Journalism: Who is a journalist?


“I still believe that if your aim is to change the world, Journalism is a more immediate short-term weapon,” Tom Stoppard.

I laughed when my German friend referred to Akwasi Boadi – popularly known as Akrobeto, a Ghanaian actor who hosts a TV show called ‘Real News’ on United Television, a private free-to-air television broadcaster in Ghana – as a Journalist. I did not think much of it.

After some time, my journalism lecturer made a similar statement in class. He said some Ghanaians think Akrobeto is a journalist. This was the second time in the same month that I heard this. I asked myself one question: “Why will people think Akrobeto is a journalist?” Yes, the man can multi-task. But how is he a journalist? I decided to talk a little about journalism and who a journalist is. But before we go to that, let’s learn a little about the history of journalism.

A brief history of journalism, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica reads: “The earliest known journalistic product was a sheet circulated in Ancient Rome: the Acta Diurna, said to be dated before 59 BCE. Acta Diurna recorded important daily events such as public speeches. It was published daily and hung in prominent places. In China, during the Tang Dynasty, a court circular, called a boa or ‘report’, was issued to government officials.

“This gazette appeared in various forms and under various names more or less continually to the end of the Qing dynasty in 1911. The first regularly published newspapers appeared in German cities and Antwerp in about 1609. The first English newspaper, the Weekly News, was published in 1622. One of the first daily newspapers, The Daily Courant, appeared in 1702.”

What then is journalism?

Journalism is about searching for news and presenting it to society. I like to put it this way: A devoted way of life that seeks to find information and present it to society to help people make informed choices. Enough of how flat my definition is.

According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, journalism is “…the collection, preparation, and distribution of news and related commentary and feature materials through such media as pamphlets, newsletters, newspapers, magazines, radio, motion pictures, television, books, blogs, webcast, podcasts, and email”.

There are numerous types of journalism, but I will rather concentrate on five principal types:

News: This is just as straight as the name goes. News stories are made up of a heading, and enough information to explain to the reader – but not as deep as other types go. News is a factual, unbiased and accurate piece of information told just as it is.

Feature writing: This is another type of journalism that goes way deeper into a story, event or topic than straight news. The feature brings to light an in-depth part of a story, topic or event.

Columns: They are also another type of journalism. Do not get it twisted, this is not just any column. Column allows the writer to write on a subject or topic in his or her style. A person who writes a column is a columnist.

Investigative: Investigative Journalism seeks to uncover the truth about issues or topics that are purposefully hidden from society by government officials or an individual.

Review: the last type of journalism I will talk about is Review. Review, in the simplest form, is an opinion about something, and of course, it has to be partly fact-based.

Who is a journalist?

Now, to the question of the day – the journalist. Let’s not forget what we read earlier – if journalism is about searching and gathering information for the public, then who is the person behind the search? The journalist.

A journalist, therefore, is a person whose job is to collect news and write about it in newspapers or magazines, or talk about it on television or radio, according to Collins dictionary. A journalist makes use of the 5W’s and 1H: Who, what, where, when, why, and How. Journalists report and write about everything; and do not forget interviews. They conduct interviews as well. Let me not bother you with my long words.

Who is a TV show host? A television show host is someone who hosts a particular show and serves as the mediator between the exact programme and the audience. Akrobeto is a TV show host, and not a journalist. “By giving us the opinion of the uneducated, journalism keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community,” Oscar Wilde.

>>>the writer is a student of journalism at the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ). Email [email protected]

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