Journalism curricula welcomed at academic conference

Eugene, United States of America

Four UNESCO-linked curricula four journalism education and training featured favourably in a session at the annual conference of the International Association of Media and Communications Research, held in Oregon, USA, last week.

Three curricula on safety of journalists were brought to the attention of participants, with detailed comments made by panelists on two of the initiatives.

Nancy Mbaya, of the University of Chester, UK, hailed the publication “What if…? Safety handbook for women journalists”, written by Abeer Saady, and produced by the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) with the support of UNESCO.

An experienced journalist herself from Nigeria, Mbaya said she was impressed by the practical character of the book, and the pedagogy of using personal experiences of several women journalists.

She underlined the importance of women journalists reporting safely from conflict zones, and urged men in the media to recognize the specific threats facing their female colleagues.

Ramon Tuazon, of the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication (AIJC), Manila, described a recent study by the Institute, titled “Integration of safety of journalists in the curricula of Philippine journalism schools”, and which draws from several UNESCO learning resources and is funded under the UNESCO participation programme.  

The study describes how a focus on Outcomes/Competency-based Learning Framework provides for journalism safety lessons to be either included in relevant existing courses in the journalism curriculum, or serve as a distinct elective course.

Tuazon said the Institute envisaged seven sets of competencies that would be learnt by students taking the full course. These covered detailed knowledge and skills in regard to (1) Human Rights Context and Legal Safety; (2) Professional Standards and Ethical Safety Practices; (3) Economic Safety; (4) Risk Assessment; (5) Physical Safety; (6) Digital Safety; (7) Psychosocial Safety.

A third curriculum resource presented to the session was the Model Course on Safety of Journalists. A Guide for Journalism Teachers in the Arab States, produced by Michael Foley, Clare Arthurs, Magda Abu-Fadil, and published by UNESCO and the International Federation of Journalists.

During the session, a preview was also given of the forthcoming UNESCO-IPDC model curriculum Journalism ‘fake news’ and disinformation.  Produced by Cherilyn Ireton and Julie Posetti, this forthcoming resource includes chapters covering: truth, trust, why it matters; formats in information ‘disorder’; a selected history: the news industry role; Media and Information Literacy; fact checking and verification; and when journalists and sources are targeted.

Commenting on a draft of the curriculum, Jane Duncan of the University of Johannesburg, South Africa, welcomed the teaching resource with its analysis of different problematic types of information and suggested skills-building exercises for journalists.

Applying from political economy and cultural studies perspectives to the curriculum, she said that journalists should also be empowered to recognise social inequalities and media policies which open the doors to the spread of disinformation.