On Wednesday, September 7, 2022, the Next Generation Investigative Journalism Fellows had the opportunity to have an audience with the founder and former Executive Director of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Prof. Kwame Affum Karikari.
For about four decades, the veteran media consultant has been fighting for free expression and media rights across the West Africa region. A consummate academic, Prof Karikari has for many years taught journalism in different universities including the University of Ghana’s School of Communication where he was Head of Department.
In the conversation with the budding investigative journalists, Prof. Karikari fanned the Fellows’ passions for accountability and impactful journalism.
Below are some of the lessons he shared with the journalists:
- Pursue the interest of the public. Journalism is a public service and in every public service the interest of the people is paramount.
- Be curious. Don’t take anything for yes or no. Dig out and look for ‘the other half’ in every situation.
- High professional standards are the defence of press freedom. There is a need to balance passion and patience by not rushing into decision-making. Allow things to grow to fulness before judging.
- Society is made up of human beings, not divisions. As young journalists, learn not to be sectarian.
- Do not use your career to amass self-gain, prioritizing your belly and ignoring its implication. Work hard to earn money in legitimate ways. Be faithful, transparent, honest and have patience in your profession.
- In pursuing a story, the guiding question should be, “Does it address the problems of poverty, democracy, justice, expose crime, corruption, and give hope and encouragement to people for a better life?”
- The journalist is a foremost social intellectual, and must therefore have a very broad mind and strive to improve by constantly acquiring knowledge. Reading widely.
- Journalists should not be sectoral but rather must move past religious, political and tribal biases as it has the tendency to hurt your integrity with ignominy.
- Make professional standards a hallmark, have a track record of transparency and morality; that is security against bullying.
- With commitment, sleepless nights are not a problem because initiating something good and seeing it succeed brings fulfilment.
- Keep a company of forthright people because, with their support, you won’t feel like quitting.
- Capitalize on opportunities of sitting under the tutelage of renowned and astute journalists.
The Next Generation Investigative Journalism Fellowship
Prior to Prof. Karikari’s engagement, the NGIJ Fellows had also had insightful experience-sharing sessions with female investigative journalists, Francisca Enchill of Corruption Watch and Adwoa Adobea-Owusu of The Fourth Estate. The sessions formed part of the five-month NGIJ fellowship programme by the MFWA, which is aimed at arming young and early-career journalists with practical knowledge of the fundamentals of critical journalism, particularly investigative reporting. Fellows of the second edition of the Fellowship are drawn from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ghana. They are being hosted in Ghana with mentorship from Fact-Check Ghana and The Fourth Estate, both of which are the MFWA’s public interest and accountability journalism projects. They are undergoing intensive practical training to build the character for critical, high-quality, fact-based and in-depth reporting towards improving lives and promoting good governance.
Fellows will also be supported in producing compelling investigative and/or fact-checking reports.