Where is the news?

When the Bohemian was in college, there was this story about a journalist who got into the studio at news time and announced: “Here’s the news read by J.W…” The listeners waited and waited but there was dead air. Then, the newsman went on, “…but, where is the news read by J.W? He questioned while the searching his jacket and the swish was audible. The story goes that J.W. had been in his favourite watering hole where he prepared the news on two sheets of paper. He folded the sheets and tucked them in one of the pockets of his jacket. He rushed in to the studio at news time, certain that everything was in order and while on air, after announcing the news, he went for the wrong pocket. “I sey eh, where is the news read by J.W. nah?” He blurted out. When he finally found his scripts, he cried; “Ah Ha, here is the news read by J.W!”
The Bohemian can neither confirm nor refute whether this situation really happened but the story entertained many Bamenda denizens in the Bohemian’s school days. Today, this could be very possible, not because the newscaster might have been lost about the whereabouts of his or her scripts but simply because at times the news need not be made public according to the whims and caprices of both power brokers and those who wield power. So, nowadays, it is possible for an anchorman with the scripted bulletin in front of him to ask, “where is the news?” The reason being the scripts contain everything but the day’s news making matters.
Anyone who understands the tradecraft and practice of modern journalism, would as well understand that a country cannot be built simply by glorifying its big shots. Journalists are paid to stick their heads above the parapet and to say what they believe to be the truth. It is true the most important function of a journalist is indeed to tell stories: not in the sense of making up comfortable lies to keep people happy, but of providing an accurate digestible way to make sense of the confusion and apparent chaos of everyday life. Why must you kowtow to people of authority?
Take politicians for example. Party politicians, naturally enough see everything in terms of partisan politics. They cannot understand people like the Bohemian who may be interested in politics but don’t approach the subject from the point of view of any particular party commitment. Look at this example; CPDM officials think if the party is being challenged by journalists, it is because the journalists are instinctively pro-SDF. And when precisely, the same journalists challenge the SDF’s actions the officials think it is either because they are instinctively pro-CPDM or because they owe their allegiance to the ruling elite. It does not always occur to them that the journalists might be simply doing their job.
It is true that whatever journalists may say, they must make sure they do not annoy the one who pays them, for, if as a journalist you are not comfortable with the umbrella term for limiting press freedom; ‘editorial line’ , you resign. You can ask the Rolling Rock, who made people contemplate the difference between live and lies, one or both coming from studio four. Don’t ask me what I am talking about. Although some great minds have tagged the news media as the fourth estate, some little minds wield enough power to keep the watchdog chained to its cage. Who even thought of calling the news media society’s watchdog? Now, look at how people treat journalists even worse than what is known in the local parlance as a ngong dog.
So, I the Bohemian of Abakwa, born on the last day of the month, along the shores of the Atlantic, in the land of the proud people, this day declare: true journalists are natural members of what the BBC’s John Simpson calls the awkward squad, difficult, unpredictable, dangerous to be with in the sense that you can’t take them and their work for granted; impossible to buy off with money or honours. Journalists, it seems to me have a duty to resist being simply corralled into obedient silence. It isn’t good for journalism and it isn’t good for government. To keep quiet when things are not right is the reverse of patriotism: it is to cover up for those interests that stand to gain from silence. It is to be a partisan of inefficiency and stupidity and mindless cruelty. So brethren, where is the news?
By Winston Lebga

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