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Journalism training: why the ‘new normal’ has been a bumpy ride

Journalism education, just like all other forms of learning, has been affected by the increased information scope, media convergence, introduction of new online teaching forms and face-to-screen communication during the coronavirus pandemic.

Written by Derrick Ogwal

The new normal’, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, is a term that has become part of our everyday vocabulary. This phrase applies to all sectors, and this includes the education sector which was upended by lockdowns and other measures used to curb the spread of the virus.

Of course, online learning became a key component of education’s ‘new normal’ in most institutions. However, finding platforms and mechanisms that internationalise teaching and facilitate seamless engagement and collaboration between people separated by access to the facilities that enable online learning remains an educational pursuit that predates the pandemic.

Journalism education, just like all other forms of learning, has been affected by the increased information scope, media convergence, introduction of new online teaching forms and face-to-screen communication during the coronavirus pandemic.

With the introduction of distance learning at universities, the quality of teaching and learning has been debated by students, teaching staff and officials. As a student of communications, I have had to overcome the difficulties as a student majoring in Journalism to develop a necessary skill of gathering information and issuing school newspapers, radio, and TV programs in the new informational reality of the crisis.

COVID-19 is a pandemic that illustrates how globally interconnected we are – there is no longer such a thing as isolated issues and actions. Successful journalism practitioners in the coming decades need to be able to understand this interrelatedness and navigate across boundaries to leverage their differences and work in a globally collaborative way.

The notion of an educator as the knowledge-holder who imparts wisdom is no longer fit for the purpose of a 21st-century education. With learners being able to gain access to knowledge, and even learn a technical skill through a few clicks on their phones, tablets, and computers, we will need to redefine the role of the educator in the classroom and lecture theatre. This may mean that the role of educators will need to move towards facilitating young people’s development as contributing members of society.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in educational institutions across the world being compelled to suddenly harness and utilize the suite of available technological tools such as thinkific, Adobe Prime Captive and Learn dash to create content for remote learning for students in all sectors. Journalism Educators across the world are experiencing new possibilities to do things differently and with greater flexibility such as collaboration on regional or global level instead of local and blended classrooms resulting in potential benefits in accessibility to education for students across the world. These are new modes of instruction that have previously been largely untapped particularly in less developed countries.

As a student and practitioner of journalism, living through the pandemic has had its ups and downs. Some of the ups being;

Strengthened citizen journalism which has given many prospects of verifying news and information before publishing, but also hastened the spread of fake news, misinformation, and disinformation (well because everyone is a journalist now J).
More understanding of fair usage policy since many citizens are uploading tonnes of data in form of media files online that can be used as a database for fact checking.

One of the most exciting tools whose usage has been exacerbated during this pandemic especially in low developed countries is Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) which has been used to uncover and publish news and information especially around politics and security in heavily regulated regions. OSINT for journalism is not one single method to get at truth and facts, but rather a combination of creative and critical thinking to navigate digital resources on the web. Satellite imagery, social media, databases of wind, weather, and vessel movement — you name it. All these datasets can all be combined to recreate an environment of the past in order to better understand what happened at a specific place and point in time. The tools used during OSINT were still rarely talked about in journalism class, yet they are excellent and efficient on covering stories where citizens are scared to share their observations openly with the media.

The pandemic has taught us that now more than ever, journalism education needs a new definition. We often define media education as including any learning process (formal/informal/connected learning/third space) that involves either analyzing media or/and producing media. In contrast to educational technology, online or blended learning, facilitators of learning now need to look out for new journalism education proposals highlighting the process of media practice to enhance learners’ abilities to access information and tools; analyze media representation, revealing the power dynamics behind systems, structures, and concepts; create meaningful media messages; reflect on media use; be socially responsible and advance society toward the common good.