The over a decade ago statement made by veteran Journalist and Publisher of The Chronicle, Nana Kofi Coomson, which has constantly been used by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) as a political weapon has finally been deflated and laid to rest.
It would be recalled that during a New Patriotic Party (NPP) presidential primary in 2008, the renowned journalist, who is a member of the party and a supporter of one of the candidates, other than incumbent president, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, made the infamous statement against the latter that he cannot sleep if he (Nana Addo) becomes president.
During an interview on Ghana Television on Sunday, the astute journalist owned up to making that statement but said that the issue has been buried.
He jokingly quizzed the two hosts of the Beautiful, Bold, Ugly and Maverick (BBUM) show on which he appeared, whether Ghanaians are not sleeping under the Akufo-Addo regime, which threw the two into laughter.
“Yes on recollection, I did say that but he is president now …Well I have taken it back. I haven’t told him in private that I have taken back my words, but that issue has been buried. I can sleep; we are all sleeping in this country, are we not”?
The BBum show seeks to interview 13 great media personalities who have become heroes in journalism, to share their beautiful and maverick stories with the world.
The interview with Mr Coomson, which lasted close to an hour, saw the once fearless journalist talk about many issues, spanning from his style of writing, the impact of new media on traditional media and financing newspapers in the 21st century.
I never worried about who got hurt
Reminiscing about some of the stories which sometimes caused a lot of embarrassment to public officers, the man, touted as one of the fearless journalists the country has ever produced, indicated that he never worried about who got hurt, based on articles he wrote.
According to him, he always did what was right, based on his conscience and that was why he never worried about anyone who found himself in his papers.
“… I didn’t worry about who got hurt but I was doing what was right; in my conscience what was right. So if you are hurt by it, I am ready. So I had so many suits.”
Why The Spear of the Nation
Responding to why he chose the slogan “Spear of the Nation”, which was the slogan of the paramilitary wing of the African National Congress (ANC) founded by Nelson Mandela in the wake of the Sharpeville massacre, Mr Coomson noted that the words captured exactly what the paper aimed to do.
The revered journalist said that the “Spear of the Nation”, translated from South African Xhosa language as UMkhonto we Sizwe, which means to fight, was in consonance with the work his paper did because the paper fought and is still fighting the ills in society.
“At the time I chose the slogan, I thought it captured what the ANC stands for: they stood for fighters; we are fighting the wrongs in society”, Mr Coomson said.
The renowned publisher noted that some of the wrongs in society, which the paper fought at the time were corruption and apathy. He noted that these wrongs do not vanish overnight and that there is the need for one to fight them constantly.
“The slogan is not aimed at only politicians but the wrongs in society. There are so many wrongs in society and we have to constantly fight it. It doesn’t vanish overnight…We are fighting corruption and apathy”, he said.
The fearless journalist told the hosts that his hate for corruption and apathy in those days was the driving force behind his articles and he did not spare anybody who was caught in his anti-corruption net.
He noted that this brought so many law suits at his doorstep, but he still fought on irrespective of whose ox is gored.
“At the time when I was doing active journalism, I hated corruption and I didn’t want to be bullied. So no matter who was involved, I will come after you. I didn’t bother whose ox was gored.
So I had many court sues. I didn’t understand fear at the time. I wasn’t as old as I am today, so I didn’t understand fear,” he noted
Quality will always surpass quantity
With over 100 newspapers in the country, Mr Coomson agreed that press freedom which he, together with other journalists fought for and achieved during the erstwhile Kufuor administration has paved way for more people to enter the media space.
He, however, noted that it has also birthed a lot of papers whose content are nothing to write home about and indicated that with time the chaffs will weed themselves out of the system.
“They will weed themselves out. They good ones will always survive. It always happens. Some papers die and you won’t notice,” he explained.
Impact of new media on traditional media
Asked if the advent of social media has had any adverse impact on traditional media, especially the newspaper industry, Mr Coomson responded in the affirmative.
He said the paper used to circulate 40,000 copies daily, but today newspapers are not able to circulate as before, because people lift stories from newspaper to feed their online readers, thereby making the stories stale by the time they get to other parts of the country.
He said this does not only kill enthusiasm of journalists working in the newspaper industry, but the sales of the paper as well.
Using his own paper as an example, Mr Coomson noted that the paper had been through thick and thin, spanning from financial issues to staff retention, but we (The Chronicle) are still surviving on the stands, due to the quality content we produce.
“Yes if you look at my colleagues in the print media, they are dying because of this. They lift stories from our papers and publish them in their papers, so before your paper will come out the ones you will circulate to Bolga has already been read. So it kills not only the enthusiasm but the numbers as well”, he lamented.
“We have had problems such as retention of staff because we can’t pay them; that is one of our problems…major financial problems, maintaining printing machines because we print our paper ourselves. It’s always a problem but we are surviving,” Nana Kofi Coomson concluded.