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Are journalism curricula in sync with industry demands?

By Julia Majale

The world of journalism is undergoing a remarkable transformation, and Kenya is no exception. The media landscape in this East African nation is evolving unprecedentedly, with traditional media outlets like television, radio, and print now sharing the stage with their digital and social media counterparts.

Considering these significant shifts, a pivotal question arises: Are journalism students in Kenya adequately prepared for the challenges of today’s newsrooms?

Gone are the days when journalism was only TV, radio, and print. Today’s journalists must possess a diverse skill set to excel in modern and converged newsrooms where multimedia content creation, digital storytelling, and audience engagement reign supreme.

Developing a strong partnership between academia and the media industry is critical to ensure journalism students receive a competitive education that aligns with the evolving industry requirements.

Anthony Irari, team lead at Opera News East Africa, highlighted that the media’s digital disruption over the last five years has significantly changed operational structures in every media house. He stressed that, “Five years ago, we only needed a web developer to design and host the website. Now, media data analytics and AI products are essential to the day-to-day running of a media house.”

For Kenyans.co.ke’s editor and campaign creative John Mbati, fresh graduates lack proficiency in essential digital software such as CMSs, AI, social media tools, and fact-checking tools, and thus they need training and workshops to advance. “Some need training on Facebook and Google algorithms and products that are essential for a newsroom. These aspects should be factored into digital journalism curricula.”

The insights of industry experts, working editors, and seasoned journalists should find their way into the classroom. Their real-life experiences can give students a practical perspective on what it takes to succeed in the newsroom.

Another step in the right direction is that Kenyan media outlets provide internship and mentorship programmes for university students and designed a method of retention to tap into the new market of versatile journalists.

At TUKO.co.ke, many of our senior team members today joined as interns. We are an equal-opportunity employer that fosters an environment where young and seasoned journalists can thrive. When writers join our editorial team, we take them through a rigorous training programme that will put their skills and potentials to test to match your talent with your work.

Kenyans.co.ke has drafted an innovation and integration blueprint to guide recruits. Their editor and campaign creative John Mbati explains that the shifts and new trends in the digital media space have necessitated Kenyans.co.ke to constantly adjust. “Recently, we have created positions based on audience analysis, data and analytics, AI and technology, and advertisement,” h said.

Irari emphasised that universities must change the narrative that media careers are solely limited to screens and major media brands. In the past, students would go to campus and decide whether to focus on print or broadcast. However, today’s competitive journalists should master various content-creation skills. They should learn that they can start their own media company on new media platforms like TikTok and YouTube, following in the footsteps of successful figures like Abel Mutua and Eve Mungai.

There are resources and training opportunities that would be valuable for journalism students but are currently missing from typical curricula. These include Google Products to AI, social media tools, advanced videography and editing tools, Basic Art of Content Creation, Audience Analysis and Social Media Engagement.

Kenya’s digital media disruption for the past five years has forced a drastic shift in how media houses conduct business. While there has been an increase in the number of roles made redundant through restructuring, new competitive job opportunities are popping up in the form of Instagram Reels and WhatsApp Channels for media houses.

The media scene will continue to shift. Our responsibility is to equip the next generation of journalists with the skills and knowledge they need to thrive in this dynamic field.

Julia Majale is managing director of TUKO.co.ke.

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