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Monday, August 10, 2009
Global Journalism Toolbox

J-council helps profession worldwise

Bruce C. Swaffield

Ever hear of the WJEC? If not, you’re about to

learn why our profession desperately needs an organization like the World Journalism Education Council. The reasons will be obvious, once you understand more about its work and purpose.

Simply put, WJEC is a unique partnership of academic organizations “involved in journalism and mass communication at the university level.” The council started in 2004 as a planning group for the similarly named World Journalism Education Congress. Its sole purpose is to improve journalism education in every country and nation, much like the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication within the United States.

“WJEC is a child of necessity,” Chief Fassy Yusuf said in an e-mail. He is the council member representing the African Council on Communication Education. “It came about when it was realized that globalisation of mass communication education will strengthen the capacity and knowledge of mass communication graduates wherever they find themselves.

“Secondly, it will remove the dichotomy and discrimination often found in uncoordinated mass communication training. Thirdly, it is a forum for mass communication scholars and professionals to meet and exchange ideas on current issues and trends, and to chart the way forward,” added Yusuf, who is a media consultant, attorney-at-law and adjunct lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication at the University of Lagos.

He attributed the foundational work of the WJE Council to the World Journalism Education Congress two years ago.

“The Congress provided a platform for the adoption of the UNESCO’s Model Curricula for Journalism Education for Developing Countries & Emerging Democracies, and the Declaration of Principles, among other achievements. Professor Joe Foote (of the University of Oklahoma) was the pivot, with the enormous support of Professor Robyn Goodman (of Alfred University), Kathy Adams (administrative assistant, University of Oklahoma) and others.”

WJEC states on its Web site that, “Journalism should serve the public in many important ways, but it can only do so if its practitioners have mastered an increasingly complex body of knowledge and specialized skills.”

As a result, there are 11 basic principles that guide the 28 member associations around the world.

Here are four of the principles approved in 2007:

• Journalism is a global endeavor; journalism students should learn that despite political and cultural differences, they share important values and professional goals with peers in other nations. Where practical, journalism education provides students with first-hand experience of the way that journalism is practiced in other nations.

• Journalism educators have an obligation to collaborate with colleagues worldwide to provide assistance and support so that journalism education can gain strength as an academic discipline and play a more effective role in helping journalism to reach its full potential.

• Journalism program graduates should be prepared to work as highly informed, strongly committed practitioners who have high ethical principles and are able to fulfill the public interest obligations that are central to their work.

• Journalism curriculum includes a variety of skills courses and the study of journalism ethics, history, media structures/institutions at a national and international level, critical analysis of media content and journalism as a profession. It includes coursework on the social, political and cultural role of media in society and sometimes includes coursework dealing with media management and economics. In some countries, journalism education includes allied fields like public relations, advertising, and broadcast production.

“One of the biggest needs for journalism education globally is to have respect among professionals,” said Foote, co-chairman of WJEC and dean of the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma. “The U.S. has made great progress in this area during the past 30 years, but there are several areas of the world where journalism education is at best suspect and is discriminated against blatantly.”

To learn more, visit the WJEC Web site at wjec.ou.edu. There you can watch excellent videos on all sorts of subjects: “What Is Journalism Education?” “Educators vs. Practitioners,” “Journalism Curriculum,” “Blogs,” “Technology Challenges,” “Globalization of Journalism Education,” “Diversity Issues” and many more. Additionally, you will find a complete list of member organizations, an eight-minute video on the 2007 World Journalism Education Congress in Singapore, a census database on journalism programs worldwide and contact information.

Now that you know about WJEC, please consider supporting the group in some way, whether you are a practicing journalist, an educator or even a student. Their work today will make an enormous difference tomorrow — for all of us.

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