Newsrooms Strategy For Covering Ghana 2016 Elections
By Jane Kudor
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it’s really hard not to notice the sheer fever taking over the whole country recently. Of course, it’s another election year and if you’ve not been counting, it’s a few days to the D-day, when Ghanaians decide once again, who leads the nation for the next 4 years.
The role of journalists has played a crucial role in every election outcome since the dawn of the 4th Republic, and 2016 is no different. The hydra-headed challenge of impartiality, objectivity, and balance in journalism is faced daily by journalists, but there is no test of professionalism greater than that posed in the heat and pressure of a bitterly-fought political election.
Elections, as we have had in this country are also a test of political commitment to democracy. It is a time the impulse to manipulate media and to control information is strongest among political actors running for office.
Newsrooms across various media institutions are gearing up to perform their role as the 4th estate of the Republic to further strengthen our democracy, by providing in-depth reporting and analysis on the candidates and the issues before, during and after the election.
Here are some strategies that journalists and newsrooms can use to productively cover the elections to ensure a free, fair and peaceful elections come December 7:
- Avoid Extremism
Elections have been known to inspire the worst in people, politicians and journalists being no exceptions. Reckless speech, extravagant promises, extreme opinions, violent rhetoric and downright offensive and unbridled fanaticism are a few of the things reporters and editors should be wary of during this period. The police have a mandate to keep public law and order but journalists should endeavour to ensure that they do not incite hatred or violence during the elections.
- Be non-partisan
As fellow citizens, journalists and editors are entitled to their political opinions, but they must be non-partisan in their journalism, especially during this election period. Some media houses are known to be politically affiliated but even they have to be ultra-circumspect in their reportage. There will be a heavy political price to pay for any irresponsibility on their part, particularly when it results in a tragedy of any proportion.
- Write for multiple platforms and keep it professional
Social media has become a necessary part of journalism in the 21st century but all too often, professional journalists are assigned to work on traditional media outlets like print, radio, and television while social media is left to be handled by amateurs. This is wrong. Hire either reporters or professionals to work on your social media accounts and write for their different formats to keep your audience engaged throughout the election. If you make mistakes in your social media, they can come back to haunt you. A proper social media campaign can only boost your news organization’s credibility.
- Fact check everything
As with all elections, different voting results will emerge throughout the period and your duty as a news editor or journalist is to make sure such figures are fact-checked before they are reported. In fact, all newsrooms should have a fact-checking policy to ensure that they’re reportage is accurate, fair and transparent.
- Be knowledgeable
Reporters covering the elections on December 7 need to be well informed about the topical issues dominating the polls. They should be armed with the knowledge and skills needed to cover an election in an informed manner. This includes knowing details about the candidates and their manifestos, understanding the issues that are important to voters, and using credible sources who provide insight to make sense of it all.
Come December 7, we should all endeavour to make sanity prevail to ensure a free, fair, and transparent elections. Journalists have their role to play, as do everyone else. Your vote is your power. Use it wisely!