Kenya: Aga Khan University and Kenya Editors Guild Sign Training Deal

Aga Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications and Kenya Editors Guild on Monday signed a partnership agreement aimed at improving the quality of journalism in the country.

The partnership will see members of the guild undergo training at the university while the institution of higher learning will gain professional insights from the media practitioners.

Talks to forge the partnership began three years ago when it emerged during a panel discussion that there was a disconnect between the academia and practising journalists.

Dr Alex Owiti, the vice-provost, Aga Khan University East Africa, praised the venture, saying it has come at a time when the media was facing disruptions arising from digital transformation, necessitating the industry's need to be innovative while maintaining valuable content.

Through the partnership, the gap between scholars and journalists will be bridged, officials said.

Professional development

"Media and innovation cannot be separated," said Dr Owiti. "New techniques must be absorbed in the media industry to overcome the challenges. Through this partnership, we want to create a platform for the academy to exchange with the journalists, with Kenya Editors Guild being the knowledge broker."

KEG president Churchill Otieno said the agreement was part of the organisation's objectives to ensure continuous professional development through education as it would enhance the skills of journalists and raise standards.

The partnership comes at a time when there is a raging debate on the status of journalism as a profession with people without journalistic training often seeking to practise in the media.

"There is no profession that thrives without standards," said Mr Otieno. "Continuous professional development presents learning opportunities and direct benefits to enhance skills even as the media landscape changes."

He cautioned media practitioners against laxity, especially when the sector is facing stiff competition for revenue from technological advancements and social media, which provides the masses with any information they want instantly.

"We must take time to know what our role is today. It is not merely to inform. It must be more than just packaging and distributing information. These are some of the things we are seeking to find solutions to, through this partnership," he said.

Nation Media Group chief executive officer Stephen Gitagama, who doubles as the chairperson of the Media Owners Association, praised the partnership, saying it would go a long way in equipping media houses with a fully-fledged team of skilled journalists who could also lead newsrooms.

Economic development

With the media being a prerequisite for economic development and democracy, Mr Gitagama said, efforts must be made to ensure journalists are objective in their coverage of issues affecting the society.

"If the media is not sober, people's lives are in jeopardy. The plans to have continuous professional development is very important especially with the industry facing significant changes in the last two years. The media must be adaptive to the ongoing digital disruption," he said.

He called on the Media Council of Kenya, the editors' guild and the academia to work together and create reasonable standards for the practice of journalism.

Dr Lawrence Pintak, the Aga Khan University School of Media and Graduate Studies dean, said the partnership would increase classroom knowledge and also focus on dealing with pressing issues such as fighting disinformation in social media.

"We aim to work on both ends of journalism -- from the classroom to the newsroom," he said. "We want to give voice to the voiceless and the under-represented. This MoU gives us a chance to tackle a huge array of things that we can work on together."

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