Nana Kwesi Gyan-Apenteng, Apagyahene of Akyem Tafo-Ati, and Former Chairperson, National Media Commission, has provided intriguing insight into his 60-year career as a journalist, urging current practitioners to always put public interest first.
Nana Gyan-Apenteng, speaking on ‘MTN Bright Conversations’, a programme that is aimed at celebrating veteran personalities for their significant impact in their respective careers, emphasized some significant events that took place in his life as a child and an adolescent that influenced his decision into joining the inky fraternity.
Narrating his story, Nana indicated that at age 10, he wrote a sports report on an inter-school football competition between his school and another school, which caught the attention of his class teacher and he read it to the whole class showering him with praises, a moment that motivated him to write more.
Fast forward, his first published article came just a year after in the Ashanti Times Newspaper and that was an overwhelming experience for him at just age 11. He therefore took his writing serious and continued writing more often even at the secondary school level. At Okuapeman Secondary School, he became the sports editor in the school’s weekly paper before completion.
When he gained admission to study at the University of Ghana, he participated in the production of his hall’s magazine, the Echo, where he writes on regular basis. He was quick to give credit to the curriculum system that existed at the time touching on how it made room for students to have extra hours to participate in other activities like debate clubs and open space among others, which made room for him to learn about writing and aided in building his writing skills the more.
Nana stressed that an important event that sealed his decision to choose journalism as a career was an experience he had during his university days when he travelled to Tamale in the Northern Region to spend the long vacation with his parents.
“During university days I went to Tamale and decided to do internship with the Ghana News Agency (GNA). I was offered the opportunity and that internship period was when I made my decision to become a journalist. And it was for a funny reason, my boss, who was the news editor at the time, took me out and bought me a bottle of beer to drink on my first assignment. I was so excited that I told myself that a job that I can sit down with my boss and drink ‘Club Beer’ is what I will want to do for the rest of my life and that was how a made my decision,” he said.
After school, he started working with the People’s Daily Newspaper, he later joined Daily Graphic where he worked for three years and became the Deputy Editor, before his deployment to became Editor of The Mirror Newspaper. He travelled to UK for some years and later picked up the role of Editor of the West Africa Magazine. He later served as the Chairperson, National Media Commission, until retirement.
Nana Gyan-Apenteng, narrated how he was sacked three times in his career as a journalist but never gave up. He was first fired just six hours into office as a News Editor of the People’s Newspaper. According to him, he wrote for the paper for some years before he was one day appointed as the editor but on the very day, he assumed office as the News Editor, he was sacked six hours later for refusing to compromise on a decision.
Further on, he indicated the intense pressure he faced as a Deputy Editor of Graphic anytime the Chief Editor is travelled and he is to step in as acting editor until he returns. Mentioning how articles were being sent from Osu-Castle (the seat of government) to the editor to publish without changing a word.
The second sacking in his career happened during his time as the Editor of the Mirror. He indicated that the Mirror at the time commenced a community development journalism programme under his leadership by moving to communities to report on projects that the communities undertook through community labour among others.
“On one of those projects, we focused on poor nature of education in schools, especially in the Ashanti Region, after one student wrote a poorly written letter to the Mirror about how one of their teachers took their money to help them in the exams but didn’t. We later went to donate books and organized reading and easy competition for the schools in the region.
I was then sacked for the second time in my career but because I always put public interest first, I was proud of what I did,” he said.
He was sacked for the third time in his career as the Editor of the West Africa Magazine for refusing to comply with a decision of sending the finished production to the editor of the Nigeria edition of the magazine via Fax Machine, for his approval before publishing.
Journalism today and the future
Touching on how journalism is practiced today and the way forward for the industry, he emphasized that with the continues advancement in technology, journalism practice has been made much easier but new angles are emerging daily, therefore practicing journalist must be adventurous, curious to probe and think outside the box to make reportage interesting and impactful.
He encouraged young journalist to pursue excellence, reiterating that the quest for excellence is what drove journalism in the past and it should be the crux of the practice today.
He called on universities and tertiary institutions to provide space and resources for experienced and brilliant retired journalist as well as other retired professionals to be part of the teaching and learning process.
“I always say that I am still a student of journalism, and I believe that we must involve the experienced ones who will be willing to go and lecture in our tertiary institutions, maybe once a week or a one-time training programme for them to pass on their rich experiences or ideas to the young ones who are now coming into the industry,” he added.
Nana Gyan-Apenteng, expressed his heartfelt gratitude to the management of MTN for hosting him on the MTN Bright Conversations event, as he celebrates his 70th anniversary.