Media  

When town, gown strategised for media industry’s growth

Director, United Nations Information Centre (UNIC), Lagos, Dr. Roland Kayanja (left); Group Managing Director, Rosabel Group, Ayo Oluwatosin; Online Editor, The Nation, Lekan Otufodunrin; Editor, The Guardian, Martins Oloja; Chairman, Board of Trustees, ACSPN, Prof Idowu Sobowale; Programme Officer (Communication), UNESCO Regional Office, Mrs Julie Osagie-Jacobs; General-Secretary, ACSPN, Prof Nosa Owens-Ibie; President, ACSPN, Prof Lai Oso; Provost, Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Gbemiga Ogunleye;  Olakunle Abimbola of Editorial Board, The Nation; CEO, Diamond Awards for Media Excellence (DAME), Lanre Idowu;  and Jonas Lassau of UNIC, Lagos at the workshop last Tuesday in Ikeja, Lagos

Director, United Nations Information Centre (UNIC), Lagos, Dr. Roland Kayanja (left); Group Managing Director, Rosabel Group, Ayo Oluwatosin; Online Editor, The Nation, Lekan Otufodunrin; Editor, The Guardian, Martins Oloja; Chairman, Board of Trustees, ACSPN, Prof Idowu Sobowale; Programme Officer (Communication), UNESCO Regional Office, Mrs Julie Osagie-Jacobs; General-Secretary, ACSPN, Prof Nosa Owens-Ibie; President, ACSPN, Prof Lai Oso; Provost, Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Gbemiga Ogunleye; Olakunle Abimbola of Editorial Board, The Nation; CEO, Diamond Awards for Media Excellence (DAME), Lanre Idowu; and Jonas Lassau of UNIC, Lagos at the workshop last Tuesday in Ikeja, Lagos

IT is not news that, in the media and communication industry in Nigeria, gulf exists between the town and gown. Mutual distrust defines how professionals and academics relate to one another. This scenario is akin to when the proverbial two elephants fight, the grass suffers as the newsroom grasps with the challenge of quality output as a result of poor human resources from the classroom. The news however is that the malaise has been noticed and it is being tackled frontally.

Last Tuesday, at the June edition of the Empowerment Series of the Association of Communication Scholars and Professionals of Nigeria (ACSPN) in collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), facts were laid bare as participants engaged the subject of discussion providing perspectives and sharing experiences.

The colour of the audience was mixed as the programme drew participation from academic and management staff of marketing communication, digital communication, public relations companies, newspapers, broadcast organizations, consultancy and other organizations, as well as members of staff and/or students of Adeleke University, Ede; Ogun State University, Ago-Iwoye; Babcock University, Illishan; Caleb University, Imota, Lagos; University of Lagos, Akoka; Covenant University, Ota; Lagos State University; Al-Hikmah University, Ilorin; Bowen University, Iwo; Lagos State Polytechnic; Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta; Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Ogba, Ikeja, Lagos among others.

With Between the Classroom and the Field: Building consensus on Gaps and Priorities in Journalism and Communication Education as theme, the workshop featured Prof. Idowu Sobowale of Covenant University, Ota as lead discussant.

The communication scholar set the tone for discussion saying, “the parlous state of journalism and mass communication and, communication in general, calls for a vigorous enhancement of the skills, competence and capability of the communicator in this age of serious struggle for survival.”

Demonstrating erudition and full grasp of the subject matter, Sobowale defined ‘Building consensus’ to mean “agreement on the critical components of our field of enterprise about what needs to be done for forward movement.”

On ‘Gaps and Priorities’, he said, “Much as we may have tried, we are saying here that there are still bridges that we must cross in order to bring our knowledge and practice to the desired level of functionality.”

But with the practice of journalism and communication education in a state of flux, what should the curriculum for journalism and communication education read? He asked rhetorically, adding, “what modifications do we have to make to our curricula in journalism and other areas of the communication industry such as journalism, broadcasting, public relations, advertising, marketing, organizational communication, group communication, interpersonal communication, integrated communication, book publishing; modern communication – blogs, twitter, Skype, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Black Berry messaging (BBM), YouTube, Flickr, etc.

“Apart from the gap that has always existed in our training programmes, the emergence of the new media has created a schism that has made a reassessment of what we do, either as scholars or practitioners, not only imperative but most urgent. The effect that the modern media have brought to bear on the traditional communication strategies has, in diverse dimensions, compelled a reassessment of strategies and tactics.”

He identified gaps to include waning reading culture; inability to write and speak good English and compromisation of local language; breeding of younger communicators and students without depth of thought processes; and lack of thoroughness as a feature of the output of younger elements in the communication industry.

“To get a proof of this, you just need to listen to a newscaster, a programme presenter or read a message/story in print,” Prof. Sobowale noted.

He said further, “consequent upon these, patronage of the media has become extremely low. Thanks to such other factors as purchasing power, electricity and the falling standards of education in Nigeria.

“Loss of employment, underemployment and unemployment of young graduates are some of the direct results of these anomalies.

“The overall consequence is that our society continues to slip into backwardness in several areas of endeavor such as commitment, dedication to duty, honesty of purpose, hard work and respect for the dignity of labour. Rather than progressing, we seem to be regressing in terms of our social values.”

To block these gaps, Prof Sobowale canvassed the need for a national policy on communication education as well as regular review of curricular similar to what the UNESCO does at the international level.

He urged teachers of Journalism to change the pedagogic direction and begin to equip students with capacity to lead readers, viewers and listeners in a way that would enable them make the best meaning out of the happenings in their environments.

“Our focus must be in the direction of interpretative journalism, that is, providing appropriate context for every information that we present, in whichever of the media that we may find ourselves operating.”

Failure to do this, he warned, “changing face of communication will soon render the conventional ways of presenting the world to our numerous audiences irrelevant to the dynamic environment in which we live.”

Specifically, Sobowale tasked governments, at all levels, to fund education adequately. “If they cannot surpass the 26 per cent of GDP UNESCO prescription, they must not provide below it,” he said, reiterating that “quality education is the foundation of development in all spheres of life, and therefore, must not be compromised in the country.”

He also charged his colleagues at ivory towers across the country to “launch critical research into the social media in order to distill the different aspects of them to know what to recommend for acceptance and what to recommend for rejection in our curricula and by our policy formulators and implementers,” just as he wanted discipline to be emphasized and brought into the curricula.

Emphasis, he said, should now shift from basic education to practical, technical and technological education that are urgently needed to uplift the country from remaining a dumping ground for world’s inferior products from other climes, to a knowledge factory where the rest of the world can come to purchase their needs. He expressed belief in manpower development that lays emphasis on functionality in training at all levels.

By and large, Prof. Sobowale canvassed a paradigm shift from esoteric system of education to the one that will encourage students using their hands and heads to create jobs, wealth and development. “We need to take our students off the streets, looking for jobs that do not exist, and steer them in the direction of creating jobs and wealth for themselves and others,” he concluded.

In his remarks, Director, UNESCO Regional Office, Abuja, Mr. Benoit Sossou appreciated the large number of training centres offering journalism education in Nigeria.

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