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Counting the days...Kofi Badu’s tenure at Graphic

BY: Vance Azu
The writer is the Night Editor of the Daily Graphic
The writer is the Night Editor of the Daily Graphic

After the dust had settled on the transfers in the Editorial Department which had affected four ‘powerful’ and prolific writers, a new administration, under the veteran Kofi Badu, was ushered in around mid 1993.

Mr Badu was not new to Graphic — he had been in and out of the organisation, first as a sports writer and later as its managing director.

The man knew the Graphic terrain very well and understood every bit of activity that went on in the organisation, be it the newsroom, the press, the Accounts Department, etc.

Not long after he had settled down, he uncovered a gargantuan fraud that had been perpetuated in the Accounts Department, amounting to about one billion cedis at the time.

A group of finance officers in that department, including the chief accountant were arrested. Sadly, the chief cashier, who was one of those arrested, later died in BNI custody.

The chief accountant went to jail and the appointments of the others were terminated.

Mr Badu’s administration eliminated the lackadaisical approach to work and introduced some orderliness in the establishment. Everybody became alert and discharged his or her responsibilities with alacrity, knowing the consequences that awaited if one faltered in one’s work.

Redeployment exercise

In that particular year, I was highly expectant that my relationship with The Mirror would be regularised. However, something unpleasant happened in the organisation which threw my expectation out of gear.

A major redeployment exercise was carried out under Mr Badu, who said there was excess labour in the organisation. The exercise was widespread and affected all the departments, as well as some senior journalists. That development affected our engagement as permanent staff. At that time, two of my mates were also with the Daily Graphic — Daniel Ato Aidoo and Kwabena Ofosuhene.

During that period, which I can safely describe as revolutionary, some of the ‘archaic’ things done at Graphic had to give way to modern trends in the newspaper industry. One of the initiatives that I would continuously commend Mr Badu for was the computerisation of the newsroom, as well as other departments of the company.

What pertained at the time we joined Graphic was that when reporters returned from assignment, they wrote their stories on copy pads before handing them over to the News Editor, who went through, made some changes before handing the script over to the copy typists in the newsroom to type.

By the stroke of Mr Badu’s trenchant pen, he decreed that the supply of copy pads in the newsroom should be discontinued, and that reporters should type their own stories on the computer. There were some grumblings and ‘silent’ protests which, interestingly, didn’t travel far.

The typists, who at the time, felt threatened that their jobs were on the line, also had to adapt to the wind of change that was blowing in the organisation. Some of them learnt how to use the computer, while others who could not make it were declared redundant.

Going around the MDs directive

I decided to pick on this aspect of Mr Badu’s revolutionary tenure at Graphic because of a challenging experience I had while on a training programme in Germany in 2001. When the computerisation exercise was introduced and reporters were asked to type their own stories, I was not in support of the change because my schedule was heavy and the number of stories I filed in a week was high. I dreaded how I would be able to type all those stories, since I spent most of the day on the field looking for stories. Above all, I conducted the interviews for the Forum Page in The Mirror and wondered about the number of hours I would spend typing those stories.

As a result of the phobia that I had developed for typing, I wasn’t enthusiastic about working with the computer. As such, I devised a way to go around the MD’s directive — whenever I returned from assignment, I struck an alliance with the secretary in our unit, who helped me out with my stories, especially the interviews for the Forum Page.

Embarrassment in Germany

A resolve to type my own stories, as well as upgrade my skills in typing, especially working on the computer, was made in 2001 when I returned from Berlin, Germany, after a three-month training programme at the International Institute of Journalism.

Typing shouldn’t have been that difficult for me when it was made mandatory for reporters to type their stories. However, during our days at the GIJ, we didn’t take the lessons in typing seriously, and that was why typing stories became an issue for some of us when we entered the field to practise as journalists.

In Germany, anytime we returned from a field trip, we (the students) were asked to craft stories and send them to our media network. It was during that period that this Twi proverb came to mind: Wo sisi Ananse a, wo sisi wo ho (to wit, if you cheat the spider, you cheat yourself).

On such occasions, my colleagues from East Africa, Nigeria, South Africa and South East Asia would quickly get on the computer and, within a matter of seconds, finish keying in their stories, after which they punched them back home.

Owing to my inability to type stories directly on the computer, I always sat quietly near my Kenyan colleague, who had speed and dexterity in typing, to scribble my story on the copy pad I carried along.
That lady would then ask: “Vance are you not sending a story?”

And in an embarrassed tone, I would explain to her that I preferred crafting my stories on the pad before keying them in for clarity and coherence sake. Initially she believed me and seemed to have accepted my explanation, but when I got on the key pad doing my one finger typing, she would cut in quickly with the request that I give her my script to type for me.

She didn’t take too long to execute the task with perfection. I would then read through, and when I was satisfied, punch it back home. That continued till the programme ended.

Vows to type own scripts

When I returned from Germany after the programme, I went straight to my Editor, Mrs Margaret Safo, to tell her about my ordeal in Germany, especially my inability to type my own stories. I promised her that I would not like to suffer such embarrassment any longer, particularly when I travel.

Since that day, I started typing my own scripts, notwithstanding the long period it took me to finish.

Since I made that vow, I have been typing my own stories with the speed of lightning till this day, and I owe this to Kofi Badu.

To be continued

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The writer is the Night Editor of the Daily Graphic

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