The media sector is evolving fast. Media education needs to keep up. Yesterday’s theoretical knowledge doesn’t work on today’s media challenges. As a result, both the format and content of teaching need to evolve from the theory-heavy days to more applicability.

In many countries academic media education is still largely theory-based. Perhaps worse, it misses the depth of management and product development challenges that characterize the modern media environment. As a result newcomers often have to be trained on the job from scratch.

International donors are responding to new market challenges, but much more can be done. The final, tenth, session of #MediaRevolution conference focused on the new approaches to media education and their impact. 

Here are some of the key insights covered.

Sabine Sile-Eglite, Director of the Centre for Media Studies at Stockholm School of Economics in Riga. “Building a knowledge-centred community”:

  • It focuses on three main directions: investigative reporting, sustainability and media business, networking, and capacity building.
  • The format of education is as important as the contents, especially during crises. Providing emotional support to students, especially from the troubled post-USSR space, is a key part of the work. The aim is to help students to recover from burnout caused by working in the challenging environments they come from. 
  • The ultimate goal is to build a functional community of media professionals by encouraging informal communication and team spirit. The experience of graduates shows that connections made while studying together stay with them. Many even transform into fruitful professional partnerships. 
  • Taking people out of their routine creates the necessary space for them to zoom out and evaluate the opportunities available on the market. 
  • But as COVID-19 made media educators online, team-building became quite challenging. Interactive online conferences can keep people engaged, but they don’t replace the real thing. 

More from The Fix: How to minimize the impact of Covid-19 on your media business eight months into the crisis

Eugene Zaslavsky, Executive Director at Media Development Foundation. “Native advertising school: focus on innovation”:

  • Media Development Foundation (MDF) is the first NGO in Eastern Europe to launch a media accelerator program. Its goal is to build strong and sustainable media via hands-on education and mentorship.
  • MDF’s mission is to build stronger, more democratic societies by supporting the sustainable growth of impactful media. In addition to its sustainability goals, the foundation focuses on: 
  • Developing careers of young journalists and mid-career professionals through mentoring programs;
  • Buildings a strong media community by organising conferences, trainings and networking events;
  • Conducting media research and supporting innovation in the sector;
  • 40 media from 3 countries have taken part in MDF’s accelerator programs. As a result, they have improved the quality of their content and audience engagement, hired more journalists, increased revenues on average by 30% (within 12 months), and boosted audiences (from 25% to 300%).

Andrey Boborykin, CORE Head of Publisher Activities: 

  • MDF’s new media initiative CORE is focused on the local media landscape in Ukraine and neighboring countries.
  • The main goal behind the project is to support local and hyper-local publishers from troubled regions.
  • The platform provides journalists with editorial and management training, develops monetization models and audience development strategies.
  • The company plans to leverage the experts community by organising networking events, conferences, content hubs and more.
  • In order to provide sufficient expertise on a big scale CORE will involve international experts and partners and send them to work with local publishers on the ground. The project aims to be able to respond to any media challenge there is in Ukraine’s local media sector.

More from The Fix: European publishers should pay attention to US local news experiments in 2021

Jakub Parusinski, Managing Partner at Jnomics Media, The Fix Editor. “Using game simulations for media managers”:

  • As the media industry is quickly evolving, education should also try to keep up. Some of the most needed skills will be creativity and critical thinking.
  • Media managers learn with their hands. The more you involve journalists into the working process, the better the final output will be. 
  • To give aspiring media professionals some hands-on experience, Jnomics, an international media consultancy, uses a business simulation based on real-life media cases and learning through a role-play.
  • The simulation includes different scenarios of media crises and emergencies, from corruption scandals to internal HR and budget issues and pushes students to find ways how to deal with them. Every player is assigned a managerial role and has to make decisions based on their responsibilities.
  • This game-oriented approach gives people an opportunity to take on new functions and roles, see the situation from different perspectives, become more flexible, grow individually and within a team.
  • It also teaches students how to use professional skills and take actions – and understand the consequences.

More from The Fix: 10 crazy media stories of 2020 we need to learn from

Open discussion: What should the future of media education look like?

Jacqui Park, Senior Fellow at Centre for Media Transition UTS : 

  • In the USA and some parts of Europe there’s a strong entrepreneurship and transformation sector which has access to know-how and gets support from funders. In lagging countries (e.g., in Asia or Africa) this process is much slower due to the lack of practical experience.
  • Universities should teach students how to build their own media – from understanding the audience to building sustainable business models. It will make young journalists ready to face any challenges in the media.
  • Media should also focus on exploring new things and moving ahead. 

Andrey Boborykin: 

  • Ukrainian media market is dependent on oligarch-driven companies. To reach media equality, CORE is going to arrange hackathons to help people launch their own media on regional and local levels.
  • Helping the existing media is also a challenge. Even though platforms, like Substack or Patreon, can help small-scale publications monetize their work, it is hardly enough to compete with big national media.
  • Media industry needs to attract young professionals, inspiring them with successful industry cases and providing fast career growth.

Sabine Sile-Eglite:

  • As communications become essential for all businesses, journalists who are struggling at your newsroom can just quit it and move to another industry. So in order to retain talent, one should create a comfortable work environment by providing staff with good pay, health insurance, meaningful HR service, emotional and leadership support. 

Eugene Zaslavsky: 

  • Inspire students with challenges they have to defeat as “truth warriors”. Don’t forget to be a good mentor to guide them on their way.

    Photo by Susan Yin on Unsplash