Having acquired the necessary skills to be relevant in the 21st century, an additional advantage of journalism or communication studies is that it offers you different career choices. In this part of the series, I will concentrate on five of them, namely, journalism practice, academia, corporate communications, freelancing and citizen journalism.
Working for radio, television, newspapers or magazine can be a fulfilling experience, though challenging. If you look at the history of journalism, some of the leading novelists, authors and literary icons the world celebrates were actually journalists at a point in time. In fact, some of them use journalism to promote their intellectual output. Here I am talking about thinkers like Karl Marx who worked as the foreign correspondent for the New York Tribune. The likes of George Orwell, Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, and even our contemporaries like the famous war correspondent Martha Gelhorn, John Pilger and Robert Fisk became household names because of their journalism practice. If there is one reason why you should be a journalist, these are the names to draw inspiration from.
They practiced journalism to change society and question the powers that be. They epitomized the famous saying that the duty of a journalist is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. They fought against injustice like the effort of Charles Dickens through the newspapers to fight for the right of the working class in England, or Karl Marx's effort to expose British colonial imperialism, despite the low wages that he earned. In fact, former US president John Kennedy at the peak of the cold war accused the New York Tribune, which employed Marx as its foreign correspondent, of creating the radical ideas of Karl Mark because they did not pay him enough wages. According to President Kennedy, if the New York Tribune had treated Karl Mark more kindly, history would have been different. Even in our shores, the radical journalism of Dr Nnamdi Azikwe, Herbert Macaulay and Abubakar Imam were very relevant in our country's struggle for independence. What is different between the journalism of these heroes and what obtains today is that they not only practiced journalism to earn wages, but they also practice to serve as the voice of the people. So here is a choice for you.
The second option is the academia. In the last hundred years, journalism has seen tremendous transformation in the academia. A combination of sociologists, anthropologists, political scientists, linguists have come together to produce a pedagogical discipline known as mass communication with the aim of professionalizing this important area of the social sciences. More structured courses were developed in news writing, ethics and journalism; broadcasting regulations etc. the attempt to professionalise journalism has made degrees in journalism attractive both in the news industry and the academia.
To be a successful academic, postgraduate study is essential. Therefore, those who intend to take this route should focus on acquiring both master's degree and PhD. They should also be mindful of the changing nature of the academia. Just ten years ago, a PhD can guarantee you a job in the academia. This can perhaps be the case in many developing countries. But beware that in many universities around the world at the moment, a PhD is just a qualification. To get employment, you must back it up with serious publications in reputable journals. Some universities have even changed the way to write the PhD thesis, instead of producing that bulky document which ends up being lost in library shelves, the PhD is conducted by publication. The student is asked to publish two or three top research papers, after which he would compile the publications and submit for assessment. It might sound easy, but I can guarantee that it is sometimes easier to write a 3000 to 4000-page dissertation than to publish in some journals because of the rigorous nature of the review process and the waiting period. This is not to scare you, but to let you know the options that are available, and with determination you can make it.
Another alternative way of joining the academia is to build a successful career in journalism and then transfer to the academia; and transform your experience into research for the benefit of the students and the profession. Certainly those who have the industry experience, when they joined the academia and acquire the necessary research skills, either through postgraduate qualifications or by publications tend to make a difference. One of the leading professors of international communication once told me that one of the reasons his books became key texts in this area is because he had worked in some international news agencies, and that that experience had significantly contributed in making his books relevant in the academia.
To be continued...