How to become a journalist in Ghana with Philip Teye Agboye

Why do you want to become a journalist?

I was born in a small village in the Dangme-East region. They mine salt to be used in the whole country and by other African countries. But the problem is that it doesn’t pay the pain, you have to go like three times with the pan on your head to get a kilogram. For something that is worth 50 Cedis in Accra they give you 10 cedis and then you could still be robbed. How I heard it in the media I didn’t feel like it was represented properly. Still, I believe the media is the way to end the social injustice.

Around 2004 the only television in the village was stolen by armed robbers. That is crazy man, you know. Enough is enough. At that time I was still growing up. I thought to myself: I will go to the media myself and report well. Fast forward: I completed Junior High School, I went to Senior High School to study General Arts including Literature, Economics, Politics. When I finished, there was no money to continue to go back to media school to study journalism. So I went out from the village to Accra to hustle, worked with some hostels and guest houses, some acid companies. With my salary I went to the Ghana Media School, located in Achimota. So I went there to study journalism. In two years U was awarded a diploma in journalism and media studies, I left with an award as the most promising graduate. When you are reporting, your story needs to be investigated well. So when I became a journalist, I looked out for stories in my village.

When I was in school, I was still working for radio Ada and a couple of media houses in Accra. I came to radio Accra whíth the notion that I can serve my people because over there they understand my language. Radio Ada is jeered towards the vulnerable, I was the first host on their fact-check of COVID 19 together with the media foundation so that program was very helpful. When I had finished my program, I went to the Ghana News Agency.

During my time at the Ghana Media School I learned the theoretical knowledge about journalism and was volunteering meanwhile. Generally, in Ghana when your child wants to become a journalists you might look for hosts or news anchors and send your child to this person to be mentored. I also had the idea to gain practical experience.

Most people go to university and study journalism. Afterwards, hey do their national service in a news agency. The Ghanaian system does not really help the youth. When I came to school, some of my fellow students were not getting paid during their internships and national service.

First, I went to the radio, then to GNA as a national service personnel to get the experience in writing. GNA didnt pay me and when I finished, they didnt want me to go. But there were not able to employ me so now I work as a freelancer.

How much do you get for a one article?

15 cedis per story for GNA, but they are yet to pay me.

What other obstacles do you face as a young journalist?

It really depends on your background. Some families take financial care of their kids but for me that was not possible. It is a challenge when you work and they don’t pay you. So I was only depending on Soli and all that. There is no system that ensures that you get paid well. Money is a major challenge for young journalists in Ghana. They go to work and they don’t receive their salaries. I want to contribute to national development by holding people accountable.

Except money, placing stories can be difficult. As a reporter you see rot in society.you want to expose them and then you have challenges with your media house. Maybe it doesnt get past the editorial gate or the story has been changed. Sometimes the editing might affect the outcome of the story. Yo might find a story that you would like to do but if it is not in line with your media house they might not publish it.

Third, there is no security for journalists. Sometimes they assign you to cover a story but do not give you a staff ID. Safety of journalists in Ghana is declining. You receive threats and sometimes people even announce you to the police and you might end up getting beaten by the police that is supposed to protect you.

Have you personally experienced threats and dangerous situations?

Yes, yes! There was this story that I went to do and in the process people were calling me and telling me I was on my own. It was a story about the privatization of the  Lagoon [salt mining]. It has been leased to an investor. During previous governments it had been enacted that the Lagoon would never be given to a single person. The entire livelihood of my people has been given to one person. Now everyone depends on that person. As a journalist I was thinking that the human rights of the people are being violated. I was trying to expose that.

What was the first news story you have ever covered?

My first story was for Radio Ada when I did a story about my hometown people saying that they have been robbed. While the story was aired they called me from the newsroom and interviewed me. It made me feel great. Exactly one week after thieves attacked the village again.

My first story for GNA was about the land commission telling people to use proper means to acquire lands. Since GNA is an agency my story was then distributed all over Ghana.

What is your favorite part about journalism?

My favorite part of journalism is when I am talking to people and they tell me their stories. Sometimes they make you feel empathy. Sometimes you have to go to a village, stay there and let the mosquitoes bite you to do a story.

My plan is to do outstanding and impactful stories. Anas Anas is my idol, I admire him so much. I want to become the most renowned journalist that has ever come from Africa.  I want to expose rot in societies.

Almost all the stories are impactful. My most impactful story was about a road in my hometown. During the rainy season the flood entered peoples houses. In order to let the water go they cut the road. The water was in peoples rooms. The bridge where the water was passing was too small. Some time after my story got published the road got fixed.

Another story highlighted the plight of my people living without proper toilets or lights. That particular story has caught national attention.

What are your tips for future journalists?

I would like to encourage young people like me to become a journalist. Nothing is impossible. Whatever you set your mind on, you will be able  to achieve it. Always tell the stories of the voiceless. Always use yourself as your best security. I am from a very poor background, so you can do it as well. Just be observant,  listen well, talk less, work hard and pray to god for success.

When my parents hear my voice on Radio Ada, they are so proud. When people see my dad, they salute him and tell him: Oh, your child is doing so well. Journalism is a very prestigious occupation, especially when you remain integer and your stories are impactful.

 

 

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