Journalism is a social discipline dealing with information gathering and presentation to the public through ethical adherence.
Except for propaganda purposes, especially against African Leaders and other eminent persons from the continent perceived to be anti-western elements, the BBC, CNN and other international media outlets mostly adhere to acceptable ethical standards in the practice of journalism profession. There are also a few in South Africa, Ghana, as well as Kenya, among others attempting to ensure the principles of good journalism on the continent.
Unlike the aforementioned, the case of Liberia may just be a bid at a distance in terms of the observation of ethical standards in discharging practical journalism. This goes to suggest that the practice of the profession continues generally to be not only outside of ethics, but devoid of passion. In other words, many who practice journalism in Liberia don’t have the passion for the profession, but ‘chase the cash’ behind the stories to either make ends meet or satisfy their insatiable wants.
This, indeed, has resulted to a complete decline in the level of professionalism that had characterized the social discipline years back. Most modern day Liberian journalists – because of their primary interest of cash generation, either lack the ability to write good stories on their own, orally discuss stories and the issues abide or knowingly ignore the ethical standards to uphold in executing their journalistic duties and functions – only because of the mind-set of attracting and chasing the cash for stories.
Some even leave the walls of universities, with degrees in Mass Communication or Journalism, without representing such degrees by exhibiting the attributes of people who have acquired such high knowledge in such a noble profession, as evidenced by their poor on-air speech/articulation and writing skills – just listen to Liberian radio and TV stations and read the papers or visit newspaper newsrooms and see how they interact with a few editors up-to-the-task editors, you would then understand and realize the perspective of this article.
And this is not really intended to, in anyway or in any manner and form, denigrate or defame the Liberian media landscape, but speak to the realities of modern day Liberian journalism – the ways things are completely running out of hand, in the wake of the inability of the Press Union of Liberia to provide guidance. And the irony about this is that most Liberian journalists do not even accord the PUL leadership the recognition and respect it deserves by observing the organization’s Code of Ethics, especially morally behaving and reporting the news.
There may be a number of factors responsible for such unethical or ‘mercenary journalism – probably the poor recruitment skills and process by media owners amid fear of good salaries; failure of media institutions to develop practice editorial guidelines and polices, as well as administrative policies to which editors, reporters and staff must adhere, as well as the inability of media owners and editors to discourage or resist attempts by certain public officials or institutions to influence publication(s) against others in the eyes of the public to accomplish or achieve certain objectives. These are the unfolding situations bastardizing and desecrating the professional image of the Liberian media landscape to the detriment of its growth and development.
A visible result of this professional retrogression is the huge presence of well-to-do media practitioners in the areas of public relations and social mobilization – probably due to the negative attitudes of many of those currently in the journalism professional.