Mismatch in training, practice and management detrimental to sustaining good radio

By John Masuku

Great Zimbabwe University (GZU) in Masvingo,in south eastern Zimbabwe recently  set up a monumental  first ever campus radio station complex in the country whose purpose is to train media students for the broadcast industry as well as provide a radio station for the university community.Such college radio stations are common in Western universities and have also sprung up in many African and Asian institutions. Journalism and mass communication departments at Harare Polytechnic and CCOSA in Harare,among others countrywide also have small training studios and facilities that still have to catch up with industry standards.

The GZU authorities say their pioneering project  will also help identify  radio talent outside media and journalism departments as they develop other multi-media facilities that will produce well sought after  graduates including a crop of well  grounded radio presenters, producers,editors and newsreaders.

It is hoped GZU,Harare Polytechnic  and CCOSA  are not alone in sprucing up its hands-on training facilities so that when students go for internships or auditions for employment they do not enter radio studios for the first time and ask what  microphones and headphones are used for!  However,its little wonder why this ever  happens when manpower development policies dictate that when opening vocational training institutions it is mandatory to have suitable equipment for practical lessons so that students have the opportunity of developing and sharpening their  practical skills-ready for the workplace.For radio programming, like other professions, it is also important to regularly invite industry practitioners to come and share their experiences and career guidance tips with the students so that they develop greater appreciation during their training phase.

There should never be a mismatch and disharmony between efforts of training institutions and the requirements of the radio industry.Proper trainer-employer coordination, effective management and mentorship should cement it all.

The government appointed Media Panel Of Inquiry (IMPI),in its final recommendations suggested that a stand alone body should be established to promote and monitor training standards in media colleges including reviewing modules with the Ministry of Media Information and Broadcasting Services taking an oversight role alongside the Ministry of Higher and tertiary Education,Science and Technology.

IMPI also recommended that universities and colleges need assistance in organising or accessing workshops for training of trainers to help staff to pick up new teaching skills, especially in journalism.Media colleges must include courses in management/leadership skills to help editors to run their institutions and should consider establishing affiliate satellite departments at provincial polytechnics to offer journalism and media studies diplomas and to run special special summer or winter schools on specific subjects.

The radio industry in Zimbabwe like in other parts of the world faces numerous challenges in recruiting well grounded talent from various institutions of higher learning like universities, polytechnics and private colleges.The major reason being a mismatch regarding what is taught and the personality which industry requires for a variety of radio stations, whose programme policies also differ considerably.It is worrisome to  expect products of uncoordinated training programmes to grace radio studios with ease,comfort and excellence.Unfortunately, there has been very little effort  to hold regular meetings between media trainers and media managers in order to harmonise training curriculum with the reality of  everyday practice and industry requirements.It is  disheartening for  Journalism and Media Studies graduates with distinctions and credits to turn up for  auditions as  radio presenters only to be told that their voices and general grasp of radio issues  is hopeless.This usually points to poor student  grooming and orientation to the trade.

Attachments at radio stations during  diploma and degree level media studies have largely become a joke,a way of getting rid of students and forgetting about them for a while, on the part of their trainers. On the part of media institutions the attachees become useful in filling in gaps that would otherwise require more experienced,polished and  costly  radio  personnel.In some cases as soon as interns arrive they are quickly shown around  the studio complex in fast track fashion, if ever at all and then in a few days they are on air.Alone!  Remember they are coming from some institutions that have no studios or well managed campus radio station to afford them basic experience.So why expose your own station to equipment and  brand image damages ?

Right from college aspiring radio personnel should, on their own, have interest in listening to different  local and international radio stations and programme genres and formats. In Zimbabwe as in other countries  there are different types of radio stations which focus on news and current affairs,education, serious music,popular music,culture.There are also community,regional and national radio stations-commercially or publicly funded. So, presenters  and producers of these radio stations structure their content according to their target audience.They should read and research widely about the history of radio broadcasting around them  and in the  region,that it  is not only about disc jockeying as many young radio aspirants always believe.

Station managers should have a programme plan of how to handle interns ,recent recruits and permanent staff  in order to develop and maintain top rated radio stations and personnel.Regular  constructive management and staff  meetings to discuss presentation,disc jockeying, newsreading, interviewing ,talk show hosting ,new programmes and even scheduling are very important.These can include evaluation of different audience research findings like the Zimbabwe All Media Product Survey (ZAMPS)  or public ratings which might have placed a radio station at the top or bottom thus affecting the loyalty of audiences ,advertisers and sponsors. A typical induction of a radio personality should also include good relational understanding of marketing, research,engineering,finance and vice versa in order to avoid departmental conflicts and power struggles  that retard the radio station’s growth.Of course it should be taken for granted that college training would have taken care of  teaching  about broadcasting laws,regulatory institutions and matters of ethics.

Radio as a medium welcomes all communication platforms that have sprung up and sincerely thanks them for reinforcing it to remain the most powerful medium in the developing world to  promote Dialogue, Peace and Tolerance.

 

John Masuku is a Zimbabwean broadcast journalist and radio/media trainer.He is  the Executive Director of Radio Voice of the People (VOP) and a fellow of the Center for Data Media and Society (CMDS) at the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest, Hungary.Contact him on : EMail:- jjwpmasuku55@gmail.com Twitter: @john_masuku