TheVoice @ 5: Celebrating Professionalism and Resilience

This reflection is inspired by the fact that although it might seem coincidental that TheVoice newspaper, just like the ragging Anglophone conflict, is five years old today, the coincidence might lead us to asking more fundamental questions-one of them being whether which pre-dates the other-and another being whether TheVoice newspaper was designed to be the voice of the voiceless, at that time and now, the marginalized Anglophones.

It is the more informed by the fact that if there's one thing TheVoice newspaper have been professionally resilient on, then it has apparently been their dogged determination to not only comfort the afflicted but more importantly, afflict the comforted in the prolonged Anglophone statist identify conflict. 

It is also inspired by the fact that unlike other newspapers that had time to establish their editorial policies and newsroom standards long before the outbreak of the Anglophone conflict, TheVoice newspaper seem to have seen its editorial policy and content largely defined by the existentialist struggle by the minority Anglophone community, and during which period the aged-old media bias debate resurfaced with acuity.

With Government of Cameroon today not hiding its intention of shifting the terrain of conflict from the battle field to the media, the staying power of any media house today in Cameroon would only be professionalism and resilience.

In Celebrating the 5th anniversary of TheVoice newspaper, and knowing that no media can rise above its society, or that every society gets the media it deserves, we nevertheless need deep reflection on fundamental questions such as: Are the media unifying or fragmenting? Whose interest do media represent,commercial interest or public interest? Do media merely reflect the social attitudes and concerns of our times, or are they also to construct, legitimate, and reinforce the social realities, behavours, attitudes, and images of others?

As the Cameroon intellectual and media community struggle to find answers to such toothing questions, I encourage everyone interested in media studies to have a reread of Alison Alexander and Jarice Hanson's book: Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Issues in Mass Media and Society, seventh edition, while reminding ourselves that every society works to reproduce itself-and its internal conflicts-within its cultural order, the structure of practices and meanings around which the society takes shape.

And if that were to be the premise of our argument as to whether TheVoice newspaper and by extension, other media outlets are biased on especially the coverage of the ongoing conflict, I would no doubt state that it is rather the society that is bias.

David Sloan and Jenn Burleson Mackay, in their book: Media Bias: Finding It, Fixing It, conclude that 'Most of us tend to evaluate media bias from our own perspectives-our own biases. If a news report or editorial agrees with us, we tend to think, not that it is bias, but that it got things right.'

They even go further to state that: 'We tend to see bias in media content that disagrees with our views, and fairness in content that support them. We tend to judge the media based on our own biases'. 

But truth be told: criticism from both sides is not a sure sign that the media are performing well. And the problem here too is whether the media are, or the media is? Though journalists may be trained in such practices as objectivity, balance, and fairness, they have a human tendency to favour those views and principles that they consider to be 'right'. Reason-why, bias sometimes creeps into both news and opinion without the writer recognizing it.

In the interest of fair disclosure, I will reveal that I am a reformist and supports the editorial content of TheVoice newspaper with all its biases. As social change influencer, I naturally support any content that challenges the status quo, be it in times of conflict. That said, I make bold to state that conservatives complain about TheVoice newspaper, more probably, because they have more legitimate reason for complaint. 

TheVoice newspaper for the past five years, have functioned with the understanding that 'For the system to work, we must have a well-informed citizenry'. And if nothing is done to stop the decline of the credibility of the news media...and if the public doesn't believe journalists, then there is a wider problem for our society, not just for journalists. 

In praise of the Professionalism and Resilience of TheVoice @5; when there's no easy way out of the 'linguistically volatile' thicket when reporting news in the two English Speaking regions, where Ambazonian fighters expect you to refer to government forces as 'occupiers', and to the North West and South West regions as 'occupied territories',  while government expects you to refer to any action from amba freedom fighters as actions from 'terrorists', and the territories in question, as North West and South West, and where trying to stay neutral is considered siding with one side or the other. 

And given, as Clifton Daniel, the Chief New York Times correspondent in the Middle East discovered after completing his tour of the Middle East reporting the Arab-Israeli conflict in the 60s, the words a reporter used invariably placed the correspondent on one side of the controversy or the other, most journalists working in mainspring media and covering the two English Speaking Regions, have cleverly decided to call themselves 'moderates', playing safe, even though their actual views haven't changed. But not those of TheVoice newspaper.

A tab on the back of TheVoice newspaper for their boldness in daring to speak truth to power in an existentialist conflict, where both sides believe God is on their side, and where unlike the Israeli-Palestinian conflict where the dispute is purely over land, the Anglophone conflict is unfortunately, both over land and the people who inhabit it.

Colbert Gwain
@International Freelance Journalist/writer, Content Creator @The ColbertFactor, award-winning digital Rights advocate, Facebook Trainer of Trainers, Specialist on New Digital Civil Society Playbook
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