Continuous training crucial for journalism practice
Continuous training is the prerequisite of good journalism. This has become increasingly important, especially because news gathering, production, distribution and consumption has changed greatly in the digital age and the attendant rise of non-linear journalism.
This has spawned challenges in journalism training, with educators and professionals acknowledging the need for curriculum reform to reflect the realities of the industry.
But response in journalism education to changing industry needs has been slow and inadequate because of many dynamics such as high enrollment and diminishing funding to training institutions.
Journalism training institutions need to closely connect the classroom with the newsroom and synch it with the needs of the fast-changing digitally oriented media industry.
While some training institutions are redesigning media education programmes, many are facing challenges in transforming their curricula to address fast-changing industry needs.
Yet this important task cannot be left to newsrooms or colleges alone. 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 one of the key platforms towards enhancing professionalism in the media for several reasons.
It seeks to align the media training programmes with the national Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) and the Competency Based Education and Training .
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.
Further, this method will 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 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 that MCK has developed with partners is the climate change adaptation curriculum.
Climate change is perhaps the single largest global threat to humanity today, with frequent extreme weather conditions such as droughts and flooding, 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.
To this effect, the MCK has rolled out training for journalists with a keen interest in environment and climate change.
The objective of the training is to build the capacity of science journalists to report on climate change in a manner that can trigger adaptation and resilience.
It is important, for instance, that journalists internalise the fundamentals of climate change, the underlying drivers and effects of climate change on the environment and society.
Key also is agriculture and climate change, including the interactions and re-engineering agricultural practices.
The other curriculum, which is ready for piloting, is the child rights protection curriculum.
This is another underserved area where certain sensitivities are needed in reporting. These and other courses will be offered jointly with colleges and universities.
MCK will pursue collaborations with training institutions to agree on modalities of weighting (for example, what number of modules amount to a certificate or diploma) or for purposes of credit transfer. — The writer is the CEO Media Council of Kenya —[email protected]