Journalism Standards (Courtesy of The New African Living Standard)

With the decline of the legacy media, the need for fresh articulations of basic standards of journalistic practice has never been greater.

Accordingly, A Voice Of Liberty is pleased to host the journalism standards being taught by freelance journalist Rachel Brooks, Editor-In-Chief of The New African Living Standard as well as contributing writer to Telegraph.Local. NASL shares our goal of fostering greater civic engagement through the promotion of quality journalism and good journalistic practice.  The content that follows is derived from the training materials Ms. Brooks uses to help nurture a new generation of African journalists, able to report freely and effectively on issues confronting Africa. We believe these basic standards are worthy standards to which all journalists should subscribe, not just in Africa or America, but anywhere.

Without further ado, the journalism standards of The New African Living Standard.

Note From The Editor Of The New African Living Standard

The New African Living Standard is an informal passion news project that was created out of the efforts of the FirmRock Children’s Helper Media Department to bring local news and fair representation to African news consumers everywhere. 

The cardinal interest of this project is to train African journalists who can take the dream and the vision of The New African Living Standard and bring it to life. 

For this reason, I have compiled training from all around the world that will improve the skills of journalists from the greenest, freshest place in their career to a 50-year industry veteran. 

I encourage--even implore--you to never stop learning. Journalism is one of the sciences. It is the most basic human right of a structured civilization. Without the freedom of expression, we are no more than a jungle of lost souls. 

Your agent of sound reportage in grave earnest, Rachel Brooks Editor-in-Chief The New African Living Standard Including the associated projects FirmRock Farm Review and The Uganda Charity Herald.

The New African Living Standard “Formula of journalism” 

Journalism=Facts+fact check+solve for truth
Propaganda=Facts+manipulation=forced to fit “truth”=false narrative

Journalism equals anti-corruption. 

Propaganda equals corruption.
Facts are not essentially truths. Facts are pieces of information that can be used as the building materials of a story. Truth is what can be weighed in the balances of the actions and the words (actions, words, times, dates, numeric figures, etc.=facts) of each character involved in a narrative.

Facts, when manipulated, force false narratives on the populace. Facts, when relentlessly checked as real and direct representations of actors or events, are equal to the truest form a narrative can reach. A narrative that is vetted with relentless checks and balances is journalism as defined by the New African Living Standard.

To The African Journalist

What is a journalist? 

A journalist is a messenger who goes between established society and the people to provide accurate representation of events and viable information. A journalist is the mediator of civil peace. He or she is the accountability of civil governance. 

The African journalist is a native born in the African continent, or an expatriate to Africa, who represents and mediates the interests of the people of the African continent. This includes those who endeavor to understand the local context of nations as individuals. For example, Nigerian journalists must also consider themselves African journalists and not merely “Nigerian”. This is because Africa, while not being a united body of nations, shares a continent. 

The idea that freedom of expression can bring a unification between the nations of Africa seems a novelty to some. Yet, if journalism exposes hard truths to clear a path toward correction then pan-Africa can begin to form a unified thought. Each African nation, made whole from the inside out, will have a greater chance for peace with the neighboring nation. 

To the African journalist, make the most of this exciting age in African innovation. This is your Renaissance. With this training, you will find your own voice. Africa is for Africans. No more will the nations or the states dictate the press. Now, you must do it. 

Political Journalism

These are dangerous times to be involved in politics. One misstep, one false fact, can severely alter the course of events and the safety of the parties involved. It for this reason that we begin with training on political journalism. 

We begin by examining the “Press Freedom and Political Development in Africa” booklet by Chris W. Ogbondah which has been published to the web by Michigan State University. We include this booklet because it gives you background on the history of press freedoms and projects for enabling the press in the African continent. 

What can we take away from this booklet and its teachings? 

  1. Journalism is a tool that curbs government mismanagement.
  2. Detention for journalists, via imprisonment, banishment, gang violence, or murder, is a way to stall criticisms of the government.
  3. Without criticisms of the government, corruption cannot be exposed.
  4. When corruption is exposed, a response is generated.
  5. A response to corruption is the beginning of a reform of corruption, if guided correctly. 
Therefore, we can conclude that journalism is a tool by which anti-corruption can be logically steered to achievement. 

Pursuing Journalism Despite Censorship

This booklet gives an example of a journalist who stood up to corruption in Sierra Leone during the blood diamond conflicts of the past 3 decades. His name is Dr. Julius Spenser. Even though he was arrested in 1993 for the practice of journalism, he continued to be consistent in his cause. For that reason, he is partially responsible for the slow-down in the spread of Ebola throughout his native Sierra Leone. 

Dr. Spenser is well known in the United States for funding and promoting journalism to support the process of treating Ebola in Sierra Leone in 2014, citing Dr. Spenser was in 2014 the leader of Sierra Leone Association of Journalists. He and the SLAJ worked with the CDC foundation to train Ebola journalists for Sierra Leone. 

What many may not remember is that Dr. Spenser was among a team of journalists arrested in October 1993 for publishing an article in New Breed, which questioned the then-president Captain Stasser’s involvement in diamond smuggling. 

Consistency. Vigilance. Teamwork. 

He did not allow his time arrested to frighten him away from the cause of the careful pursuit of journalism. What we can infer from his time arrested, is that he became more vigilant. He joined an association for journalists like himself. He worked with a foreign government’s foundation to bring awareness to his mostly in-the-dark nation. He instructed his journalists to be consistent. Even when Ebola began to slow down in Sierra Leone, Dr. Spenser continued to uphold the consistent broadcast and education on Ebola throughout many local news handles. 

CPJ Takes A Stand

The Committee to Protect Journalists has taken a stand against violence directed toward journalists. This page gives you some insights on the effort to protect journalists in Sierra Leone. 

Key takeaways:

  • Do not go it alone. Likely your best defense as an aspiring journalist in the African states is to create a close-knit network with organizations such as CPJ, Reporters Without Borders, even CDC Foundation. There is strength in numbers. To be an effective journalist in Africa, then you must develop an identity as an official journalist. Don’t just hit the field with your gear bag and camera until you know for sure you are protected by advocacy and constant context training.
  • Work with larger projects Dr. Spenser conducted his Ebola journalism project through the sponsorship of the CDC Foundation. By working with this larger initiative, he created some leverage for his own project. This leverage prove indispensable to the pursuit of Ebola control in Sierra Leone within the last half-decade.
  • Be consistent Don’t get in the habit of following “plot bunnies” with your reportage stories. You need to build a consistent narrative and keep it in circulation. This is the only way to guarantee the public does not become complacent about the issue you are drawing to their attention. 

Reviewing What We Have Learned
  1. Journalism equals anti corruption.
  2. Journalism must equal Consistency
  3. Build a network. Associate with fellow journalists, media projects, and humanitarian initiatives. 
  4. Develop a buddy system styled reporting that brings you in touch with advocacy for added protection. 

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