Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Interning at Citi FM in Accra, Ghana

By Joshua Rogers

My first time experience of how Ghana does journalism was a very different experience than anything I have done in America. I arrived at Citi FM in Accra and was immediately sent out on assignment with a man named Sammi. He seemed to be an educated and smart man. Our assignment was to go to a conference of distinguished scholars in Accra and get a few soundbites. I thought it was interesting because when we got there, he didn’t even put his recorder on the podium. He found a speaker and just put the recorder next to it. He didn’t ask any questions afterwards, we just left and went back to the newsroom to write the script.

The newsroom was small, especially for the 10 to 15 employees they have. Most were pretty laid back, but seemed to care about what they were doing and had some sort of passion for the industry. The technology was not what I am used to. The computers are old Dells, the internet doesn’t work 50% of the time, and they have never even heard of ENPS. They write their stories in Microsoft Word and use Adobe Audition to edit sound. Then they just print out the scripts and the anchors take them to the studio and read them right off the paper. The studio itself is old, but has all the necessary tools. Their principles of journalism seem to be different. Most of their actualities on the radio are 40-45 seconds, way longer than what we are taught in America. They are very straightforward in their reading of the news, and they don’t really have a “flow” to their half-hour cast at noon. Their “eyewitness” hour-and-a-half cast at 5:30 has a producer and more of a flow to it.

The most enlightening part of all of this was the trip to and from the conference of distinguished scholars. On the way there, I asked Sammi a lot about the country, their way of life, and himself. He was very open and answered just about every question I asked. The Ghanaians are generally extremely friendly people and willing to help out when you are in need of it. I asked Sammie about the way the government is run and how they operate. He explained that their government is nothing like ours. They can be corrupt and they don’t really care for the average Ghanaian. He said there is a lot of poverty in the country and that the government only looks after themselves and their families. Handicapped people “have no hope”, according to him, and there are no programs to help them. There are only six public universities in the country and they are difficult to get in to because everyone who has enough money to go wants to get in. Education is the only way to give yourself and advantage here and so the larger universities have as many as 45,000 students. We talked about the differences between our militaries, governments, and just ways of life in general. He told me he went to the Ghana Institute for Journalism, but wants to find a new job next year because he gets bored of it sometimes. He did express that he is thankful that Ghana’s press is free and not suppressed like many other African nations.

A view from the center of Makola Market in Accra, Ghana.

On the way back, we drove past the Muslim sector of Accra. This was easily the most shocking part of the day. The neighborhood was clearly a slum. It was stricken with poverty and all of the houses were just shacks. Sammie said that the neighborhood is extremely violent and that no one goes there unless they live there. The road we were driving on served as a literal barrier between the Muslim sector and the rest of Accra. On the other side of the road, there were shacks and stores lined up on the sidewalk. Behind the shops was a drop-off, and then an endless sprawl of shacks. Even more interestingly, Sammi said that the Muslim people make up about 35% of the nation’s total population.

I learned a lot in my first day at Citi FM, not only about journalism in Ghana but in Accra in general. I learned that not only do the ethics of American journalism not apply, but that this country is currently at a key point in its development. The people of Ghana burn trash in their own streets, pollute their own rivers and other bodies of water, and generally seem to not care about their environment. They are extremely kind and open people, but they need to wake up. There is a constant smog that hangs over Accra and noticeably pollutes the air. My experience not only opened my eyes to Ghana’s way of journalism but their problems with their way of life. They have a beautiful city and a wonderful culture, but there are a lot of improvements to be made.

No comments: