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Conversation on changing trends in journalism education, practice

By Sunday Aikulola
12 March 2023   |   4:05 am
“The world is changing and communication is always dynamic. Our training must go in tandem with changing times. Depending on the type of model you are following in your communication education system, like the American, British or any other models, understand the skills your students require for them to go into the changing world.

“The world is changing and communication is always dynamic. Our training must go in tandem with changing times. Depending on the type of model you are following in your communication education system, like the American, British or any other models, understand the skills your students require for them to go into the changing world.

“The world is changing very fast, particularly in the communication aspect. So, how can you master the equipment? Have the right competence? So, how can we mix this balance and understand our environment as students. Don’t forget, you are going to influence public opinion and mould minds of upcoming younger ones. So what kind of education are we giving them?”

This was the summation of the Vice Chancellor, Federal University Kashere, Gombe State, Professor Umaru Pate, recently, during a lecture on: “Changing Trends in Journalism: Education and Practice” he delivered at the School of Media and Communication Studies, University of Management & Technology Lahore, Pakistan.

Pate further said that though the general perception is that the classroom should always be ahead of the newsroom, but it would require the classroom to be ahead of the newsroom.

He maintained that professional teachers must themselves be competently prepared to be able to offer competent services to students, using the right facilities.
According to Pate, properly trained media students would end up as the next generation of journalists who will be tackling emerging challenges in contemporary societies.

“But that will not happen unless our curriculum or education is dynamic. The experiences I’m going to share with you will be mostly from the Nigerian context. But the beauty of it is that Pakistan and Nigeria share a lot of similarities in a number of areas. Apart of having colonial history, I’ve also realized that our educational systems are basically similar. The contents of our curriculum are also in a way similar.

“Likewise, the dynamics in our media sectors, the type of politics that we play and the nature of the society that we are in are similar. Therefor, a lot of things that I may be saying may ring bells in your minds. Knowing that what obtains in Nigeria may possibly be obtainable here also.

“Now why did we decide to change our curriculum in Nigeria and how did it even occur? If you take a critical look of the media industry generally in the last 10 or 15 years, you will realize there are significant changes that are taking place. Profound opportunities are being created just like enormous problems are emerging.

“Courtesy of two or three main things: one you have the advent of the Internet. With the advent of the Internet, processing and distribution of information have become easy, cheaper and far more accessible.

“Secondly, you have the ongoing revolution in the information and communication technologies in terms of production of equipment, gadgets and a lot more of what we need or use in journalism.

“Thirdly, you have the rise of populism politics all over the world. When we talk about populism politics, we are talking about sentiments instead of politics of merits or objectivity. You can remember what happened in America, even before the advent of Trump, in several other places, you have politicians who have been quite manipulative and are now assisted with the gadgets available now to further be able to control the minds of people, manipulate sentiments and serve their own individual interests.

“Put that aside, you also have rise in conflicts and insurgencies in different parts of the world, conflicts of different nature. Some inter communal, national or international. And they are of different dimensions. Some have religious ethnic or political correlation.

“In my own part of the world, we have a lot of religious and political tensions and rise of violent crimes in the name of terrorism.

“Again, journalism, directly or indirectly, has something to do with all of these things. There is also the Issue of poverty. The world is getting richer but if you take specific indices, at least like Nigeria, you will realize that poverty is becoming deeper. So how do you bring an end to poverty? How do you ensure more qualitative life for the people in the midst of all these issues?”

Pate insisted that journalism cannot be divorced from the ongoing in the society, either as a contributory factor or as a palliative factor.

“So, how do we position the media industry? How do you equip the young people going into the industry to be able to serve as: one, professionals that are competently and confidently informed on what they need to do to push the societies forward within contemporary emerging global situations.

“Secondly, how do you develop the capacities of journalists who can graduate and become investigative journalists who can dig out the facts and ensure accountability, transparency and trust worthiness in the process of governance for societies to live in peace and survive.

“Thirdly, how do you also train journalists or media professionals that are equipped to understand issues of conflicts, dynamics of the society that can lead to conflicts, insurgencies, terrorism and bad governance. So what can they do? Instead of graduating to become escalators of some of these conflicts, how can they become solutions in society to bring peace and harmony and tranquility to prevail in the society.

“You cannot assume that you have come to the university, you can easily go and practice. We have also learnt or realize that many of our journalists are competent in terms of the skills of the profession but are poorly informed about their environment, either immediate or distant.

“You have a student in the university who cannot draw the map of his country, who is least informed about the sociology or anthropologies of the complexities of his society not to talk of his external environment. Such a journalist is barely literate.

“Yes you can be a good editor or reporter but you are not reporting in a vacuum, you are reporting about people. What is your deep knowledge about the society that you are reporting? Do you know the history of your community? Do you know the sociology of your environment? Do you know the basis of your multi-cultural existence or the diversities in your communities?

“If your knowledge about your community is poor, you may end up being more of a propagandist or a journalist causing more confusion in the society than creating solution for the progress of your society.”

According to Pate, a poorly informed journalist is a liability to his newsroom. “So putting all these things into consideration, we felt there was a need for us to take a second look at what we have been teaching our students, so that we can also align our curriculum or contents of what we teach in line with emerging issues as well as helping our students have a deeper knowledge of our environment and train them to appreciate the essence of investigative journalism that could bring out the facts and fight corruption using the pen so that society could utilize its resources instead of fewer people stealing what is available for the society to continue to suffer.

“With the advent of the Internet, at least in the Nigerian context, there are profound changes that have resulted in challenges, apart from the opportunities.”

He added that it is not enough to teach students how to write good newspaper articles, how to edit, produce good programmes without teaching them how to make money for their organisations to survive including how to manage the resources they are able to attract.

“Luckily, this is a university dealing with issues of management and I hope your postgraduate studies will be able to develop peculiar courses on media economics and management.

“Technology is the enabler in media business, if you don’t have the technology, you cannot connect with audiences. So you have to transit from the old ways to the new ways and this requires money and investment. Some of the things to be done are external while some are internal.

“If your national communication technology infrastructure is weak, it becomes quite challenging for you. And for us, we do not manufacture these gadgets. Largely, we import them using large sums of money using foreign exchange and the dollar is becoming increasingly scarce.

“Today, any media organisation that is not online or use latest technology to edit or gather information has no business in the space. And if money you are expecting from other sources are not coming, how do you do it? There is also the rise of the citizen journalists. Someone with smartphone becomes a reporter, editor as well as distributor. He is competing with you and he also attracts advertising money on his platform. Google will be paying him for doing less. The person that has invested in a big organisation paying staff salaries is now at loss.

“While technology is the enabler, content is the window that connect the media and the audiences. If you do not have the right audience, you have no business. You are competing with several content producers, either in the formal or informal settings.

“Contents require resources, creativity, patience and the right equipment to deliver. So how much in terms of resources are we devoting for content production. Today, most of the contents are sourced from outside the immediate environment. Today, attention given to local news is going less and less.”