Anas Aremeyaw Anas will go down in history as one of the world’s greatest journalists of his generation, and perhaps, Ghana’s most decorated journalist ever. But do you know where he made his mark? He earned his fame with a newspaper you may not have bought or read before and chances are that you may never buy it in your life time.
Many educated people in our country still think every newspaper is called Graphic. But Anas made it at the Crusading Guide, now the New Crusading Guide.
Sadly, however, almost every student-journalist I interact with wants to work with the Daily Graphic, Joy FM, Citi FM or any of the popular TV stations. Their reason? Those are the platforms that they can be seen or heard by those who matter. The big platforms really make you who you are, they say. What about the small or seemingly obscure platforms?
Despise not your obscure platform. What matters most is you and not the platform. A well-developed and persevering talent is like a cork. If you suppress it under water for 100 years, it will pop up the very minute it is released.
Despise not your obscure platform. Kwaku Sakyi Addo, in my view, is Ghana’s most versatile journalist ever. He does radio, TV, print and online and a keen follower cannot tell his area of specialization. But he started from an obscure platform. After leaving GIJ, he was employed by his mate, Kwabena Yeboah. And his job description included carrying newspapers from Accra to Kumasi to distribute. The two-time Ghana Journalist of the Year would later rise to the BBC and other famous international media platforms many journalists aspire to reach.
Sometimes what you really need is a small platform. You need such platform to bring out the best in you. If you’re an amateur journalist aiming to be a presenter, finding yourself in the same newsroom with the likes of Komla Dumor, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah and those in their categories may not help you. Your dream of ever hosting a show may never materialize.
Despise not your obscure platform. Small platforms present you the opportunity to do the things that will catch the eyes of the big platforms. If you see or hear the Akwasi Sarpongs and the Komla Dumors on BBC or Anas Aremeyaw Anas on Al Jazeera, know that the BBC or Al Jazeera played very little role in what they are today. They excelled on small platforms back home and caught the attention of the big fish.
Another advantage of the small platform is that it affords you the opportunity to make all the mistakes so that when you get onto the big platform, you won’t fumble and stumble too much. A masquerade, our Nigerian brothers say, does not perform to an outside audience until he performs well at the home base.
Despise not your obscure platform. Anas Aremeyaw Anas might never have come this far if after graduating from the Ghana Institute of Journalism, he had a job with the Daily Graphic or Joy FM.
I know by now you’re thinking about the difficulty involved in rising from an obscure platform on to a huge one. Once again, let me tell you that difficulty and impossibilities are not synonyms. And when two proverbs don’t mean the same thing, one is not used to explain the other. I have gone through it and should be in a position to allay your fears.
I started my journalism career with no platform at all. I printed my own ID card and labeled myself a “freelance journalist,” a term alien to many people in our part of the world. Tell someone you’re a freelance journalist and they would ask whether it is a radio station or newspaper.
Apart from the difficulty in sometimes getting my stories aired, the absence of financial reward as a freelancer, many people turned me down when I requested interviews. A newsmaker would tell me they are running late and would not talk to me. Then in my presence, a reporter from Joy FM or Graphic would approach them and they would gleefully speak without ending. Those are even the very good ones. Some are very rude and you might not want to continue if you encountered them. Difficult times if you asked me. But it was in those two years, I won eight journalism awards, including the Journalist of the Year, without a platform. And that is what has earned me a much bigger platform.
Don’t despise your small platform. What you need is determination, perseverance, sacrifice and the spirit to wait. Waiting is necessary because you don’t have to struggle for fame and wealth. Excel in whatever you do and they will follow naturally. This applies to fields outside journalism and you can make it if you’re focused. Never think no one is watching you or noticing your exploits. It’s just a matter of time. And, of course, the help of the ageless Old Man above the azure skies.
May the God who brought Joseph out of an obscure prison dungeon to be a Prime Minister of Egypt grant you the spirit of perseverance. May the God who elevated the young shepherd, David, from the bush to be a great King of Israel grant you the spirit of determination, hard work and sacrifice to move from your small platform to one that is beyond your imagination.
But until then, despise not your obscure platform. It might turn out to be your best platform.