The silver jubilee edition of MTN Bright Conversations came off on Wednesday morning under the theme “promoting professionalism in the era of social media and citizen journalism.”

The two-hour event which was held at MTN Ghana’s headquarters at Independence Avenue, Ridge, had Professor Kwame Karikari – a seasoned communications educator and media rights activist – as the focal person, with Dzifa Bampoe serving as the host.

Post-independence memories

This version of the MTN Bright Conversations kicked off with Professor Karikari recounting his beginning as a student and community development volunteer who was drawn into the Pan African movement after his studies. He brought up memories of his days as a civil rights activist in the United States where he had gone to further his studies in journalism. He recounted his experience working under the late Jerry Rawlings as head of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) – during the revolution days – and the part he played in helping the state broadcaster become the institution it is today.

Public media should question authority sometimes

Speaking on the role the media plays in the development of countries, and Ghana, for that matter, Professor Karikari noted that while the state media was professional in its dealings, that alone was not enough, as being professional is not the same as practicing critical journalism. Here, he expressed the view that public media should be able to express dissent – even if it’s only through editorials – by questioning authority and certain policies that may be popular but do not serve the greater good.

MTN Bright Conversations
Professor Karikari in conversation with host Dzifa Bampoe

Plurality of media

Touching on the benefits of the plurality of media in current times compared to when he started out in the late 60s and into the 70s and beyond, Prof. Karikari noted that the proliferation of various media houses has helped diffuse tension, especially in the political space, as people do not have to force themselves to listen to stations with content that is meant to foment trouble. He however bemoaned the fact that the media landscape in modern times has been hijacked by politicians, resulting in the lack of seasoned professional opinions in public discussions compared to the over-availability of the opinions and propaganda of politicians when the national agenda is being set.

Digital and social media

On the rise of social media in the digital era, Professor Karikari described it as an expansion of freedom of expression because it provides a platform for every ad-hoc group to share ideas – forming a basis for social interaction of all kinds. He observed that through social media, people get to network and disseminate information in the shortest possible time.

Touching on the negatives that came with the rise of social media, the Professor intimated that the anonymity provided by social media has allowed the vitriol that was once subtle and restricted to the eyes and ears of a few people to enter mainstream consumption. Here, he charged media practitioners to demonstrate professionalism by taking out the sting in some pieces of information they come across; if they intend to publish those at all.

He positively observed, however, that although social media is God in this era, people still regard traditional news outlets as the place to get credible verified information.

Blogs and online news portals

Bloggers, individually, can only go far so long as they remain a source of credible information dissemination. Here, once a blogger begins to peddle falsehoods in the name of gaining traction, they lose their influence over the audience. Professor Karikari noted that bloggers today are the news columnists of old with the only difference being that columnists had a limited space to influence policy then – compared with how unlimited a blogger’s reach in agenda setting is – in present times.

Professor Karikari called on journalists to practice their trade with self-respect and dignity, while considering their work of disseminating credible information as service to society.

 

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This MTN Bright Conversations article is part of a series of articles related to MTN Ghana’s silver jubilee. To add to this or start a conversation, join our forum to share your opinions with other readers. For stories of this sort and more, do well to log on to www.jbklutse.com or visit us on Facebook

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