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At WJEC roundtable participants canvass bridging gap between newsroom, classroom

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Participants at the recently held World Journalism Education Council (WJEC) 2021 have stressed the need for training and re-training of journalists as a way to bridge the gap between newsroom and classroom.

Convened by Prof. Ralph Akinfeleye and hosted by Mass Communication Department, University of Lagos (UNILAG), the participants also raised the need for journalists to be familiar with modern trends and technology in reporting.

In his welcome remarks, Prof. Akinfeleye, who is also Africa’s representative in the council, spoke on “Journalism: Beyond the Inverted Pyramid Formula.”

He said previously, the classroom was always ahead of the newsroom “but today, this has changed drastically. We want media professionals to come to the classroom and tell our students what they need. There is need for reciprocity.”

Akinfeleye argued that the gap is a failure in the system, starting with the government, which approves establishment of institutions of higher learning without considering what is on ground.

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According to him, as soon as some institutions are granted licences, the first department they establish is mass communication.

“Mass communication department should not be established like petrol stations,” he lamented, saying it is capital intensive.

He pointed that some mass communication departments have no studios. He also pointed out the challenge of over population of student, which does not give room for students to acquire requisite knowledge.

While saying that journalism profession is gradually being subsumed in other disciplines, the Head, Department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos, Prof. Adepoju Tejumiaye, said the roundtable came at the right time.

He charged scholars, practitioners and students of journalism to rise up to the challenge, protect and promote the discipline before it becomes too late to do so.

The Vice Chancellor UNILAG, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, stressed the need for media to write positive reports about the country. “Even when the government, university or our children are doing good things we do not write about it,” he queried, insisting that the railway project, from Lagos to Ibadan, is a good story that the media should feast on.

As a way to bridge the gap between newsroom and classroom, the event’s chairman and former Governor of Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba, canvassed for adjunct lecturers in the university system so that they can bring their expertise.

Specifically, he said someone like Publisher of Vanguard Newspapers, Sam Amuka, should be brought to the university.

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He said Amuka resigned from Daily Times and founded a magazine called Happy Home, later The Punch and Vanguard. “A man that founded two national newspapers that are still thriving should be invited as an adjunct professor,” Osoba remarked.

He added, “conventional newspapers must check their report before going to press. In our major newspapers, there are conflicting approaches. There isn’t enough investigative journalism anymore. Journalists must be versed in information technology. Information Technology should be a major course in all the universities rendering Mass Communication. NUJ should be more active and register bloggers to check spread of fake news.”

Similarly, former Acting Director General National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Armstrong Idachaba, said there is need to find solution to the industry.

According to him, “there is need for students after training, to go for re-training. Those that are practicing should be mentors to the upcoming generations, who do not have the requisite skills.”

Idachaba said the broadcast industry is technology driven andis rapidly changing. “It is evolutionary. That is why anybody in the sector must adapt. I will recommend that this conversation be moved up to policy level so that the review about the skills of professionals can be re-interrogated constantly as a way of reshaping the industry. There is need for convergence and holistic approach within the university commission, professional guild and regulator. There is need for everybody to come together and admit that quality is dropping and when quality drops, standards drop and when standards drop, values drop,” he said.

Expressing concern over fallen standard of education, special guest of honour and Vice Chairman Troyka Holdings, Jimi Awosika, who represented his chairman, Biodun Shobanjo, insisted that it is not about mass communication but how Nigeria will turn out when we talk about global competitiveness.

“It is a question of purpose as well as relevance. It will interest you to know that Nigeria’s, digital transformation is not driven from the university but driven from a Centre in Yaba and the question you want to ask is why?” he queried.

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Continuing, he said, “I was at UNILAG some years ago, the standard was high. They gave us a sense of purpose. When you came to the university then, the expectation was high. The lecturers wanted to create future professional. They also maintained good relationship with the industry. What I want you to understand is that no society grows beyond its level of thinking. So, if the level of thinking within the university and the level of teaching is super, then Nigeria will be a super nation.”

He also advised journalists to develop new tech-based capabilities.

During the panel discussion, Prof Lai Oso of Lagos State University argued that bridging the gap starts with the kind of students available. He said, “more than 80 percent of students in the universities, and polytechnics are not prepared for higher education.”

According to him, “they don’t have the attitude and orientation. We have many students that cannot write sentences correctly. Students don’t buy books. So, when they go to the industry, what can they offer?”

The moderator of the event and former Commissioner for information, Ogun State, Dr. Fassy Yusuf, agreed with Prof. Oso that students don’t read any longer.  He said the incorrigibility of students is something else. “For instance, after examination, they just dump their question papers in exam halls,” he stated.

Prof. Innocent Okoye of Afe Babalola University noted that journalism is a noble profession that enabled him interview ideologists like Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. He said universities must do something to improve the quality of graduates of mass communication.

Students, he advised, “should be encouraged to be interested in current affairs. People should go into journalism with a sense of public service.”

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Provost, Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ) and General Manager, Vanguard Media Limited, Gbenga Adefaye, observed that journalism has gone beyond the conventional 5W’s and H insisting that it is about content, skills set and practice.

He said journalists must develop capacity for specialisation to do historical background of issues.

According to him, “journalists are now content producers in the age of convergence. There is too much on generalisation, instead of specialisation, in an age where specialisation is key. How many people in our departments can train students on fact checking? Our teachers need to re-train themselves. The people you are training must be able to do fact checking and debunk falsehood being spread by social media users. Employers want graduates who can give almost instant value.”

Chairman, Nigerian Union of Journalist (NUJ), Lagos State chapter, Adeleye Ajayi assured: “We will continue to regulate our members. We have the Ethics and Disciplinary committee.”

He said, “We are also hunting for perpetrators of fake news. We also have ICT committee to make our members IT compliant. We have set the machinery in motion to ensure training and retraining of our members. I also support the idea that professionals in the newsroom should be appointed adjunct lecturers. Fresh hands in newsrooms should be given in-house trainings.”

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