It is often said that when leadership fails, the people suffer. It is often also said that the more you think you know the more you know you know nothing.
|Theophilus Sahr Gbenda (Mo-Fire)Author
Just few days after heaping much praises on the management of Politico Newspaper for their unprecedented professional standard and the fact that the newspaper stands out as being one of the most ideal mediums ever in the country’s media landscape, I got the shock of my life to suddenly realize that professionalism of whatever sort could be compromised at the twinkle of an eye.
The Wednesday July 20-24 2012 edition of the much cherished Politico Newspaper speaks volume. For the very first time in its history, the newspaper ran into what I’ve always referred to as a corporate ploy to weaken the local media.
Rather unprofessionally and deceitfully, Politico published on its front page the banner headline ‘Diamond export to double’, with the photograph of the CEO of Koidu Holdings Limited (KHL) now OCTEA Diamond Group, Jan Joubert.
The story in question fell short of the accepted standard as rather than standing alone, it continued in pages 8-9 and marked as supplementary, with headline ‘OCTEA Diamond Group takes over Koidu Holdings Limited’.
This is outrightly unprofessional, and the worst side of it is that such unprofessionalism was exhibited by a newspaper that is managed by a group of highly trained and qualified journalists who clearly ought to know better.
While pondering over the need to do a piece so as to send out a clear message to the said journalists that their actions are being closely monitored, I came across Tanu Jalloh along the centre of town and took up the matter with him.
His response was “That was our decision”. Of course it goes without saying that a decision could either be right or wrong. So I put it to him that their decision to pass on an advertorial for a front page banner headline was totally wrong and unacceptable. His response was “Look Theo, all of us at Politico are professionals”.
We couldn’t continue the discussion because we were both caught up in traffic, he was in his small nice jeep and I was on my ever-ready operational XL motorbike.
My assessment of Tanu Jalloh’s responses was that he was taken by surprise because he didn’t expect anyone to pick up their professional anomaly. His responses were therefore a blend of sheer arrogance and defenceless defence.
What in my estimation was a deliberate professional oversight geared towards giving undue prominence to the OCTEA Diamond Group center spread advertorial costing merely Le 1,200,000), I feel very saddened that Tanu Jalloh, an experienced editor and mass media communication graduate, could go down that low as to allowing financial consideration to influence his editorial decision (to the extent of undervaluing the essence and worth of the front page).
If it was indeed an issue of ‘decision’ as claimed by Tanu Jalloh, who also happens to be the communications officer of African Minerals Limited (AML) and lecturer at Fourah Bay College (FBC), then that unfortunate decision must have come from him alone.
I say so because at the time when the edition under contention was being produced, the Acting Editor of Politico, Umaru Fofana, the distinguished President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), was busy at a workshop with staff of Mercury International.
I am attempting to get Umaru out of this mess because I know his stance regarding mining companies and commercial advertisements emanating from them; but Tanu Jalloh can prove me wrong.
It goes without saying that Tanu Jalloh, being pro-corporate, took advantage of the situation by filling up the pages of the newspaper edition in question with strings of commercial advertisements, including one centre spread from OCTEA Diamond Group and one full page from AML. Seven pages out of twelve were occupied by commercial advertisements.
In just one edition, the paper made Le 4,200,000, the biggest ‘commercials catch’ ever in its history. Take a look at the previous editions of Politico and you’ll see for yourself the abrupt shift from exemplary journalism to bread and butter journalism.
Of course I am not suggesting that Politico should not go in for commercial advertisements as all other local newspapers in circulation do, but for them to pass on a commercial headline as front page banner headline is not only a breach of confidence but a blatant undermining of professional standards.
The million dollar question now is ‘where does the problem lie?’ If I am to proffer an answer, I’ll say without blinking an eye that the problem lies with having onboard a professional oriented team somebody with a corporate inclination. How this problem could best be solved remains to be seen, but what I think will save the situation is for the management of Politico to take responsibility for the professional blunder and say never again.
No malice meant, just thinking aloud and expressing my deepest disappointment. Many others, including foreign nationals, feel let down.
I rest my case!!!
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.