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Counting the days (3)...Work at The Mirror, contempt of court - Vance Azu writes

BY: Vance Azu
The writer
The writer

At The Mirror, I worked with enthusiasm, with the hope of catching the eye of the editor and his team members. The feedback I had been receiving from friends and relatives back in my ‘holy village’ kept pushing me to do more.

As a result of the initial success I had chalked up in the one-month period at The Mirror, I resolved to continue the rest of my internship there. Although that decision was actually against the dictates of the internship programme, I continued the fourth, fifth and sixth months of internship in that unit.

After four months of internship with The Mirror, we returned to school for the last semester and prepared for the final examination. Even while in school, I was regulary contributing to the paper.

It was no wonder that after I had completed the programme, I was offered the opportunity to undertake my one-year national service at The Mirror.

Service, work

Our service started in September 1991. I continued to give of my best, without relenting, still hitting the front pages with stories, this time not only from my ‘holy village’ and adjoining communities, but also far afield and nearby communities.

I regularly travelled to Keta, Anloga, Tsiame in the southern part of the Volta Region, Suhum, Ada, Nkurakan, Anum Boso, among others, to ‘hunt’ for human-interest stories.

I exploited the wide network of friends I had, especially my classmates, as well as my police friends, including news sources I had cultivated when I joined the media fraternity.

Chief among those friends was Mr Timothy Gobah, a teacher in Keta at the time and now Staff Writer with the Daily Graphic.

Timothy Gobah gave me a lot of leads that helped me write great stories from that part of the Volta Region.

Contempt of court

As a news reporter, I did not leave any stone unturned in reporting news. I made sure I covered every part of the terrain and every angle of news, with my target being this: “that I would be the first to break the news always!”
However, three months into my service, an unfortunate incident happened which nearly jeopardised my career.

The incident revolved around a man, Sammy Addy, who was a friend of The Mirror (he later became my course mate at the University of Ghana and one of my best friends).

Addy was the plaintiff in a land litigation case that had spanned 40 years in the High Court. A number of justices had sat on the case, including a former Chief Justice, Justice P.N.K. Archer.

He brought the matter to the notice of the paper, and on the day of the subsequent hearing of the case, I was assigned to be on that beat.

The case was in the court of the late Justice Emelia Aryee. I had been to court a number of times, but each time I went, counsel for either the plaintiff or defendant had asked for adjournments or the judge would not show up. Seriously, that court assignment had been conflicting with my news gathering.

As a result of that, I decided to skip the court case one day to pursue an interesting piece of information that could make the front page story of the paper. I was following up on that story at the Korle Bu Police Station.

Later in the afternoon when I returned to the office, Mr Addy was there with my senior colleagues. They asked me why I had failed to go to court on that particular day and I explained the reason for my inability to be in court. But they were not enthused about my explanation.

Mr Addy then told me that something dramatic had happened in court, and that it was unfortunate that I was not around.

I was inexperienced, and my senior colleagues, who should have known better, asked Mr Addy, who happened to be an interested party in the case, to narrate and update me on what had transpired in court to enable me to file a story.

He painted an interesting scenario and I ignorantly took notes of the sequence of proceedings in court. I was also interested in the byline, so I wrote the story as if I had been present in court. However, while crafting the story, my instincts kept telling me that there was something more I could do to give credence to the story.

The writer is the Night Editor of the Daily Graphic.

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