Good people, journalists in the country had their annual press freedom march and awards gala on Saturday, May 6.
Chaotic was the annual general meeting where we were supposed to say our goodbyes to Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi chairperson Thom Khanje, vice-chairperson Yvonnie Sundu and executive member Winnie Botha.
But the chaos did not stop with the postponement of polls where journalists were supposed to elect successors of the team which was at the helm when an enthusiastic opposition bench and reluctant ruling camp worked late in the night to gift us the long-awaited Access to Information law.
Thanks for the fond memories, but it is time to go.
Every good story has an ending.
Only time will tell whether the outgoing ecevutive was worthwhile.
It appears we have already witnessed a terrible beginning of a disconcerting end of the Thom Khanje rule.
Members of the fourth estate, who are supposed to provide checks and balances during general elections and beyond, no longer inspire confidence following the messy suspension of Misa elections.
But the disgrace that was Misa-Malawi’s aborted elections is not the reason I wish the present executive was gone the day we met in the capital to elect new office bearers.
Still in power is a band of leader who have not shown any or satisfactory respect for journalists who report entertainment, arts and culture.
For many years, the media institute has taken pride in handing out awards for every small thing that matter, except reporting showbiz.
To them, the beat, which forms the core of the majority of print, electronic and online media offerings, seems negligible and not good enough for the awards.
When they decided to offer one last year, they gave a ‘Best Arts Journalist’ gong for a story that had nothing to do with the creative industry and the people who take pride in things that keep the sector ticking.
Not that they did not know that my story ‘Rumble up and down Golodi’ was a piece of travel journalism chronicling the setbacks tourists encounter on the narrow road, marked by hairpin bends, which leads to Livingstonia Mission in Rumphi, a picturesque plateau and tourism attraction of no mean historical importance.
Eunice Chipangula, the reader of the lengthy citation preceding the glass gong, said it loud and clear that the award I rue to keep was meant for the Best Tourism Journalist.
It was as false and deceitful as telling the winner of that award that he was going to receive a state-of-the-art HP laptop when the real prize was some third-rate Lenovo that the people at Hewlett Packard have nothing to do with.
If this was odd, this year’s Best Arts Journalist award was sheer drama of unsettling proportions.
Just when we were supposed to be rejoicing in the first Misa Best Arts Journalist Award, one of the judges made it a point to tell the world that most of the entries in the category left a lot to be desired.
This is how Misa watered down the sense of achievement which the winner was supposed to have.
Awards essentially confer status on deserving achievers.
But this one made some achiever feel like he was the best of the worst.
Best of the worst is an oxymoron.
So is the award that catapults one to the top of a pack of mediocrity.
If the entries were really substandard as we were told, Misa had the duty to safeguard its reputation and credibility by withholding the gong the same way it did a few years ago when refused to name the best radio station because none of the electronic media houses were good enough for the honour.
Arts reporting, especially writing reviews, is really about calling mediocrity by its name, not euphemisms.
It would not have been strange if the brains at Misa refused to offer the contentious award.
Dispensing awards to a bunch of underperformers is glorifying mediocrity.
But the citation, which underestimates the ability of deserving arts journalists, was actually authored by a media body which needed a backlash and protests to put aside for the journalism that typifies media role to entertain the public.
It sounds malicious, a symbol of total underestimation of arts reporters in the country who had more lessons to gain if Misa did not hand ou[truncated by WhatsApp].n