Guest Feature: The Impact Culture Has On Journalism

The goal of journalism globally would be truth-telling, but how do differences in method influence the truth-telling outcome?

Princess Siafa, Guest Writer

​Aremeyaw Anas is a Ghanaian investigative reporter and over the years, he has come under fire for his investigative journalism methods. These include smuggling, bribery, disguises, audio recordings and videos.

Explaining his methods in a Ted Talk recorded in 2013, he said, “Evil in society is an extreme disease, and if you have extreme diseases, you need to get extreme remedies.” 

Marley Kayden, an Emmy Award-winning business correspondent for News Nation’s “Morning in America” and a journalism professor at DePaul University, lauded Anas for his courage to investigate.

“Being a journalist in the United States is something I just have to appreciate,” she said. “I am afforded much freedom and many rights as a journalist in this country, but in some African and Middle Eastern countries, journalists can be arrested for no reason.” 

Jason A. Martin is the journalism program chair and professor of digital media ethics at DePaul University. In an article published in 2022, Martin found that journalists in Ghana perceived themselves as straddling normative Western press freedom roles of accountability and social responsibility while incorporating unique elements of their culture in their work.

Some journalists share this perception in Liberia, a West African country about 800 miles from Ghana. One of these journalists is Moses Garzeawu, a BBC Africa correspondent and CEO of Monitor Media Group in Liberia. 

“We are most conflicted as journalists,” Garzeawu said in an interview. “How will you be part of the system and rectify the system when you are speaking against the system?”

Martin has conducted research focused on the intersection of journalism, technology, and democracy, concentrating on political communication outcomes and First Amendment implications of public affairs journalism. He said that there is no existing structure to describe journalism culture, and the field of research could be better with more comparative research of approaches to journalism and media systems in different countries.

“You cannot study journalism without some level of understanding of the wider culture it exists in; usually, the people locally know best,” Martin said.

Cultural trends affecting the U.S. media have revolved around sensationalism, misinformation, opinion, bias-infused reporting and fake news allegations; Trends in Liberia include fear, lack of public interest and restricted or no access to information.

Wesley Brown, a multimedia journalist in Liberia, attributes these trends to an amateur news team and poor wages for journalists in the country.

“Our country has not placed a value on journalism,” Brown said. “Journalists in Liberia are vulnerable; they can be attacked at any time, and there is no system to protect them.”

Kayden agreed. “I don’t think we will ever live in a world where the world as a whole will value this job (journalism),” she said. “There will always be countries that place the government’s right over the people’s right to know.”

Some notable events this year affirmed Brown and Kayden’s assertion. A News Nation reporter, Evan Lambert, was pushed to the ground, handcuffed and arrested while filming a live report during a press conference in East Palestine, Ohio. He was charged with criminal trespassing and resisting arrest; the charges were later dropped.

BBC offices in India were raided by tax officials weeks after they released a documentary critical of the Prime minister, Narendra Modi. The documentary was later blocked and banned in the country.

The Concord Times, an online newspaper owned and operated by Liberian journalist Lyndon Ponnie, was dissolved by the host per the request of ArcelorMittal. Amongst other accusations, the articles alleged that the government of Liberia had awarded a concession agreement meant for another company to steel manufacturer ArcelorMittal. 

In 2022, Martin, Gerry Lanosga, associate professor (media school) at Indiana University and associate professor of communication at Houston University, Lindita Camaj, conducted a sampling of thirty active data journalists. The sampling showed differences in Public Transparency Data Initiatives (PTDI) across countries resulting in many journalists reporting structural complications with data acquisition based on the nature of the PTDI. Complications included delays, partial access, lack of data for local levels of government and administrative incompetence.

When governments do not provide access to information that concerns the public and the nation, the work of the fourth estate becomes tougher to perform.

Garzeawu said, “Information is power, and journalists should be left alone to do their jobs.” He added that it is crucial to do this job ethically, but “If you are breaking the rules in the public’s interest, break it.”