CHANGING DYNAMICS

Reinvent journalism and communications training

Media industry model has changed and evolved in many ways.

In Summary
  • The evolving business models have compelled the industry to completely do away with the traditional notion of how we define a journalist or communications profession.
  • Journalists and communications practitioners are now required to be competent in delivering news on digital, print and electronic media.

The media industry has long enjoyed a stellar reputation of independence, professionalism and integrity. No one can question the central role the industry has played in shaping the country's political and socioeconomic landscape.  

We owe it to ourselves as professionals in the industry, whether plying our trade in the private sector, the NGO or in government, to critically introspect and evaluate the quality of students joining the profession.  

We cannot simply sit back and fail to question the philosophy underpinning current training offered in our institutions of learning. We cannot fail to critique or offer valid ideas on how we can better this noble profession that is currently under threat from technology and changing patterns of media consumption among consumers in a robust apolitical way.

The media industry model has changed and evolved in many ways. The evolving business models have compelled the industry to completely do away with the traditional notion of how we define a journalist or communications profession. The implications from this go far and wide as journalists and communications practitioners are now required to be competent in delivering news on digital, print and electronic media.

Take, for example, the rise of vernacular-speaking TV and radio stations. The ability to articulate and write news in your native mother tongue is now a marketable skill in today’s newsrooms. But has this been indoctrinated in the syllabus? Your guess is as good as mine

Take, for example, the rise of vernacular-speaking TV and radio stations. The ability to articulate and write news in your native mother tongue is now a marketable skill in today’s newsrooms. But has this been indoctrinated in the syllabus? Your guess is as good as mine

Every day, media houses' executives ponder on ways to launch new revenue-generating business models to sustain the industry. Quite a large chunk of boardroom executives asks themselves just how their respective media houses can hold on to viewers, readers and listeners in the face of debilitating competition from content creators and social media?

Journalism and communications, in my opinion, long ceased to be a civic duty driven profession. Under the current business climate, one cannot afford to be singularly focused on a solitary craft. The ability of a professional to be competent across multimedia platforms places a media house, and by extension journalists, at an advantage.

This is because advertisers, who generate the most revenue for media houses, are now exploring creative ways to get their messages to targeted demographics. Sponsorships, online advertising, product placements and online viral campaigns are increasingly important for media buys.

This has ushered the death of specialisation within the profession as media houses and corporates now demand more from journalists and communications professionals. No longer are you entirely a print media journalist focused on business or political stories, the field now requires you to be equally competent in delivering news either through radio, TV or social media channels.

Sadly, this has ushered the death of specialisation within the profession as media houses and corporates now demand more from journalists and communications professionals. No longer are you entirely a print media journalist focused on business or political stories, the field now requires you to be equally competent in delivering news either through radio, TV or social media channels.

We are in the age of content and information sharing. The audiences are now consuming information in so many different ways. You are more likely to come across breaking news first through the social media before it finds itself in mainstream media. This means more people are turning to the Internet for news and entertainment. For media houses to compete, they must evolve with the trend by ensuring that they provide rich content and employ the use of multimedia adequately.

 

There is merit in indoctrinating media and communications executives in the training and teaching of students. I have absolute respect for the integrity and competence of my colleagues in the academia. While I do not seek to denigrate them in any way, the lessons that emanate from work experience, especially the ‘industry streets’, remain a vital ingredient in shaping a student for the marketplace compared to theoretical knowledge. The six or three months’ industrial attachment in workplaces isn’t just enough for students to develop the experience to meet market expectation.

In my observation, there seems to be haphazard dichotomy between the academia and the media industry. The media and communications industry is a world on its own; while the education institutions remain entirely on their own. There needs to be a proper conversation to find a solution to this.

I find it ideal to urge the industry to consider post-graduate professional training much like what lawyers go through at the Kenya School of Law. It is time for a fundamental pivot.

Lawyer and communications specialist