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Professionalism and training for mass communication
Guy Berger
Extracted from: Osisa - Openspace - The Media: expression and freedom
December 2006

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Judging by the amount of activity that we dedicate to media training, Southern Africa exemplifies a strong belief in the mantra "no train, no gain". But it's not quite clear if the reality actually matches the theory of this slogan - whether all this training is delivering the expected benefits. The problem is that it is a very tricky task to track just what difference, if any, training makes to improving the media in the region. And even more, what difference - if any - this in turn makes to politics, economics and social life in Southern Africa.

Yet, considering the many resources invested in training as an input to the media, it would be nice to have some sense of results on the output side. There's a sneaking suspicion that much energy is going to waste. This is especially in regard to higher education institutions where the gap between graduates and the goings-on in the media is such that the value of tertiary training can come with no guarantees.

For instance, it is not even clear that many graduates either want to, or will, get jobs in the media - and if they do, whether conditions are conducive to them implementing what they have learnt. We assume, and hope, that there will be a link, and most of us understandably act as if this were so. But romantic beliefs that training automatically results in "gain" no longer wash with many of the stakeholders in the business.

It is indeed complex to try to establish the connections between training and media trajectory - and not just in Southern Africa. However, if we want to raise the "productivity" of teaching and learning efforts, we do need some notion, beyond anecdote and "feel" of "what's working" and "what's not". How else can improvements be made - and measured? In turn, this quest requires a degree of empirical knowledge of the relationship between people as products of training, and the performance of the media. The point is that training is not just about trainer-trainees, but a third party as well: the media industry. Employers can make or break the impact and relevance of training.

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