I was going to wait till I do something grand with my life and tell the world how much Matilda Asante, former news editor JOYFM, influenced my drive on the journey to get there. However, things have changed and I believe there’s no perfect time than now to tell Miss Asante how honored I am to have met her.
Prior to getting a job as broadcast journalist in the Joy newsroom, I heard this woman delivering the news in her own unique way. She was firm but not rude, smart but not a- know-it-all and above all, she sounded dignified on air. As a girl growing up in a city where it was a taboo for women to ask questions, especially in the bold, incisive manner that Matilda grilled most of the people she interviewed, she made a riveting mark on my consciousness.
I knew there was no way I was going follow the career path my father had chosen for me. So in July 2006, fresh out of University and brimming with excitement, I walked into JOYFM as an intern. Matilda was away on one of those training seminars abroad when I arrived, and as is done to new employees everywhere, I was treated with mild neglect for the first few months. I was sent on assignments which made no sense to me, wrote stories I hated and met people I’d gleefully smack for stupidity.
But all that was to change when Matilda arrived. A good judge of character, she noticed my rage right away and set out to pass on her enviable set of skills for the job to me. It was at lunch at Marquis Tante Marie where an intimidated me sat across her and got grilled lightly on everything from my deviation from clinical psychology to my new found love – journalism. I remember my fears fizzling out as the afternoon wore on and I listened to her talk about how to get on and survive in the newsroom and as a young female journalist in a male-dominated environment.
After that open conversation, life in the newsroom had a whole new feel. I was assigned to stories I could apply my strengths. I do remember those after-work reading and voice sessions. I had low timbre and sounded rather like a mouse on air and Matilda wasn’t having it. And that began Tilly’s unwitting influence on all things Nana Ama, especially my sense of professionalism.
I had seen and met other journalists, women and men and very few had Miss Asante’s attitude to the job. Whiles some of the men I met on assignments haggled with conference organizers over “soli,” the women were casual about the job. But Matilda was different. She was dedicated, dignified and resolute. Being a female boss made no difference to her. She didn’t miss work with flimsy excuses about a bad hair day or how the floods at the area where she stayed had kept her in. And it was an annual flood affair at Gbawe where she lived. But during those periods of floods, she waded through the waters, reported live on the situation in her neighbourhood and came in to work. She just was professional with her job. She came in early, worked hard and made sure everyone did too. She would not let you off the hook till you give her the story she sent you out for. She was demanding and sometimes uncompromising but if you pleased her, she’d harp your praises to the team and anyone who cared to listen.
I remember been assigned to do a story on fifty great Ghanaians alive or dead, thanks to Wereko- Brobbey’s brilliant idea of inviting nominations to award fifty great Ghanaians for the fiftieth anniversary. I went out, spoke to a couple who all believed Kwame Nkrumah deserved it all – all fifty medals. I went back to the office to tell Tilly that everyone I spoke to mentioned Kwame Nkrumah and that I may have to use just that. She sent me back to speak to kids and the hawkers at Circle to nominate people. Grudgingly I went, came back and wrote the story with nominations that baffled even me. When we sat down later for her to edit the story, she looked at it and back at me and said, “Good thing I pushed you, this is one of your best pieces yet.”
It wasn’t all honky-dory working with Miss Asante. I did cross her a few times and she dealt with me same way as she did everyone else. Sometimes her criticism stung more than a bee but it was from her that I learnt only my acts were been criticized and not my person. Because after each of those reproach sessions, she drew you back in and explained why you deserved to be told off or pushed in the manner she did. I have since not taken anyone’s criticism personal. Miss Asante had again unwittingly taught me, it is never personal.
And for the two or so years I worked as a broadcast journalist, everyday with Matilda in the newsroom was a lesson worth learning. She was our boss and not our friend. Yet she took time off to be friend when one needed one. And in my case, with all the tearful boy troubles and secret crushes, she was more than a friend.
I can never end this piece without talking about her sharp dress sense. Matilda never came to work over or underdressed. She was always appropriately attired, a rarity in the age of scantily-clad journalists.
Matilda Asante-Asiedu is warm and assured woman who has not only raised the bar of professionalism but also served as an example of what can be achieved with devotion, courage and perseverance. I do credit my folks for raising a confident assertive woman but I’m grateful for the opportunity to pick up a few useful tips from Matilda. There a few remarkable women like her around. She’s worth celebrating.