CV Convos with Nana Ama Agyemang Asante: Owning One’s Voice as a Multi-Faceted Media Professional

CV Convos (CV Conversations) is an Instagram Live series on navigating careers created by Circumspecte and the New Career Platform. Every week, career coach and Circumspecte founder Jemila Abdulai chats with an African young professional about their career path and the lessons learned along the way. Ever considered a career in media and journalism? CV Convos host and career coach Jemila Abdulai was joined by writer, feminist and journalist Nana Ama Agyemang Asante. Nana Ama is all about saying the unsayable in Ghanaian society. Her all-round presence in journalism through radio, blogging and podcasts makes her a diverse media professional. Dive into the replay of the #CVConvo and read on to experience all the ‘aha moments’ and wisdom she shared with us.

 

 

Nana Ama Agyemang Asante: A Way with Words

Nana Ama describes herself foremost as a writer. Her writing started with diaries and notebooks scribbled full of her experiences when she was younger. While she fell in love with writing early on, she did not practice it continuously as an economics and sociology student at the University of Cape Coast. Nana Ama rediscovered her talent during her national service at a prominent radio station in Accra, when her colleagues in the newsroom told her: “You have a way with words, you should write”. She started writing again and eventually started blogging in 2010 after a friend encouraged her to set up a personal blog. That blog is still active and has been an avenue for sharing her thoughts and passions. Nana Ama has thus found her voice as a writer who focuses on politics, women and other issues, all with the aim of documenting the ‘unsayable’ in Ghanaian society.

“I realized I had things to say about Ghana and other things so I would just dump all of them here [in the blog] and even if nobody reads it, it’s there.”

Nana Ama’s First Job: Persistence Wins

While Nana Ama started her career as a broadcast journalist, she wasn’t simply handed her first job. Her beginnings demanded some initiative and commitment from her side. For starters, her father wanted her to be a lawyer; she had to convince him to let her explore her interest in journalism for a year instead. Inspired by the radio hosts who interview their guests fiercely, Nana Ama travelled from Kumasi to Accra to visit her favorite radio station. While there, she requested to see the News Editor and shared her interest in being a journalist with him. Open to the possibility of having Nana Ama onboard, the news editor assured her he would reach out with a starting date. Despite his assurance, Nana Ama took the bull by its horns by following up: “I bombarded them with emails, I have to be honest. ‘But sir, you said you would call and you didn’t call.” Thanks to her proactivity, she eventually got the call she had been waiting for and soon started work as a broadcast journalist at the radio station of her choice.

Versatile Journalists in a Changing Media Landscape

A lot has changed in the media industry since Nana Ama started as a broadcast journalist. Digital media platforms have taken center stage to garner attention and serious consideration, impacting traditional media significantly. These days, journalists need to find ways to shift the conversation from online to the offline channels. It also requires journalists to be more versatile.The ever-changing media trends require media professionals and journalists to evolve and build new skill sets, Nana Ama explained. At the start of her career, she focused on writing and reading the news, however much more is asked of journalists these days. In addition to writing for the online channels; today’s journalist should know how to take pictures; create infographics, among others. Hence, learning on the job is very important for a career in media: “You will need to learn other skills on the job. Being able to learn and think on your feet; that’s what journalism is all about,” she divulged.

Women’s Voices in Media

What hasn’t changed much these days is the lack of women in the media. Nana Ama is one of few women who are visible in the media space and vocal about serious issues in Ghana. Her observations, articles and opinions are sometimes met with outright antagonism and sometimes insults. This can be hard to deal with, Nana Ama shares. Sometimes she feels like staying quiet or leaving social media entirely, but because she considers the conversations important, she doesn’t. To quit, she explains, would be letting them win. More importantly, Nana Ama stays vocal because she believes that women can bring more to discussions in mainstream media than tackling entertainment and relationships.

“I do see the conversations shift, we [women] talk more about serious issues. It’s important to see through this phase as we don’t have a lot of women in mainstream media so we should guard the [online and offline media] space.”

One way Nana Ama creates space for other women in media is through her podcast Unfiltered, which she started in 2017 as a safe space for women to talk about serious issues. Nana Ama saw through the podcast hosting, editing and production, however the additional workload was a lot to juggle with a full time job. She took a break, but the few episodes she published confirmed what she knew all along: women can do justice to a variety of topics. CV Convos host Jemila shared her own experience as the host and producer of Circumspecte’s podcast Organic. She pointed out while time consuming, podcasting is an interesting media trend budding journalists should pay attention to. Besides being a great way to voice one’s thoughts, podcasts and audio content are easier to consume while multitasking.

 

 

CV Tips for Aspiring Media Professionals

To wrap up the conversation, Nana Ama shared some career tips for aspiring media professionals. On must-have skills for journalism, she stressed the importance of research and analytical skills: “In journalism you are constantly analysing, you are thinking through topics, what questions to ask and what angles to take.” Building such skills, regardless of one’s background, will help equip media professionals with the tools they need to analyse issues. Flexibility is another skill Nana Ama developed while working in media over the years. The all-round journalist explained that no day is the same in the media; one day you can be covering sports, then documenting a current event the next day. Whatever the topic, one has to be nimble, ready and able to record events, synthesize, think through various story angles, and produce a compelling story. She encouraged budding journalists to remain open to opportunities throughout their journalism career. Besides having a diverse skill set, it is also important to read widely as a journalist. This, she explained, would help keep one informed and on their toes: “We are writers, words are all we have. Being able to write requires you to be a voracious reader too”.

When it comes to CV writing, it’s important for journalists to showcase their diversity. Nana Ama illustrates her own experience on her CV by highlighting the many platforms and projects she has been part of. Capturing these activities help showcase her as an all-round media professional who can plug into various roles in a newsroom. Another avenue for expanding one’s world view and shifting perspectives is pursuing further studies as a media professional; something Nana Ama has done through fellowships, research projects and study abroad. These experiences have helped Nana Ama evolve as an individual, a writer, and a media professional.

When you are applying for a job and you are not sitting in the room for the interview yet, it’s important to show the essence of yourself. You would want to know what the person has done, where the person has been and what you are capable of”.

Want to hear more from Nana Ama? Watch the replay of #CVConvos here. You can also follow Nana Ama’s blog and tweets (@justnanaama) to stay up to date on her latest writing. Tune in on Wednesday 5 August at 6 pm GMT for the final episode of CV Convos, this time focusing on a career in research & development.

This event summary was written by Ileen Wilke and Jemila Abdulai. CV Convos is an Instagram Live series on navigating careers, created by Circumspecte and the New Career Platform.