Blogging: The Ghanaian journalist's experienceThere are few bloggers in Ghana, including some few committed journalists who are proud to flaunt their newly acquired competence in Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) publicly.
They comprise Emmanuel Bensah, a web journalist with the Third World Network, Isaac Tetteh of Radio Gold, Enoch Darfoh Frimpong of the Daily Graphic and Rayborn Bulley of Radio Ghana.
Mr Bensah is currently the acting President of the Ghana Association of Journalists in ICT who seizes every opportunity to promote blogging.
His blogs, which goes by the addresses: http://ekbensahinghana.blogspot.com and http://ekbensah.blogspot.com.
The first blog seeks to chronicle his trials and tribulations (perspectives, queries, worries) of living and working in Ghana, with a very critical and irreverent analysis of life in Ghana whilst the other looks at general issues affecting his life, but which cuts across EVERY INDIVIDUAL, with some slant that goes for someone who's come back to his home country after years, and is both reflecting and reminiscing about the trajectory of his life. He also has links and side issues on WSIS and ICTs in general and has five other blogs to his credit.
Mr Bensah is among just about 10 journalists in Ghana with knowledge about blogging.
Some veteran journalists have attributed the lack of interest in blogging to the fact that bloggers in certain countries have been arrested sanctioned or sacked from their work places for publishing articles deemed to be unethical or harmful for public consumption.
Such incidents abound in some Arab countries but experts dismiss it as too remote to take away the benefits and uses of blogging.
An executive of penplusbytes, an international institute for ICT journalism based in Ghana, Kwami Ahiabenu II, has blamed the lacklustre attitude of Ghanaian journalists to blogging on what he called practical challenges such as the lack of skills, access to ICT facilities and time constraint.
All the 10 regional capitals and some districts have Internet facilities, yet a number of journalists lack the basic skills to take advantage of the service.
A recent survey undertaken by the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) with membership of more than 500 revealed that less than 20 per cent of Ghanaian journalists have ICT skills. The skill to blog is therefore a remote venture.
Steadfastly penplusbytes has carried on with its objective to create awareness on ICTs among journalists and had on several occasions published articles on blogs to educate journalists in Ghana and in the West African sub-region.
Despite these efforts, journalists in Ghana still find it difficult to create and manage blogs. Interestingly most of the journalists who go through training on blogging end up forgetting the processes involved. One of such training sessions was organised in April 2006 for 20 journalists.
Only three of the journalists who benefited from the training session including Mr Bensah are active bloggers.
The French Embassy in collaboration with the GJA also organised a workshop for journalists in 2005 but the tutorials for blogging was in French which made it difficult for the participants in the Anglophone West African country to grab the techniques.
In the face of the numerous challenges inhibiting the Ghanaian journalist from blogging, Ahiabenu believes there can be a way out.
He is of the view that journalists can seek dialogue with their workplace management to facilitate access for blogging.
Ahiabenu says the local Ghana Association of Journalists on ICT (GHAJICT) can collaborate with the umbrella association-the GJA, to design guidelines that would protect journalists from interferences that could occur when they seek to give their opinion through blogs.
Journalists in most countries already have certain privileges that protect them in the performance of their duties and to Ahiabenu Ghana could emulate the example. There is a test case of a group by the name 'media bloggers' who are seeking to be granted the same privileges and protection as journalists in the United States.
Ahiabenu says the benefits of blogging far outweigh the reasons for non-blogging.
According to a web definition, a blog in simple terms is a web site, where one can write on an ongoing basis. New stuff shows up at the top, to enable visitors to read what is new for their comment through e-mail.
Since blogging was launched almost five years ago, it has helped to reshape the web, impacted on politics, shaken up journalism, and enabled millions of people to have a voice and connect with others.
Blogs are easy to create and have been identified as the convenient way to publish anything at all for a wider public through the Internet. In most cases, search engines give results on topics from blogs.
Journalists in Nigeria are reported to be far ahead in blogging within the West African sub-region even though Ghana is more advanced in the establishment of ICT infrastructure with teledensity penetration of both rural and urban communities reaching 25 per cent at the end of 2006.
Ghanaian journalists have been slow in catching up with the use of blogs and according to Ahiabenu the percentage of bloggers is at about one to two per cent.
Penplusbytes is inculcating the culture of blogging among Ghanaian journalists and to Ahiabenu journalists can allow the process to thrive by asking their editors to edit their stories in order to ensure that there are no excesses that would bring about sanctions from higher authorities.
In addition there should be guidelines on blogging and the engagement of managers to facilitate the acquisition of ICT facilities.
Author : Emily Nyarko