Media professionals urge trainees to be multifaceted
Dr Dwayne Cheddar, Journalism Lecturer

BROADCAST journalist at the RJRGleaner Communications Group Giovanni Dennis says the novel coronavirus pandemic caused media entities to adapt and adjust; therefore, he is advising journalists entering the profession to be multifaceted.

He was speaking recently at the Northern Caribbean University (NCU) Department of Communication Studies (DCS) Week of Excellence Symposium. Dennis, who spoke under the theme ‘Pivoting Resiliently in Journalism’, discussed the many ways professional journalists adjusted their reporting through the pandemic.

He said many journalists at Television Jamaica (TVJ) and other media entities transitioned to mobile journalism through the use of recording apps, working from home and filming via phone.

“And this is one of the things that I would advise you coming into the profession, being able to be so multifaceted that you’re also able to work as a cameraman, as an audio person, and as a journalist at the same time, because that’s what I had to do, and that’s what many others also had to do,” he said.

Journalist Giovanni Dennis

Because of the pandemic, he said journalists resorted to asking sources to use their phones and record themselves, and in doing so they had to provide clear instructions on how to record the video and audio clips.

Dennis emphasised that while this is not how journalists would normally do their reporting, the profession requires journalists to always find a way to adjust to the circumstances so as to inform, entertain, and report to the public. The journalist, who has won various awards from the Press Association of Jamaica and the Caribbean Broadcasting Union, pointed out that people entering the profession should acquire and have knowledge of using various equipment, which he describes as basic tools of trade to meet the requirements of the current state of the profession.

“The discipline is now moving in a direction where journalists are now being sought because they are multifaceted and can work across platforms, and can really and truly get the job done,” Dennis said. He noted the importance of this because COVID-19 has forced it in some instances, but the change is also due to globalisation and generally because people are just more skilled as the industry advances.

One strategy he shared in developing resilience and excelling in the field is to invest in himself. “I also bought myself my own little tripod, it’s not as expensive as the big, professional ones, but it gets the job done,” he said.

Gimbals, ring lights, and microphones are some of the other types of equipment he bought. He said this has enabled him to suddenly stop at a scene, set up his phone, and film.

Dennis said the ability to do more than one thing is an asset as he emphasised that to stand out you have to do extra.

Another speaker at the NCU symposium, Oakwood University Professor Dr Dwayne Cheddar, asserted that COVID-19 changed everything and as a result television stations had to get creative with their programming. Cheddar said whether it is broadcast journalism or television, it takes more than just commitment. It involves flexibility, creativity, and the ability to multitask.

“You have to build skills that are necessary to be successful in this industry,” he stated.

Dr Cheddar said even if someone is interested in becoming a scriptwriter and not a director, they should include some camera, lighting, design, and post-production work. He also emphasised the need to study the craft as well as being knowledgeable about every aspect of production because, with convergence, a broadcaster or an anchor has to research, write, present, shoot, edit, and have their stories ready to meet deadlines.

In closing, he encouraged students to start showcasing their work at film festivals. He also implored them as well to build their portfolios.

Dr Cheddar, a former lecturer at NCU, was speaking during the television breakout session under the theme, ‘Discipline and Diversity in Television’.

DCS Week of Excellence was held virtually under the theme ‘Resilient Communication — Paving the Way to Recovery’. The event took place from April 2 to April 10, commencing with a church service and ending with a film festival.

Eusheeka Lewis is a communication studies student at NCU.

BY EUSHEEKA LEWIS

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