Monday, January 20, 2014

Two Separate Worlds

By Lindsey O'Brien

Culture shock. I had heard this phrase day-in and day-out prior to my departure from small town Ohio. Of course, I was prepared for the opposing cultures of travelling to a third world country, but never was I prepared for the culture shock awaiting me when travelling from Accra, Ghana to Beverly Hills, California.

I was lucky enough to land an internship at Ms.Magazine in Beverly Hills before I left for Ghana, effective as soon as I returned home from Africa. Going from an internship at the Daily Graphic to Ms. Magazine gave me a huge perspective and new found respect for journalism in the United States.

Outside of the Daily Graphic. Photo by Zach Bourgraf

The Daily Graphic is the largest circulating newspaper in Ghana; however, as I read the paper on the first day of my internship, it felt like I was reading my local county paper at home. The internship was unaware that we were even going to be arriving. My first (and only) assignment on the first day, was writing a 500 word press release. As a student strictly studying journalism, writing a press release was a completely new world for me...and I was completely lost at where to start. The second day I received a by-line, again, covering a press release from the Ghana National Association of Teachers. Through this experience at the Graphic, I realized that it is important, as a journalist, to have a grasp of the PR side of things as well; however, I do not feel like I did much journalism at all.

At Ms. Magazine, a national magazine circulating quarterly covering women's issues, I was greeted by everyone saying that they were waiting for my arrival. My first week at the internship I received five by-lines in the issue that will be closing in two weeks. I have spent every minute of my day fact checking every word of every article that will appear in the up coming issue. I feel like I am actually immersed in the field of journalism here, where the Daily Graphic seemed disorganized and more like a public relations firm.

One striking difference between journalism here and in Ghana, is the lack of variety in their publications. The Daily Graphic had one page covering gender issues, whereas in America, we have hundreds of women's publications. The Daily Graphic formally referred to homosexuality as gayism and lesbianism, also treating it with bias, saying it will corrupt our youth. Publications in the United States would receive huge backlash if LGBT was treated as anything different then just simply covering the issues.

The bias and lack of hard hitting journalism in Ghana shows that they have a long way before their journalism is up to the standards of how we treat it in the United States. They are making steps; however, by working to pass a law similar to our Freedom of Information Act. This internship at The Daily Graphic, especially being able to contrast it with a current internship in Los Angeles, gave me a whole new perspective and appreciation for being a journalist in the United States. Thank god for the First Amendment.

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