Journalism serves an important role in our communities and the country at large. Beyond the regular checks and balances of the government, journalism tries to keep our leaders honest.
It gives a voice to the voiceless and holds the powerful accountable. But in order to do these things, a journalist has to have the trust of his or her readers and sources.
It is for this reason we would like to recall the advice given by President Nana Akufo-Addo to media practitioners at the maiden dinner of the Ghana Journalists Association in Accra recently.
The President, who graced the occasion, urged the media fraternity to uphold high journalistic standards, embrace training and critically engage society to help advance the development of the country.
“You should recognise the need for training, critical engagement of society, self-regulation and insistence on high media ethics and journalistic standards,” he said.
The call could not have come at a more appropriate time when the possibility of the world having the Internet at its fingertips makes way for every single individual being able to write articles and post them on the Web. The mass use of the Internet has thus distorted the definition of journalism. Nonetheless, in such a world, ethics are just as important.
Ethical journalism entails factual information, hard evidence, opinions from all parties involved and objective information steered away from subjectivity.
The consumer is so overwhelmed with unethical content provided by the Internet that he or she craves a good piece of factual work.
Journalists, therefore, have the responsibility towards society to provide truthful, balanced, factual and objective information, while steering away from conflicts of interest and taking society’s privacy into account.
Journalists have the power to influence what society believes and should, as a result, provide objective information and allow society to interpret what is being said and done, using its own discretion.
Journalism has an unusual capacity to serve as a watchdog over those whose power and position most affect the citizenry. It may also offer a voice to the voiceless. Being an independent monitor of power means watching over the powerful few in society on behalf of the many to guard against tyranny.
Journalists have an obligation to protect this watchdog freedom by not demeaning it in frivolous use or exploiting it for commercial gain. Journalism should also attempt to fairly represent varied viewpoints and interests in society and to place them in context, rather than highlight only the conflicting fringes of debate.
Accuracy and truthfulness also require that the public discussion does not neglect points of common ground or instances when problems are not just identified but also solved.
Journalism, then, is more than providing an outlet for discussion or adding one’s voice to the conversation. It carries with it a responsibility to improve the quality of debate by providing verified information and intellectual rigour. A forum without regard for facts fails to inform and degrades rather than improves the quality and effectiveness of citizen decision-making.
Sensationalism should never enter a factual article in order to avoid rumour and speculation. The consumer has a right to truthful and factual information. Without this, the profession of journalism will not exist.
As the conscience of the nation, the Daily Graphic remains a constant, vast chronicle of local history that has weathered decades of change. And that mission is and has always been to serve you, our loyal reader, as a fiercely objective newspaper and compelling storyteller. Over the past seven decades, the Daily Graphic has played and continues to play its role of keeping the citizenry abreast of current events and raising awareness of various issues confronting the nation.
This mission we pledge to hold sacred because newspapers are the lifeblood of a healthy and well-functioning democracy.
We shall continue to hold true to our mantra: ‘Truth and accuracy every day’, our pledge for the year.