In fact. journalism is not nice like it used to be anymore – Nanabanyin Dadson.

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By Lawrencia Nyarko.

Meet Nanabanyin Dadson, affectionately known as Uncle Nab, a seasoned Ghanaian journalist whose journey in the world of media is defined by resilience and a deep passion for communication. Born on May 15, 1955, in Cape Coast, Central Region of Ghana, Uncle Nab’s early life was marked by financial constraints that initially prevented him from pursuing his secondary education despite passing the common entrance examination. Undeterred, he found his calling in the realm of education, eventually carving a path into the intricate world of journalism through a twist of fate and the guidance of a mentor. With a career spanning over three decades, his remarkable contributions to various reputable publications, both locally and internationally, have solidified his place as a respected figure in the industry. Despite his impressive accomplishments, Uncle Nab remains grounded, now imparting his wealth of knowledge to the next generation as a revered educator at many esteemed institutions, and Head of Journalism Department at the African University College of Communications. His accolades, including the prestigious Arts Writer Prize from the Ghana Ministry of Information and the GJA Recognition Award for Journalism, reflect not only his professional excellence but also his enduring commitment to the craft. Join us as we delve into the inspiring narrative of this iconic figure and uncover the lessons garnered from a lifetime dedicated to the art of storytelling.

Lawrencia Nyarko: Your journey into journalism started somewhat unexpectedly. Could you share more about the pivotal moment when Nana Kwasi Gyan Apenteng convinced you to contribute to the ‘Mirror’ and how that shaped your journalism career?

Nanabanyin Dadson: Indeed, before Kwasi Gyan Apenteng introduced me to journalism, I had shown interest in writing for the Commonwealth Hall newsletter called The Echo and a few others. So it looks like, it was a matter of chance that I met Kwasi Gyan Apenteng with whom i had a long association at the University of Ghana. It was during the time the university had been shut down because the school had gone on aluta and the government said everyone should go home. I was home doing nothing and he convinced me start writing for The Mirror.

The Mirror at that time was a very important weekend national paper and they didn’t have a regular arts and entertainment column. I strengthened what they used to have, which means I went out every weekend to cover an entertainment story, put them together for every weekend. The small space I had became a half-page. And on top of that half-page had been written ‘Arts and Entertainment with Nanabanyin Dadson’. When I saw it for the first time, I almost went mad. I said: ‘whaaat! Me?. And it expanded to one page and to two pages, until the management found out entertainment too was a subject worth its own paper, so they established Graphic Showbiz which eventually, I became an editor.

LN:          You’ve had an extensive career as a journalist and writer, with your work published in various publications. Are there any articles that hold a special place in your heart, and why?

ND: Interestingly, the articles I really liked at the time I wrote them was when Kwaw Ansah’s Heritage Africa won the Ballon d’Or in African cinema. It was a two-yearly affair held at Burkina Faso. The story I sent home was good. The people who read it were referring to it as it captured the moment.

Another one was when I went to Seychelles island to cover Miss World. I was covering for the whole Africa so I had to do something for every country in Africa. Back home, it got to a time I had written about every artist of substance in Ghana. Even in AUCC, sometimes I look for my old works for my feature writing class and ask myself ‘I really did this?’

LN: Teaching seems to be a significant part of your life now. Can you talk about your approach to teaching journalism and the values you aim to instill in your students?

ND: My approach to teaching has been mainly practical. I want my students to become journalists and not just talk about it. Since university education in Ghana is mostly theoretical, after teaching my students the theoretical concepts, I entreat them to put in practice what they’ve learnt, and it seems to work, because I get good feedback from the students I taught.

LN: You’ve been in the field of journalism for over 30 years. What do you see as the most significant changes or developments in the industry during this time?

ND: I would say the industry has gone mad. With the emergence of new media, now you can’t take a piece of news item and vouch for it because there has been so much misinformation and disinformation. People intentionally planting false information and passing it off as journalism. From your own devices, you can create a story and post it without anybody looking at it and editing it. So these days the kind of information coming out on various channels as news is crazy.

Can you imagine, I read that a member of an opposing party in Ghana wrote that the president intentionally asked the VRA to flood the Akosombo area so that people can lose their voting cards?! How can that be? And it has been published online. How? So the industry is gone mad. That is why those who want to do journalism should appreciate actually what it is, and not think along the lines of what we are reading.

Indeed, I have some people who come to AUCC to do journalism and they are thinking about what they have read online and not what journalism actually is. So they come and they realize this is not what they thought it was. So they rather change to different courses. In fact journalism is not nice like it used to be anymore.

LN: Your determination to teach despite your stammering is inspiring. What advice do you have for individuals facing similar challenges in pursuing their passions or careers?

ND: There are always challenges, but there are some occasions you seem to succumb to some challenges. Even me, there are times I hear quizzes been done on radio, where they ask you a question and you have to answer by phone within a particular time. There are occasions I could easily tell what the answers are but when I call in, the time would be over because the quiz master won’t wait for me, and he won’t know why I haven’t responded, so I give up.

There are many occasions we might come across every day, but one occasion, I said ‘no way!’: the students will wait. So in the beginning of any new class, I tell my students, ‘look, you’re going to be with a stammerer like me’. Always, they will tell me ‘oh, don’t worry’, and that has indeed inspired me to be back at teaching. And it’s been worth it. Anyone with same challenge can do better.

LN: In your extensive career, you’ve received recognition and awards. What do you consider your proudest achievement or moment as a journalist?

ND: My proudest achievement is not an award. It has been for artists to recognize me for my work. They sometimes invite me personally. I was editor for 12 years, which means I had staff under me. So when the invite comes, I send some of my staff. But sometimes they beg me to come and not send anyone. These are the things that really make me proud. Sometimes you walk to a show hoping to pay and go in, and all I would hear is ‘oh, please pass: you don’t need to pay’. And my partner will think I knew all along.

LN: In the rapidly changing landscape of journalism, how have you adapted your teaching methods to prepare students for the challenges and opportunities in the field?

ND: I will say I don’t prepare students: I bully them instead. I mean, things must be done the way it is. I have never missed a class, no excuses, and stuff like that. That’s what i mean by bullying. But my approach again is, I look at the person, and I intend to make them a journalist. Students are only used to listening to lecturers and going home. So the little assignments and questions, students don’t like it at all. But if you want to be good, that’s how it is. So that’s actually my style: I hold students by the ear to do better.

LN: What advice would you give student journalists who aim to excel in the media landscape?

ND: Journalism is a craft. You have a story to tell. That’s your content. The point is, how are you going to tell that story? If all of us go on an assignment (the same assignment), how are you going to tell your story in a way that will resonate with your viewers or readers better than others? So therefore, what I want my student journalists to do is to be aware of things happening around them. Look at what is happening in Gaza, look at what was happening in Russia and Ukraine, and even what happened during COVID time. How can you sit in a world and call yourself a journalist when you have no idea what is happening around you. So I entreat student journalists to be their own voice and not the voice of anyone.

LN: Thank you so much for your time.

ND: It’s my pleasure.

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