POOR PRACTICES IN JOURNALISM
The Disturbing Factor
When I received a call from the initiator of this wonderful and challenging project, senior journalist and long time mentor for many Bamenda-based journalists, Choves Loh, I felt like asking him whether there were any poor practices in journalism toady. But my worries were more than compensated by the central message of a sermon I heard in the morning of that Wednesday April 03,2013 at the Bayelle Catholic Mission Church from my old acquaintance Rev. Father Akwa Maurice. Throughout his sermon he had reechoed a question the two apostles asked the unrecognized Jesus when they met him on the way to Emaous. As they were discussing about the events of the last three days of Easter, the unrecognized Jesus asked to know what they were talking about. Embarrassed at the question, and before taking the pains to narrate the resurrection story of Jesus Christ, they first of all ask him the all-too-important question: ‘Are you a stranger in Jerrusalem?’.I immediately felt that would be the kind of question Choves Loh would have asked me if I asked him whether there were still poor practices in Journalism today. Yet, as I join the discussion the very first poor practice that comes to my mind is that despite their etiquette as the 4th Easter, Journalists are poor people, very poor indeed. My old good friend, journalist, and philosophy, Peterkins Manyong had continuously reminded me each time I try to question any journalism poor practice that his child would not get up in the morning and is asking for bread and rather than providing the bread he goes ahead to tell him that he is a good and ethical journalist. Or better still, that his landlord would not come asking for his rents and he takes a newspaper and tells him that “have you not seen my article on the front page”. This tells us that the socio-economic environment is not the best and I dare say, the level of practice of journalism in any country reflects the ideals of that country. Without attempting to be an advocate for the devil, I think there is a lot of cacophony in the practice of journalism in Cameroon in general and the North West in particular today. What particularly pains me is that people you respect in society go ahead and publish blatant remours before they go to verify on grounds that such hot news could not wait. This is about murdering the innocent.
The way forward
It is a truth universally accepted that every profession has its rules. Same holds true for journalism. No two ways. Yet, in journalism practice, we say “learn the rules before you can break them”. Unfortunately for us today, a majority of journalists start by breaking all the rules and only a few care to even learn them after. This can be attributed to lack of training and above all, mentoring. In the days of yore, every newsroom had a coach for the young ones. Today, no sooner than a journalist leave school than he hits the newspaper headlines the next week. He/she starts carrying an ego that stops him/her from listening to any elder in the profession. The worse crime is that most journalists indulge in poor journalism practice because they do not know what journalism is not. My teacher used to tell us that If you want to know what Geography is, you must first know what Geography is not. Not many of those who pass round as journalists, I must assure you, know what journalism is not. Are you a stranger in Jerrusalem; or I dare say, in journalism?
Colber Gwain, email@example.com
Publisher/Editor, The Colbert Report.