The power of journalism


This is a speech delivered by Theophilus Yartey, Editor, Graphic Communications Group Limited, at the second session of the first congregation of the 2023 Graduation Ceremony of the University of Media, Arts, and Communication (UniMAC) in Accra.

I am deeply honoured to have been invited to be the Guest Speaker at the 2nd Session of the 1st Congregation of this great academic centre. Again, I am grateful to the University Administration for allowing me to share my thoughts and experiences with the graduating class on this august occasion.

It is a definite fact that every student’s graduation day is unique and memorable.

Graduation signifies the end of academic life’s trials and tribulations while also opening the door to better and brighter opportunities in the future. Today brings back memories of my own graduation from the Ghana Institute of Journalism, which is now a college of this noble institution, some 30 years ago.

I was delighted to be asked to address the next leaders of our complex profession, knowing that this is an opportunity for me to do something that gives me a great deal of satisfaction and fulfilment: to reassure and provide visible evidence of the possibilities that await them as a brave, spirited, and goal-oriented group of people who have chosen professional communications, and journalism in particular, as their careers.

Power of journalism

I ask “what can you do with journalism?”. The short answer is, “what can’t you do with journalism?”

According to Pavlik and McIntosh, the purpose of journalism in the context of mass communication is to provide surveillance, create correlations, and institute cultural transmission while mobilising the public. As a result, journalism can be used to champion a cause, spread propaganda, deceive people, cause anarchy, and promote what discerning people would rather avoid. But consider the positives.

Journalism/ Communication ensures change in society, acts as a voice for the voiceless, hold people accountable, bring relief and joy to the vulnerable, and serve as a channel through which people’s lives are made a little easier.

Apart from helping society, you can receive recognition for the high quality of service you provide to your readers/listeners/ viewers throughout the year.

Indeed, it is one of the few professions that allows you to communicate with both the small and the large.

Consider the life-long learning advantages of attending workshops, summits, fellowships, and conferences across the country and beyond. You can also be recognised for exceptional performance at work on a larger scale.

Remember that ignoring professional tenets in order to pursue the opposite will render your skills and, more importantly, your personality toxic. Therefore, depending on your agenda, motivation, and appreciation for professionalism, you can use journalism to do exactly what your professors and tutors warned and advised you not to do, but rather to deliver TRUTHFUL and ACCURATE information Every Day.

To this, journalism can be used for good, but it can also be used to stifle progress and human development when it is abused. Be constantly vigilant as incoming gatekeepers and filters to avoid becoming tools for causes that are not in the public interest.

New Technology / Ethics

Rapid technological, organisational, and audience-led innovations in journalism have resulted in what Young and Hermida refer to as “structural complexity” of interdependence.

Currently, journalism has shifted from a domain of information inadequacy to one of information abundance as “complexity” has effected a change in reporting methods, production, and distribution with the assistance and use of artificial intelligence, several search engines, and social media.

For example, it is possible to use CHAT-GPT to generate a 1000-word story in less than two minutes and share it with the world on social media without anyone noticing, a common occurrence for information to spread rapidly without the normal verification and authentication process that have served mainstream media well over the years.

The invasion of social media and digital platforms has not only resulted in information overload, but has also blurred the distinction between fake and credible news sources which confirms the interdependence.

There’s also the never-ending tug of war between mainstream/professionally trained journalists like ourselves and those who simply use technology to become overnight content producers, with complete disregard for time-tested and established journalistic processes. This trend, known as citizen journalism, has provided unfettered and unhindered access to information, education, and entertainment, almost to the detriment of professionalism, which catered for an audience that has previously relied on well-processed -sensitivity conscious and authentic information.

The profession welcomes all as long as they follow the rules and adhere to the tenets and ethics, and remember that the product or service thrives on providing vital assistance to the public while also looking to make money to sustain our operations, which is akin to any business venture. But how can we stay in business and continue to provide great content to our audience without compromising our cherished role as the fourth estate?

It is encouraging that the mainstream media has embraced technological, organisational, and audience-led innovations in journalism and is now engaging their readers, listeners, and viewers, as well as stakeholders, in deploying these tools that have become the backbone of our survival, but we must recognise the need to rely on truth, accuracy, objectivity, and professionalism as journalists regardless of technological advances.

Statistics show that the most read personal and professional blogs, materials, and websites are provided by citizen journalists who have been exposed to professional practice; thus, it is reassuring to know that buyers are still looking for our kind.

For me, a critical career lesson is to either love what you practise or choose what you love to do.

Ladies and gentlemen, your training as communications professionals may indicate that you have chosen this path or profession that requires high ethical standards, so do not compromise on ethics, professionalism, or, most importantly, fairness to all parties in your dealings. I strongly advise you to carry out your duties diligently, and with humility.

Continuous education 

Ladies and gentlemen, it is promising to recognise that the end of formal education does not mean the end of learning. This is especially true for the professions that our graduands who are entering today, whether as self-employed or as employees of institutions. Continuous Professional Development is the key to staying ahead, never settle for less when you can have more.

To be honest, you have a better chance of advancing in your career today than previous generations did; the same technological advancements used for entertainment on social media could provide you with limitless learning prospects.

And continue to investigate emerging innovative communication trends because they hold the keys to creating the ever-needed by-line, voice, or slot that you require to provide a better product or service to the public. As you begin your careers, my dear graduands, strive to live lives that reflect the ideals of the University of Media, Arts, and Communication. Finally, as previously stated, I implore you to always adhere to the ethics and tenets of our profession in order to safeguard and protect its image.

It is my sincere hope that you will use the training you received from this illustrious institution to guide your actions in all of your dealings. Thank you, and may the Almighty God always guide your steps.

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