Countdown begins...No protocol here

BY: Yaw Boadu Ayeboafoh
Yaw Boadu Ayeboafo, the writer
Yaw Boadu Ayeboafo, the writer

Last week I was compelled to break the account of my experience working at Graphic because of what appeared to be an irritant. As some would say, “nsemfo ye ahyi”, meaning silly things irritate. But to be fair, Emirates promptly and readily called to soothe my anguish and I felt consoled although the airline justified the excess baggage payment.

As Ghanaians, we do not appreciate customer care. I am thus thankful to Emirates for taking time to explain issues to me in a sober mode. On that note, I return to the countdown as we head towards August, when I take the bow.

I have already confessed that my knowledge and understanding of history is hollow, to the extent that it is only in recent years with my wife Stella’s prompting that I observe my birth date.

Therefore, if part of the account I give do not fit into the time sequence or appear not chronologically arranged, I should not be berated but the focus must be on the experiences.

In the period that Mr W.H. Yeboah was the Secretary for the Committee for the Defence of the Revolution (CDR) Affairs and Mr E.A.Sai was the head of the Civil Service, there was a function involving civil servants addressed by the two.

The journalist who covered the event thought, and I agreed as News Editor, that in the context and environment, the voice of Mr Sai was more relevant to the civil servants than Mr Yeboah. Accordingly, I guided him to write the lead from the statement of the Head of the Civil Service.

The day after the publication, I had a phone call from Mr Yeboah. He wanted to talk to the editor for some explanation. Since the Editor, Mr Sam Clegg, was not present, I told him and introduced myself as the News Editor and enquired whether I could be of any help. He shot back and asked what we thought of him when after he and the head of the Civil Service had attended a function, we started our story from the speech of Mr Sai and made him play second fiddle.

I gathered courage and told him, “Sir we do not do or follow protocol in writing stories. We look for the angle and write our story. What we direct our reporters is not to leave out anyone who made a statement. Beyond that, it is not a matter of who  among the two is more important.”

He sighed and after a few seconds shot back and asked, “Do you mean that if a  PNDC secretary and the chairman of the PNDC  went to a function, you can begin the story with the secretary and relegate the chairman to the background?”

I took my time to respond and told him that, “Sir, it will depend on what the chairman said and what he went there to do.”   I explained that our focus was not so much the personality but the substance of what each speaker provided and went further to point out that it was because we did not follow protocol that sometimes the story from the castle was not on our front page although the story on the front page was considered the most important each day.

There was a long pause and he hung up. Three days later, I was called by the editor to come and meet Mr Yeboah who had come to see him to “thank a lady journalist at Graphic who had educated him so brilliantly about the process of news writing”.

The editor had called me because Mr Yeboah would not agree with him that the person who spoke to him from Graphic was a man and not a woman. As was my practice, I had told the editor about what happened between Mr Yeboah and myself so that if he learnt about it, he would appreciate the angle from where I made my intervention. 

Mr Yeboah was candid to state that when I first spoke to him, he was angered but he had to hold his temper because he thought he was speaking to a lady. He admitted that when he pondered over the interaction, he came to a new understanding of the matter and thus felt better informed about the processes of news gathering and writing.

Indeed, when he got to know me in person, he did not only shake hands with me  but congratulated me and encouraged me to keep the spirit that emboldened me to speak to him, and that he was particularly quiet because he realised that even though he sounded angry, my answers were all measured and concluded that he would have me as his young friend.