Is online journalism all about blogging?

Online Journo.jpeg File photo

Fri, 8 Mar 2019 Source: Isaac Ato Mensah

The title of this article was a question posed to me by one of my students in class during the last lecture for February.

Let’s call her Sister A.

‘I may not want to be a journalist, so why force me to study Online Journalism and with it blogging as a core course in a communication school?, queried Sister A. ‘The blogging is my problem.’

Fair question.

It brought to mind columnist Nana Prof Darkwa’s ICT Corner article published in the Ghanaian Times on 11 February, 2019.

Darkwa argued that ICT will soon enable tertiary students to select a bouquet of courses they are interested in and pay for only those, provided they are meeting say, a 120-credit hour requirement for graduation.

He likened a future tertiary education model to the Netflix TV programming concept whereby viewers pay for only the programmes they watch – all online.

Sister A’s question is therefore understandable and has many implications for universities.

The objective of the Online Journalism (OJ) course is to train students to own and manage their own blogs and hopefully venture seriously into media entrepreneurship.

But what if you don’t want to be an entrepreneur; what if you have already “secured” a job?

To answer Sister A’s question directly, Online Journalism is not all about blogging.

And indeed your blog could be about photojournalism if you cannot write.

‘Writing helps us to think logically,’ my mentor cannot have enough repetitions of that.

And truly, many students have complained and eventually admitted: ‘Writing is the problem’.

The ethos of the OJ course is to turn media students into media entrepreneurs.

‘You are the entrepreneurs class of Ghana,’ I often intone to a deafening silence in the ICT lab as I pace from row to row answering questions.

‘Will you employ an accountant whom you know had a grade C and cannot balance a Trial Balance?, I will rev up my game.

‘No,’ comes a loud and more assuring response from the class.

‘So why do you want to get a grade A in Online Journalism when you cannot practice Online Journalism?’ is my cold question which throws the classroom back into silence.

In Ghana today, many students, especially the MBA corps, want to read past questions, pass the end of term exam and rush back to the office to cause banking scandals – we all know them.

This situation is not helped by the course curriculum approved by National Accreditation Board (NAB) which usually requires two assignments, one interim assessment and an end of term exam.

Nursing students for example, are required to undergo about six weeks of daily preceptorship in a hospital, a clear credit to the Nursing and Midwifery Council for Ghana rather than NAB.

‘About fifty percent of global advertising revenue is shared between Google and Facebook,’ I cannot repeat that enough. ‘Online journalism is about having a finger in that pie.’

If Ghanaians are to leapfrog technologies and provide quality education leading to a serious impact on the ownership of that medium that determines future warfare, elections, PR practice, marketing and intellectual property ownership among others, then we must take Online Journalism seriously.

The CONVERGENT MEDIA of our day makes it easy to explain to students why they must be interested in – nay own, their own blogs, online radio or online TV stations.

‘But what sensible thing are you going to say on your online radio, if you cannot write a 300 word or a half-page summary of a newspaper article,’ I will charge. ‘And if you cannot do so within 12 hours of the assignment being given, how can you work with any world-class media house?’

‘This is a real lecture,’ Sister B told me after the class. ‘But the end of term exam is still weighing heavily on the minds of many students.’

‘There are no jobs out there, my sister,’ I interjected as she explained what she was doing online.

She explained to me how she intended to MONETISE her online CONTENT from the lessons learnt in class.

The challenge universities face is that there are people practising Online Journalism (online broadcasting) without any certification or formal training in journalism.

The challenge the National Communications Authority (NCA) has is how to get the Info Tech guys to track all the online radio and online TV stations within the Ghanaian media space and regulate their operations like the way free web hotspots were locked with passwords.

The challenge the National Media Commission (NMC) has is how to monitor those practising Online Journalism within the Ghanaian media space and admonish them about fake news, balance, representation and the right to a rejoinder among other ethical concerns.

And the challenge we all have is whether legally, the NCA can compel anyone to obtain a license before operating an online radio or online TV station in Ghana.

If you are in PR, marketing or law enforcement, you may want to start simulating responses to allegations made against your brand or product on an online radio or online TV station whose physical location is a complicated matter.

As at least a third of all videos are watched through social media, according to Facebook and Nielsen research, you may want to revise your marketing communication, Behaviour Change Communication and political campaign strategy going forward; the market is online.

But, as I told my OJ class, ‘All those appearing on online radio and online TV stations must practise writing down their thoughts clearly and rehearsing their lines before opening their mouths’.

Online Journalism is part of the flat world phenomenon described by Thomas Friedman in his book ‘The World is Flat’.

It offers everyone self-employment and most importantly, the opportunity to build intellectual property online.

If you want a share in that market, then Online Journalism is for you.

Feedback; ato@writersghana.com

Writers and Shakespeares Ghana Limited exist to be a moral and intellectual guide to the best practice of PR and integrated communications around the world, beginning with Ghana

Columnist: Isaac Ato Mensah