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Short, specialised courses will improve quality of journalism

OPINION
By David Omwoyo | July 14th 2021

Training institutions need to closely connect the classroom with the newsroom. [Courtesy]

Continuous training is a prerequisite for good journalism. This has become increasingly important, especially because newsgathering, production, distribution and consumption have changed greatly since the advent of the digital age and the rise of non-linear journalism. 

This has spawned challenges in journalism education, with educators and media professionals alike acknowledging the need for curriculum reform to reflect the realities of the industry.

Yet, response in journalism education to changing industry needs have been slow and inadequate because of many dynamics such as high enrollment numbers and diminishing funding to training institutions.

Training institutions need to closely connect the classroom with the newsroom and syncing it with the needs of the fast-changing digitally oriented media industry.

A wholesome education must go beyond the vocational. [Courtesy]

The world is moving away from academic-based only training to competency-based curricula (CBC) that better serves the market. And as some institutions redesign media education programmes, many face challenges in transforming their curricula to address fast-changing industry needs.

This important task cannot be left to newsrooms or colleges alone. It needs us all. The Media Council of Kenya (MCK) has, for instance, identified the modular curriculum approach as a key tool in ensuring higher standards of journalism training and practice.

This has necessitated engagements between media stakeholders, including media houses and journalism colleges to identify gaps in current media training and devise interventions. These include reviewing and aligning training curriculum and developing short, independent units that meet media industry needs and satisfy quality requirements in a fast-paced world.

The integrated curriculum (modular) approach is a key road to professionalism in the media. It seeks to align media training programmes with the national CBC. It also creates room to strengthen the links between training and the world of work, allowing the latter to respond better to employer and stakeholder needs. It will also provide greater opportunities for learners to move in and out of the training ecosystem, enabling access and expanding progression, while improving their competencies.

Short courses also help equip reporters in specialised areas. [Courtesy]

Conversely, it will not only introduce greater flexibility into journalism training, but also make it attractive and ultimately help combat high youth unemployment in Kenya because it empowers trainees for job creation.

Yet a wholesome education must go beyond the vocational. It must include knowledge in liberal arts, which help in broadening the minds of students so they may adapt to innovations and changes.

Short courses also help equip reporters in specialised areas to the extent of making them experts in those areas. This intervention cures a key shortcoming in journalism training in Africa, a generalist approach where reporters are jacks of all trades, yet are expected to be experts in the areas they cover.

One of the short courses MCK has developed with partners is the climate change adaptation curriculum. Climate change is perhaps the single largest global threat to humanity and the environment today, with frequent extreme weather conditions wreaking havoc on lives and livelihoods. This calls for urgent interventions, not just in mitigation, but also in communication which plays a key role in provoking action.

We will train journalists with a keen interest in the environment and climate change. The objective is to build the capacity of science journalists to report on climate change in a manner that can trigger adaptation and resilience. 

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