Work: Same but different

Here, I am working as a Communications Advisor for VSO Ghana. In many ways, it’s a normal job – most days, Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm, you can find me getting on with relatively normal tasks, working at my laptop in an office (somewhere I have come to appreciate for being the only place we go that has wifi and air conditioning!).

Over the next 6 months, I’m mainly going to be training small, local NGOs, gathering case studies and stories, and conducting research. Some long field trips on bumpy roads to visit school projects are coming up, and will definitely be a change from my previous tame travels to Birmingham or Nottingham for work meetings. The logistics of working on rural school projects aside though, I hadn’t really been able to picture the reality of ‘doing’ communications in another country until we got here.

There’s the language barrier – English is an official language here but a second language for most –, the different social and political context, and the fact that the issues that are the most interesting and important to people here are alien to me. And then there’s the way the Ghanaian media works…

There aren’t expectations for me to be making any kind of media splash in my role. But it’d be an added bonus if the opportunity came up. After days spent refining press releases, quotes and headlines in the UK to create campaigns that have everything you need to get a charity in the news – the unique position, the big statistic, the perfect spokespeople, the personal stories… – I wanted to know what makes it in print here.

I found this:

(Although bear in mind this is a completely unscientific review and I still haven’t seen a copy of the apparently most highly circulated state-owned paper anywhere!)

Man builds school


Tooth extraction is bad says an unnamed dentist, on the front page

News Tooth Extraction is Bad


And (surely news), an actor (who has nothing to do with juice or politics) saying he does not care about a short-lived craze for people to take photos of themselves with a juice carton to show support for a certain politician.

News Kalypo

Of course, we have silly news in the UK too – the last story would’ve probably made it in some alternative way if the person were famous enough. Nonetheless the style, content and type of news seem worlds apart:

  • I’ve never seen headlines so simple!
  • Religious leaders or famous ‘prophets’ are key spokespeople on all issues and events.
  • And who said you have to give a story balance? Or provide evidence to back up a claim? In this case (a view from the opposition political party), no need to even to add quotation marks.

One thing stays constant whatever country you’re in though – elections obscure everything else! Following hot on the heels of the US, it’s election season here. That means that’s all there is to news until polling day on 7 December, and probably for a good while after. Even if I did get my head around the inner workings of Ghanaian media, I’m pretty certain that press coverage for any of the VSO education programmes won’t be happening just yet.

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