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How Margaret Safo honed my writing skills

BY: By Vance Azu
How Margaret Safo honed my writing skills
Vance Azu

Today, I devote the column to my former boss, and one of my mentors, the late Mrs Margaret Safo, the first female Editor of The Mirror, from January 2, 2002 to 2011, when she opted for voluntary retirement.

As an Editor, Mrs Safo demonstrated creativity and, with the support of her team at The Mirror, changed the focus of the paper from a feminine-bias weekend relaxation paper, into a family-centred one.

She introduced new columns to give the paper a true reflection of that focus. As part of the initiative, she introduced personality profiles, with family pictures.

The innovation was successful and gave, The Mirror a new image, along with increased patronage.

I, therefore, publish, in part, the tribute I paid to her memory, when she passed away on May 8, 2014. I recount my engagement with her leading to my taking over of the column, Trends, which she authored for years, in The Mirror.

How it started

Mrs Safo invited me to her office one afternoon in 2003, and after a short discussion, she told me to take up that column. Shaken and hesitant I asked her: “Auntie Maggie, how can I?”

She explained that her new role as the Editor of the paper made it impossible to continue writing that column regularly, thus she felt I was the right person to continue with it.

I wondered how I could step in those big shoes of Mrs Safo, the prolific writer, and get the attention of readers. After some persuasion, I accepted the challenge. She gave me her usual shout out: Ooooh Vaaance, and I left her office.

Starting in 2003, I did not look back or regret the responsibility; authoring the column regularly until 2013, when I was transferred from The Mirror to the Junior Graphic.

Relationship

I knew Auntie Maggie way back before I joined The Mirror in 1991. While a student at the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ), I was invited by my cousin, Dr Mrs Edith Wellington, to be part of a team being trained to embark on a research on HIV and AIDS in the Krobo community. It was there that I met Auntie Maggie, and my former boss at the Junior Graphic, Mrs Mavis Kitcher, who were part of the research team.

Later on, after the project had ended, I joined The Mirror for my internship, and later national service. I developed liking for Auntie Maggie, when I got to know that she was behind the Nana Ama Advises You column in The Mirror. I loved that column, because it gave me insights into relationships.

Later, permanently employed, she endeavoured to get me closer to God. Always counselling me, she was shocked when she got to know that I did not observe morning devotions.

She took me to the Challenge Bookshop at Kokomlemle, near the Accra Technical Training Centre, and bought me the One Year Bible. That was in 1995. She succeeded making me religiously inclined, and I am grateful to her, because I still use that Bible for my morning devotions.

Over the years, we got close and she tasked me to file most of the big stories for the paper.  Both of us usually discussed story ideas and new trends, and what she felt could be good front page stories, after which she dispatched me to follow up.

We worked closely together, so that most staff members in the News Department called me her pet, even though we had some disagreements.

She encouraged me to pursue a university degree at the University of Ghana, and always showed interest in my nuclear family. She impacted my life as a journalist because, being the one who honed my writing skills.

Successes

It was during her tenure as Editor that I won the maiden Graphic Communications Group Best Worker Award in my unit, while she was adjudged the Best Worker in the Management Category in 2004.

She was like a big sister to me, and I relished the monetary gifts from her as well, when I did a great job in her estimation. I remember the commendation she gave me in 2004, when I filed a story about an ‘abolo’ seller at Kpong (more on that next week), who was wrongly jailed 10 years by the Circuit Court in Odumase-Krobo for illegal abortion.

Apparently, the judge had used an outdated law in passing the sentence on the poor abolo seller. My pursuit of that story culminated in the release of the young woman from the Akuse Prison after Nana Oye Lithur (now Nana Oye Bampoe-Addo), a gender activist and a former Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, had taken up the case for her to be set free.

My association with Auntie Maggie actually made me understand the psychology of dealing with female bosses.

After she left The Mirror in 2011, I worked with two female bosses without any wahala.