The article whose headline is captured above, was published on citifmonline.com barely a week ago. The author was, without doubt, incensed by the announcement by the Rector of Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ) – Dr. Wilberforce Dzisah – some weeks ago, that the management of the university was contemplating a ban on mini skirts and shorts on campus. My interest is to look at what she proffered and how well she preached it.
The author set off on an emotional note and ended up putting the wrong foot forward. In the second paragraph, she quoted the Rector; “management has raised concerns about an increase in indecent dressing by students. Management has therefore decided on the following and this should not only go to fresh men and women but for the continuing students as well. No shorts or miniskirts are to be worn for lectures. Clothes which expose your vital parts shall not be entertained.”
She then went all out to traduce the Rector’s pronouncement with an amazing interpretation to satisfy her whims. She wrote; “one is shocked by the announcement but not completely surprised by it. GIJ is joining a long list of Ghanaian institutions using Victorian ideas of propriety to control women’s bodies for men. Here is my theory. I don’t believe that the school authorities meant to ban shorts for men. I think it was added to make the idiotic ban seem fair. I believe what the school truly wanted to ban was miniskirts and whatever else the school administration deems indecent for women to wear”
The Rector said “management had raised concerns about an increase in indecent dressing among students”. He did not single out ladies for special mention. The author had this to say in part; “I don’t believe that the school authorities meant to ban shorts for men. I think it was added to make the idiotic ban seem fair”. Analysis and interpretation is a function of the media, but misrepresentation is the preserve of foot soldiers. If the author had difficulty with the import of the Rector’s statement, she could have gone back to him for clarification, rather than engage in such bizarre analysis that only ended up making her piece lose its logical beauty. She opted for selective exposure but failed to realise that, that theory fails the test of fair and balance reportage
The writer accused the university’s Women’s Commissioner of sounding illogical and failing to meet up to standard grammar in a statement she issued in support of the Rector’s announcement. She however, failed to give us a taste of her impeccable writing skills. A number of sentences also failed to satisfy the demands of logical reasoning which she proffered for GIJ students, and even took on the Women’s Commissioner for falling short of. I will give a few examples.
She said in one paragraph; “Editors across the country will testify to the syntax/grammar/simple subject-verb agreement challenges of GIJ graduates”. The article under review went through the hands of an Editor – who I am convinced, is not scarcely trained – but it came out with all the grammatical flaws and logical absurdities that are being pointed out. What moral qualification does such an editor have to point out my poor writing skills when he’s a better representation of same? But he’s also part of the “Editors” the writer talked about. A qualifier like, “editors worth their rank” would have made the statement more logical.
Besides, a lot of things determine who becomes an editor today so not all of them are worth their weight and accolades. Considerations such as political affiliation, friendship, wealth, closeness to owners/financiers, rather than competence influence the choice of many an editor today. Not all of them command competency-driven respect among colleagues. There are even editors who rely on GIJ interns to get headlines written. Are those also qualified to testify to the communication deficit of GIJ products?
Read again: “Editors across the country will testify to the syntax/grammar/simple subject-verb agreement challenges of GIJ graduates”. Without evidence, the writer lumps up GIJ graduates – she makes no exception – as having weak writing and/or communication skills. This is groundless, unsupported and logically preposterous. Journalism frowns on unsubstantiated claims. GIJ produces excellent and weak materials in equal measure, just like any other institution. To claim that GIJ graduates – without exception – have communication challenges amounts to downright contempt for that hallowed institution.
The immediate statement after the quote above is; “Because while there are some GIJ graduates who do impressive and excellent work, there are many who were failed by the teachers who taught them”. The quote you just read, and the one in the preceding paragraph, give us two complete sentences. In the two quotes I have provided, the writer accused GIJ graduates – without exception – of having communication challenges at one point, and went ahead to create an exception in another. Which one do we take? The absolute claim or the exception? Where is the logic?
The same sentence which begins with “because”, is also grammatically problematic. The “Because while” combination in the context is improper. The sentence could have been; “while there are some GIJ graduates who do impressive and excellent work, there are many who were failed by the teachers who taught them”. The logic of the sentence is also difficult to make out. The author talks about the excellent work of some graduates in one part, and the failure of some students in another. What’s the connection? Does she mean those who do excellent work are by default successful in class? The logic is lost on me. One thing I know is, some trainees are classroom-inspired, while others are industry-driven. Between them, there is another group that shines no matter the setting. In our part of the world, there is always a yawning gap between class work and industry realities.
The concluding part of the second quote is also worth paying attention to; “…..there are many who were failed by the teachers who taught them”. Does she mean some students graduated from GIJ without merit? Any proof? Or is her conclusion also based on their inability to communicate effectively which she attempts to make a meal of but ends up landing in the same soup? Is the sentence not better written as; “there are many who failed”? Brevity and clarity are inseparable souls in professional journalism.
In a counter article, colleague GIJ Alumnus, Manasseh Azure Awuni, attempted to make a case for the writer’s ability to write well by making reference to some pieces she had done in the past. What Manasseh failed to realise was that, those write-ups in reference did not touch on this same topic – which calls for a more meticulous approach to writing because of the sensitive nature of the issue, which is language. The writer’s inability to demonstrate to the world that she was better at what she set out to accuse GIJ graduates of lacking, makes her sermon of little value. The reason is simple, sick doctors hardly earn the trust of patients.
Another quote from the piece; “the problem with this ban isn’t that it is sexist, and very, very stupid but that instead concerning itself with what is needed to train journalists who tell compelling stories and speak truth to power, the GIJ management is focused on the clothes of students”. It is only when one runs out of cogent points to advance an argument that the resort to insults comes in handy. Describing the decision as “very stupid”, will not change it. Enrich the argument by making your case with a well-researched stance. Journalism is not emotional, it’s passionate rather.
In the midst of all the song and dance about banning mini skirts or not, is the fact that the media is the conscience of society. This means, the moral stature of the society is a direct reflection of the ethical posturing of its media practitioners. Professional institutions don’t just teach to pass exams, they educate to impact lives, and even generations. That is why membership of professional associations is also regulated by codes of conduct.
The author made an attempt at pushing for better language training for student Journalists which is laudable, but failed to be an example of what she set out to preach. Her resort to the use of words like “stupid”, “daft”, and “idiotic”, also made the piece more emotional than passionate. Trained Journalists worth their calling don’t pick their pens in a fit of irritation. It’s very dangerous. Her decision to push for top-quality writing and reporting skills should also have made her more meticulous in fine-tuning her piece.
By: Stephen Gyasi Jnr.