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Using new media to enhance communication education, practice

By Gbenga Salau
08 September 2015   |   4:01 am
TO ensure the continued relevance of the communication profession to the society, scholars and professionals have canvassed the need for continuous collaboration between town and gown.

Cross-section of participants at the UNESCO-ACSPN Empowerment Series Workshop held in Ikeja, Lagos… on June 30, 2015

TO ensure the continued relevance of the communication profession to the society, scholars and professionals have canvassed the need for continuous collaboration between town and gown.

Such efforts, they argued, would not only ensure qualitative workforce for the industry, but also rub off on the society in terms of growth and advancements.

They spoke in Lagos last week at the opening ceremony of the 2nd Annual Conference of the Association of Communication Scholars and Professionals of Nigeria (ACSPN) with the theme, Communication education and practice in the age of new media.

The conference which had a special panel on the Challenges and Opportunities of the Digital Media Economy, attracted academics, professionals, undergraduate and postgraduate students from universities, polytechnics, and print media, broadcast media, public relations, advertising, digital communication organizations and government agencies.

The president of the body, Professor Lai Oso, in his welcome address, said that the choice of the theme of the conference is apt considering the changing face and challenges being thrown up for the profession due to the new media phenomenon.

Engaging this kind of topic, Oso said, underscored the essence of the association. According to him, all facets of communication practice – journalism, advertising and public relations – are being redefined with the intrusion of Information Communication Technology (ICT).

Oso said, “We are trying to bring the classroom and the ‘newsroom’ together. Some few weeks back, we had one of our empowerment series sponsored by UNESCO, looking at the collaboration between the classroom and newsroom.

Now again, we are extending that conversation to look at it in a more academic way, what are the changes and challenges we are witnessing and how can we respond to these challenges and changes in terms of our teaching and practice.

And I want us to focus on these key issues. “How do we change our curriculum, I know the Nigerian Press Council (NPC) and UNESCO have been trying to see that we revamp the curriculum to be able to take into consideration some of these emerging trends and challenges.

And I hope and pray that at the end, we would have something concrete to take along with us to the different institutions and newsrooms that will reflect in our teaching, research and practice.”

The Chairman, Board of Trustees of the association, Professor Idowu Sobowale, in his remarks, thanked all the participants especially those coming from outside Lagos because it was quite an effort on their part to have made it down to Lagos.

He was optimistic that in no distance time, that members of the association will begin to reap the fruit for which the body was set up.

He expressed happiness over the rate at which the association is growing, just as he urged participants to ensure that the discussions at the conference bear the mark of the consciousness in the change in the practice worldwide. “We are building on a solid foundation.

Those who did not come or have not joined us are the ones loosing. For those of us that are here, it behoves us to pay particular attention to the issues that will be discussed, because the time has come, as academic and practitioners, to shift paradigm.

When we started journalism, there were no schools where we could go to train, most of us learn on the job. Everything that we say and do hence should bear the mark of our consciousness of the change in our environment, practice of our trade worldwide, not only those of us who are members of ACSPN but indeed all our audiences will derive the benefits of the efforts that we are making now and in the future. “Every one of us should be an active participant, that is very important, let us all be fully engaged in the proceedings of this conference so that we can all take full benefits of it.”

Also speaking at the event, the Group Managing Director of Rosabel, Pastor Ayo Oluwatosin, in his goodwill message, said that when he heard about the association, he was excited that an association with such philosophy was being established because of the huge gap he noticed in the skill and knowledge graduates bring to the work place.

He was happy that a process has been put in place to help ensure that graduates fit into the workplace demands maintaining that it is a legacy that will stand the test of time because it is a worthwhile effort.

For the Deputy President of the association, Professor Umaru Pate, that communication is the most dynamic unit in the society and if the stakeholders in that sector delay a little, it would be out of fashion and not in tune with the realities of the moment.

He noted that Nigeria is changing and the universities also must change, not just in structure but also in intellectual character.

I hope this conference will give us the opportunity to interrogate some of our techniques, ideas and see how we can improve on some of the things we have been doing. So that at the end of the day, our students will benefit, graduates from our universities will compete with any other graduate anywhere in the world.”

A member of the Board of Trustees, Professor Dayo Alao, stated that it is good that the association is making efforts at marrying academic with field practice, reason he felt the conference will open the eyes of participants to many new things.

Head, Public Affairs Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ichie Vincent Ifeanyi Omeokachie, MFR, was also optimistic that the association would continue to grow because of the relevance of its objective tosociety reason he said the body is unique. Professor Nosa Owens-Ibie said that the theme of the conference focused on new media because the world today is incomplete without new media.

According to him, new media has reconfigured the world and communication professionals want to be relevant, mainstream, address issues, not sentiments, then they must begin to understand the logic of the new media and apply same to whatever it is that is of focus in terms of education, career, and business.

What we did was just to begin to download the future for now, which is in line with our slogan, ‘the future is here’, develop relevant knowledge and skills that would address contemporary issues that face Nigeria.

He said as an association, their commitment is infectious based on best practices, recognising that Nigeria is a transitional society. “And a society in transition tries to mainstream and when you mainstream, you must do it on the basis of best practices.

The best practices, we are mainstreaming in collaboration with other stakeholders because this is not just about ACSPN, we have different stakeholders and all are critical to achieving an integrated approach using strategies and understanding of the terrain, in order to get authentic solutions that are tailored to Nigeria realities. “So we are active in exploring and seeking linkages.

And the whole idea is that, as we identify stakeholders, we try to align with them. We know that there are systemic dislocations that make some of the processes a little slow.

We are committed and resolute to ensure that we are all on the same page as stakeholders in the communication and journalism enterprise so that we can begin to make real progress.”

To ensure that it serves its members better, the association at the conference launched a new website that will be mobile phone friendly.

Delivering the keynote paper, with the topic, Nigeria and the global digital economy, at the conference, Mrs Bukola Akingbade, stated that the digital platform is the most important driver of innovation, competitiveness and growth. She also said that the digital platform is changing behaviour.

Providing some statistics, she said that in 2002, an average Nigerian spent about 46 minutes a day on the internet but rose to six hours a day in 2014.

She also highlighted how new media has been a game changer bringing new players and relegating those who used to be critical stakeholders in a profession probably because they did not move in line or adjusted fast to new realities.

Some of the resolutions reached at the end of the two-day event included the need for the leadership in tertiary institutions across Nigeria to strive to ensure that the critical digital technologies are provided and also utilized for the advancement of communication education in their institutions.

Communication scholars and professionals were also urged to build up capacity in the use of new media to enhance their on-the-job performance and keep up with the trends.

Researchers should make use of Computer Assisted Content Analysis (CACA) in the process of data presentation and analysis for easy generalization and data management.

Governments must eradicate factors of distrust in its interactions with the public. Otherwise, it will remain a difficult task to get the people to welcome government’s view on issues.

Government must improve on the country’s digital infrastructure to enable more students, researchers and practitioners to use the digital resource to improve on impactful research for the nation.

This should also help to reduce cost of materials’ acquisition by students thereby improving equal access to education.

In communicating information about disasters, managers of such situations should make use of the social media in disseminating the details as the people are very active on the social media.

Citizen journalists must be made to subscribe to ethical standard of the profession like honesty, integrity, fidelity, fairness, respect for others, and responsible citizenship.