By Joke Kujenya
Amidst the ongoing digital revolution, a four-day intensive training programme from Monday, January 29th 2024 to February 1st, 2024, held to empower selected Nigerian journalists with cutting-edge insights into new media, intercultural communication, community journalism, media literacy and the challenges of the digital age.
Held at the Mass Communications Department of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka, it was the initiative of the “RUDN Professional Scholarship Course in Africa 2024” and led by Nigeria-born Dr. Mustapha Muhammed Jamiu, Assistant Professor, Dept of Mass Communications & Leading Researcher at the Institute of Geopolitical Communication, Faculty of Philology, University of RUDN, Russia.
Monday 29th and Tuesday 30th sessions on Intercultural Communication commenced with Mustapha conveying the essence of the sessions, which he explained in a nutshell, was to enhance the understanding of participating journalists on unravelling emerging trends, technological impacts, and critical aspects of Media and Information Literacy (MIL).
Mustapha also did an exploration of the ever-changing media landscape by sensitizing participants with actionable strategies for effective intercultural communication in the digital realm.
He said identity in the face of culture refers to how individuals perceive and define themselves within the context of the cultural environment in which they live. Similarly, culture, Mustapha notes, encompasses the shared beliefs, values, customs, traditions, language, and social norms of a particular group of people.
On the other hand, identity, involves the characteristics and qualities that distinguish one individual or group from another. He stressed that it was thus pertinent for an average journalist to realize that understanding of culture; which is, a set of shared beliefs, values, customs, traditions and behaviours, are vital ingredients that shape the way a group of people behave and interact with the world.
His words: “Culture is a way of life – in its general definition whereas localization in business and other ideal remain key.”
The understanding of journalists in noting these variants become salient in serving our world well with our respective careers.
Repeatedly Mustapha stressed, “Literacy traditionally refers to the ability to read and write. However, in a broader sense, the meaning of literacy has expanded to encompass various skills and competencies beyond just reading and writing. Literacy now includes the ability to understand, interpret, and critically engage with information in different forms and contexts as well as to learn, unlearn and relearn,” all of which are some of the reasons for initiating this scholarship training.
He also psyched the participating journalists to know that as journalism is evolving; so is everything about culture, and that is the point at which it is interlinked with media literacy, which he pledged would be extensively treated in the subsequent training.
Another RUDN facilitator, Dr. Natalia Ivanova, Lecturer, Department of Communication & Senior Trainer at the Center for Continuing Professional Education, Faculty of Philology, RUDN University, Russia, delved into the intricate dynamics of personal branding in the digital age.
Ivanova emphasized the role of culture in shaping individual’s identities.
Then, Dr. Natalia Poplavskaya, also an Associate Professor at the Dept of Mass Comms & Deputy Dean for International Relations at the Faculty of Philology, University of RUDN, Russia, her session offered profound insights into global intercultural communication challenges, highlighting technology as a bridge.
Insights shared by the Associate Professor, Department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos (UNILAG), Dr. Olunifesi Adekunle Suraj psyched the participating journalists to learn the art of exploring the critical intersections between media and literary and the digital realm as necessary skills for navigation today’s interconnected world as this is a can’t-do-without reality.
And on Wednesday, January 31st and Thursday, February 1st sessions had Mustapha capping the training by inciting the participants to understand that success likes in their commitment to community journalism and media literacy excellence, introduced the topics for the two days as Community Journalism and Media Literacy.
On Community Journalism, he said, “Commitment to excellence in education, addressing the pressing issues your respective communities face, as well as the issues you all as journalists face in an era marked by connectivity and digital transformation, are so needed for them to do impactful stories that will capture attention and make the expected effect,” stressed Mustapha, who also disclosed that he is into Development and Political Communication with his work focused on Africa.
Teaching on media literacy, he said that refers to the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create media content in various forms, including print, digital, and visual media. Yet, culture plays a significant role in shaping both the creation and consumption of media as media literacy itself is influenced by cultural factors.
And a good understanding of this aspect of community journalism is what would enable an average journalist to know his or her agenda setting role which is the communication theory that explores the influential role media plays in shaping public perception and priorities by highlighting certain issues over others.
He further placed emphasizes on how the media’s selection and emphasis on specific topics can impact what issues gain prominence in the public agenda offshoot of their works.
Mustapha told the participants that every journalist committed to doing quality community journalism and have a good understanding of media literacy must develop what he called participatory communication because “the essence of media literacy is not to limit yourself as this is what will help you to hone your critical thinking skills to be able to do comprehensive analysis, and analysis is what ideal data journalism will turn into a quality story and raw data can give you lots of conceptions, once you grab it,” he emphasized.
Collectively, the participants, who all expressed their deep appreciation for the training, admitted they have been armed with fresh perspectives to unleash impactful reports poised to redefine the global journalism landscape.
Similarly, feedback from attendees were reflected in the study tasks assigned after each training which showed the immediate applicability of the acquired knowledge they will continue to exhibit as they navigate the intricacies of communication in the digital era.