Media managers in East Africa have asked journalism training institutions in the region to consider changing the curriculum from one which focuses on theories to a skill-based approach.
By John Semakula & Henry Nsubuga
MUKONO - Media managers in East Africa have asked journalism training institutions in the region to consider changing the curriculum from one which focuses on theories to a skill-based approach.
They noted that making the curriculum skill-based was the only way journalism training institutions would be able to produce graduates with the skills required on the job market.
Speaking during the 4th annual conference of the East African Communication Association (EACA), the media managers observed that many fresh journalism graduates joining media houses straight from the universities go when they are half-baked.
The media managers and scholars blamed the poor media content that is failing to spur social change and influence policy making on the continent partly on impractical journalism graduates.
They concurred that the problem of half-baked journalism graduates is serious and agreed to work together to address it.
All not lost
Ben Opolot, the managing editor of Vision Group’s English newspapers, noted that there was need for journalism training institutions to hire trainers with experience to be able to equip learners with the necessary skills.
Opolot also advised journalism training institutions which recruit fresh graduates as staff to find a way of grounding them in practice before sending them to classes to teach.
But Prof. Levi Obonyo the head of communication at Daystar University in Kenya noted that all was not lost because there are some excellent journalists in the region who went through the same journalism schools.
Most speakers noted that the problem of half-baked graduates was a result of the missing link between lecturers in journalism training institutions and the media practitioners.
Potential to influence policy
Earlier, Eric Chinje, a scholar from the African Media Initiative expressed concern about the quality of the media content in the region and the continent at large.
Chinje noted that the media have the potential to influence policy decisions but that because of shallow journalism, that role was not being realized on the African continent.
In his submission on “Salient training needs in the context of changing media”, Robert Kabushenga the chief executive officer of Vision Group urged the journalism schools to put more emphasis on training students on how to write great stories.
“The need for great story-telling has endured the test of time when many other things including the media of communication are changing. Media consumers don’t mind about the medium but how the story is told,” Kabushenga said.
The CEO also took time to explain why the media in Africa was becoming commercialized, saying that it was almost impossible to talk about media independency without a strong cash baseline.
“I pay sh1.5bn to my employees in salaries every month. But where does that money come from? I have a printing press but I don’t print money. If the media content is free who will pay the journalists?” he said.
Kabushenga’s lecture on the commercialisation of the media followed criticisms from a cross-section of participants that the media was not helping much in delivering news that foster democracy because media organisations work as businesses.
The two-day conference, the first of its kind to be held in Uganda, was hosted by Uganda Christian University (UCU), Mukono starting Friday.
Emphasis on ethics
The conference attended by journalism scholars and media practitioners from across the region and the globe ran on the theme “Building capacity for changing media environments in Africa”.
It was officially opened by Godfrey Mutabazi, the executive director of Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), who challenged media practitioners in the region to emphasize ethics.
Prof. Ruth Teer-Tomaselli from the University of KwaZulu Natal, who was the keynote speaker, presented a paper on “Building capacity for the changing media environment in Eastern and Southern Africa”.
During the conference, the participants elected Monica Chibita, the head of the Mass Communication Department of UCU, as EACA’s new president replacing Prof. Obonyo.
Makerere University was chosen to host next year’s EACA conference.
EA media managers want reforms in journalism curriculum