Journalism - A Life between Extremes


October 10, 2013  |  By Lea Buettner, Germany

Journalism - A Life between Extremes

Photo : Wiki Commons

Sally Ngissah is a journalist. She works as a reporter for a radio station in Cape Coast, Ghana. Sally did not plan to become a reporter. She always wanted to be a photo journalist. She wanted to take great pictures to illustrate someone else’s articles. Her intentions were clear but when she suddenly went on an assignment as a reporter and not as a photographer, her plans changed.  

 “I was sent to a school for an interview. When I arrived with my microphone and my journalist ID, the students suddenly sat up in their seats, became all quiet and greeted me respectfully. In this moment something changed.”      

 Sally realized that being a reporter contains more than some questions and a sheet of paper. That moment was when she started to give a closer look into all the small features that a journalist’s job requires.

A reporter’s job can lead to great opportunities. Reporters can easily make many contacts with different people from all spectrums of life. They come to know different countries and people; this helps them gain numerous life experiences.

Journalists have a large impact to the people and their environment. Their role in the society is very important for Ghana. Articles and stories can move people, make them think about various topics and change their attitude towards different affairs. People respect journalists because their work is able to change things; to change people’s lives. Sally said: “It is a nice feeling to be respected for what you are doing. When everyone is kind towards you and you feel how grateful people are, it feels good.”

Sally adds that one of the best parts of her job is the traveling all around the country. Their job takes journalists to diverse places. They have the possibility to see and learn a lot about their own country and its inhabitants. They get to know the small peoples’ lives which often have a deep impact to the society and they let everyone else take note of it.  Reporters even have numerous possibilities to meet celebrities. Sally tells me that during the elections, reporters are even allowed to accompany the president and the contestants. With all these opportunities and experiences, journalists can get a widely spread spectrum of knowledge, which is important to be successful. However, being a journalist also has its drawbacks.

Sally explains that her job can be challenging in many different ways. The pressure on a journalist is enormous. Jobs in the media are in demand and good reporters are asked of a lot. Plenty people work in this branch and everyone tries to be the best.  It is important to be conspicuous. Articles need to be well written, topics well chosen. Stylistics must be unique. The written words need to be tantalizing and captivating. This is when being a journalist becomes a competition. Everyone wants to catch the latest news to boost their career in the best way. Individuals have to be faster than others, so that they finish their story first. The one whose article is read out first gets the most attention.

This is what journalism is all about: being unique, tantalizing and fast; getting attention and get articles published. All journalists want to be better than the others and all journalists want to be successful in their business, but only a few can withstand the pressure.

Besides the pressure to perform, a reporter’s job can also be exhausting and stressful. Sally explains that assignments are mostly unpredictable. This means that journalists have to be prepared at any time, whether it is 4pm or the middle of the night.

Sally tells me that if she gets a call concerning an assignment, she has to be on her way in about fifteen minutes. She has to be ready to leave everything behind, at any time. Being spontaneous is the key for a successful carrier as a journalist.

Sally says that it can be hard to have flexible labor time. “In the worst case scenario you have to work 24 hours a day”, she reveals. “Anything can happen.”     

Sally adds that sometimes she does not even have time to eat or sleep, which makes it really hard to concentrate and be attentive every time.

 Another challenge in Sally’s job is lack of free time. She needs to be available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. This makes it difficult for her to see her family and her friends very often. “I did not see my mother for three month now, but I am looking forward to seeing her as soon as possible”, she says.

 In this case, journalists need to have a thick skin. Their social life and relationships suffer under this consuming job. Sally admits that it is nearly impossible to find a man who understands that she needs to be independent and that she needs space because her career demands it. Apparently, loneliness is sometimes a big part of being a journalist and of being successful.

Although the conditions are rough, Sally cannot imagine doing anything else. Her job consumes her and she likes it. When she talks about her life, her career and all her experiences, she looks really proud. Being a reporter fulfills her. When I ask her to summarize her reasons to be a journalist, she says, “It is my passion. I love it.”


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