Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: Professionalism is scarce in modern-day journalism and media image-making or destruction, especially these days of a liberalized all-comer journalism. Rather than speak to facts, people take to blackmailing, conjectures, prejudices, personal, partisan, ethical challenges in dealing with hate speech, and spiritual/religious wishes and preferences, and without humility or intellectual honesty, pontificate and misrepresent facts, all in the name of freedom of speech/expression. Mind what you read. Mind what you feed your mind and intellect with. Some poisons are deadlier.
Using ‘the art of journalism’ as a hammer is not journalism. It is an opinion-driven cudgel with which to beat enemies (both real and imaginary). The ‘classic’ definition of journalism implies a reasonably unbiased viewpoint. Mark Twain considered himself a writer/humorist. Thomas Paine regarded himself as a propagandist and not a journalist. Under these nomenclature descriptions, neither of the two would consider themselves unbiased journalists. Journalists are part of our problem. They do not know the degree of the harm their poorly worded and nuanced headlines are doing to our mindset of citizens. When journalists who voraciously, openly and rightfully, clamor for democracy and democratic values think and write using undemocratic expressions, what do you expect. Even a careful reading of the news and information would have spared the editors/journalists the mistake. No, because mendacious journalism is all that matters.
Fatoumatta: Woe to the nation that succumbs to Cynicism. It is a poison that suffocates hope, extinguishes the light of intelligence, and severs the common bonds of humanity. I fear we are facing an epidemic of Cynicism in the Gambia. It is an infection that could send our democracy onto life support.
Shocking but not surprising, sometimes ago, a journalist arranged news gathering a private meeting to meet President Adama Barrow. Instead, that quack journalist solicited bribes and extorting money from President Barrow in exchange for positive media coverage for Barrow and his government. President Barrow refused; instead, Barrow exposed the so-called journalist’s iniquitous behavior without naming names. Still, all eyes and fingers were pointed to a particular blackmailer and a quack journalist fond of tainting the truth and manipulating facts that other politicians have become ensnared in a symbiotic web of lies that misleads the public.
Fatoumatta: To begin with, why would journalists agree to keep their meeting with politicians off the record? If you are an actual journalist, what is the point of speaking with a powerful politician if you agree in advance that it will all be kept secret? Do they not care what appearance this creates: the most recognizable journalists meeting high with the country’s most potent political officials, with everyone agreeing to keep it all a big secret from the public? Whether it is collusion or subservient ring-kissing in exchange for access, it certainly appears to be that. By agreeing to such conditions, journalists expected to deliver the news to the public must not withhold details of a newsworthy meeting with the president.
The Gambia is not dead. The Gambia is not beyond repairs. Gambians are getting wiser, more discerning than we were twenty-two years ago. We have crossed the bridge of cheap politics and useless propaganda in the name of freedom of expression. Furthermore, we are not eating and drinking what the media is feeding us daily as we go a step further to investigate the significant issues that affect our daily lives. Actual Journalists should not be wavering or hoisting the flags of any political party or selling their conscience for a few thousand Dalasi to politicians for their selfish interests.
Its time not to be cashing checks from politicians and party apparatchiks for cheap meals and handshake photo shows? It is unethical for and journalists to blackmail, take money from politicians for favors. Sadly, the country has more greedy and hungry journalists than Politicians.
Fatoumatta: Gambian journalists were once respected during the struggle for democracy and in ending cruel despotism. They were the main protagonist in the forefront of long years, exposing lousy governance, corruption, and human rights violations in the journalistic trenches. Gambian journalists were–in the leading–good reporters and editors who could write well, quickly, and communicate effectively and under deadline pressure. However, today, after enjoying the hard-earned democracy fought with blood, sweat, tears, and toiling. I am a bit aghast at the deep of Gambian journalists, abiding Cynicism and to my most awesome of wisdom and in the earnestness of young reporters eager to sow the seeds of long-term success, I want every young reporter and editor to become like those of torchlights of press freedom during the dark days in The Gambia.
Fatoumatta: Webster defines “cynical” as: “believing that people are generally selfish and dishonest.” However, all the fiber of our being, all life of Gambia experience up to a point, led them to the opposite conclusion. Sure some people were terrible, but not most, and certainly not categorically all – even in the Diaspora, let alone the many good people spread across the vast continental expanse of our great nation.
When you check through a thesaurus searching over a list of synonyms for “cynical,” to come up with something more akin to what I felt my profession as a journalist should demand. After a while, I came to the word “skeptical,” and it struck me. Webster defines “skeptical” as “having or expressing doubt about something (such as a claim or statement).” That seemed to be the job of a reporter, saying, “I hear what you have to say but I am going to check it out.” So I was happy to march under the banner of skepticism, and I have ever since.
Fatoumatta: Many young Gambian journalists have heard – more than they can probably count – some version of the professional credo: “A reporter’s job is to be skeptical but not cynical.” Furthermore, it turns out this approach to life does not just benefit journalists. I have heard some versions of it from scientists, police detectives, military generals, judges, and so many others. Cynicism is a downward spiral. However, on the other hand, skepticism is a healthy way to find truth in a complex world.
However, today, as a nation, we are in danger of losing the battle to Cynicism. Since the advent of citizen journalism, we have had a broken profession because some have decided to play to Cynicism for their political gain. We have a press corps that has too often confused cynical slogans with prescient analysis. We have had the motives of experts from science and industry challenged with Cynicism by those who do not like the conclusions based on fact.
Fatoumatta: The great wit Oscar Wilde once said: “A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.” Stephen Colbert addressed the notion with a fuller definition in a commencement address at Knox College: “Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because Cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say no. But saying “yes” begins things. Saying “yes” is how things grow. Saying “yes” leads to knowledge.” Some do not know which world they would rather live in, and I hope a less cynical world can await us after December 4 presidential elections.
Alagi Yorro Jallow