscape of Ghanaian journalism. We are directly asserting that Ghanaian journalism is not so much about diagnostic or prognostic journalism as it is about descriptive journalism. About descriptive journalism, we shall say it lacks the sharp tincture of moral or political activism. Descriptive journalism merely describes events as they come and go. Depth, insight, critique, objectivity, and vision do not accrue to the superficial temperament of descriptive journalism. In simple terms, therefore, descriptive journalism represents a wellspring of partisan political effusions laced with profuse snippets of tabloid news.

 

The flowing idiom of political insults, entertainment, and superstitious gossip are most likely to find a home in the funky armpit of descriptive journalism. Objectification, essentialism, moral exclusion, and infrahumanization all have their natural niche in the lap of descriptive journalism. In contrast, diagnostic or prognostic journalism is philosophically antithetical to descriptive journalism. This is where depth, cultural criticism, insight, objectivity, and scientific approach to human psychology and social evolution take precedence over subjectivity, emotionalism. It is worth pointing out that subjectivity permeates every accessory structure of human endeavor, but we have invoked the concept here in union with the discussion on journalism on the basis of conceptual relativity. In theory, the degree of subjectivity in diagnostic journalism is tempered by strict journalistic adherence to scientific objectivity.

 

Diagnostic journalism may identify with topical indulgences as diverse as political economy, technology, cultural ecology, epidemiology, agronomy, science, and so on. Endangered species and environmental degradation are two specific instances evocative of our topical generalities. A diagnostic journalist, for instance, will take up the question of environmental pollution where she tries to find a correlation between that and political economy, say GDP, and internal stability of nation-states. She thoroughly investigates the scientific foundations of environmental degradation via human agency and links them to possibilities of conflicts, low agricultural outputs, diseases, short water supply, genocides, animal deaths, drought, poor economic performance, etc. She then proposes scientific solutions in the company of a country?s political economy, development sociology, and development economics.

 

More significantly, she frames her comprehensive scientific analysis not only in the political idiom of the here and now. Her language takes on the inner mystique and temperamental obscurity of tomorrow as well. She does not even end the story there. She goes on to covert the scientific jargon of her analysis to one of linguistic simplicity, thus guaranteeing comprehensibility for the youth. Then comes along a descriptive journalist. He says the concepts of extinction, environmental degradation, and endangered species are all scientific hoaxes. He adds, quite sentimentally, that God created animals and the environment to last forever until God, in his infinite wisdom, decides otherwise. In his moments of sentimental stupor, however, he contradictorily claims environmental degradation, extinction, and endangered species are irreversible curses God has imposed on mankind for his recalcitrance and reprobacy.

 

Regarding solutions, the descriptive journalist recommends prayers and fasting, adding that the facts of evolutionary science and scientific rationalism are sharply contradicted by the transcendental claims of creationism. Unsurprisingly the moral politics of environmental awareness or the science of environmental activism means nothing to him. In fact, he sees the rich legacies of Ken Saro-Wiwa and Wangari Maathai in respect of environmental activism as the handiwork of the Devil, the archenemy of his God, believing the combined legacies of Saro-Wiwa and Maathai as nothing more than environmental ethnocentrism. And he concludes that science is the contorted face Devil. Finally, descriptive journalism takes a linear approach to complex questions while diagnostic journalism adopts a circular methodology due to the multiple perspectives from which it evaluates difficult problems.

 

Also, diagnostic journalism promotes science education and scientific literacy and makes strong connections between them and strategic policy decisions made at the national level in the area of technology, technocratic advancement, and development sociology (See also what Mathew C. Nisbet calls ?science communication? and ?knowledge journalist?). Another astonishing fact leads to the dominance of descriptive journalism in the epistemological space of Ghanaian journalism. The recent public bickering between the major opposition party, the NPP, and the incumbent, the NDC, over seeming contradictory statistical representations of the Ghanaian economy, the so-called debt to GDP ratio, involving the Bank of Ghana (BOG) and the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) on the one hand and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on the other hand certainly falls under the epistemological rubric of descriptive journalism.

 

What are we driving at? A conscientious journalist with grounding in statistics, econometrics, political economy, or economic theory, particularly macroeconomics, with unbridled access to appropriate statistical data on the national economy, should, exclusive of ideological or political biases, be able to unearth the true state of the Ghanaian economy on the strength of statistical asseveration alone. This is what investigative or analytic journalism, both expressions of diagnostic journalism, is all about. As pointed out before, it may well be relatively easy for a journalist to unearth the truth if not for encroachment of personal, political, or ideological prejudices upon a journalist?s wobbly conscience. Journalists must guard against these negative tendencies at all times.

 

What is the solution? Collaborative journalism and knowledge-based journalism can and should temper some of these negative tendencies.

 

We shall return?

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