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Opinions of Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Columnist: Isaac Ato Mensah

Should I specialise in PR or Journalism?

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At the 70th anniversary lecture of Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) in November, Dr. Kweku Rockson, a former Rector of Ghana Institute of Journalism was given advance notice as speaker to define who a journalist is.

Unfortunately, he dodged the question.

But the reality is that just as the GJA was seeking clarity from an academic who obfuscated, undergraduate mass communication students in Ghana will always corner lecturers, and ask where to specialise.

On Monday, Ms X, sitting alone in a classroom cornered me about whether she will be on the right path if she chooses Journalism.

Let us make this simple: for undergrad mass communication students, you have no specialisation.

Are those who graduate with the bachelor’s in chemistry or biology chemists or biologists?

No, they are not; they are nowhere near specialisation.

What academic counselling units should do is help students understand such basic information.

In ghana, the concerns about specializing in PR or advertising or journalism, in many colleges, is nothing more than a problem of poor classification or no classification of core courses, prescribed electives and free elective courses on the part of educational administrators.

Besides, if undergrads are called upon to “focus” or “specialise”, they still CANNOT graduate as professionals in their said area of specialisation.

Having clarified these matters, let us see the motive for the students’ apprehension.

They are about to complete school in a year’s time and they are thinking about the job market.

That same Monday in my Mass Communication Theories class, Ms Y complained: “The Management students say that we the Mass Communication students are not trained in Management so we should not come venturing into the Management profession after graduation”.

My mentor says with clarity: “If you have no masters degree in journalism, you are not a journalist” in much the same way that a bachelor’s degree in Economics holder is not an economist.

He further adds: “If a person has no masters degree, media managers should not open a live microphone for them to host a programme- it is very dangerous”.

We at have given clarity on the state of PR practice in ghana: to emphasize, PR practice in ghana is dead.

Therefore, choose journalism, – not because it is being done in a better way here – no!

Choose journalism so that you will hopefully learn how to write your thoughts with clarity and precision.

In ghana, our serious existential challenges require journalists who can use facts, evidence and reason to tell compelling stories.

The evidence clearly suggests that Public Relations, just like Journalism has room for people with diverse backgrounds, thus exposing the spurious “skirt and blouse” argument by National Accreditation Board.

Buttin’ in further, if you look around at many of the PR pros in ghana – from the deportment of its practitioners, not even diving deep into their writings for those who dare – do you think there is an accurate and wholesome exposition of what PR is?

Caution – the eye cannot see what the mind does not know!

And yes, the best PR practitioners engage in public relations writings – all the time.

Besides the history of modern PR in the US, for example, provides evidence that many PR practitioners started out in journalism roles and honed specific skills needed for PR.

Hence as my mentor will say, “PR is not a specific discipline that you learn in school”.

So, choose Journalism if you are forced to, and with that, just learn how to write first, for your content will surely be benchmarked.

You should not be in a hurry to go on air to blow hot air and palpable ignorance.

Closing argument: In this age of integrated communications, should educational administrators not be guided to stop confusing students with this unhelpful PR versus Journalism specialisation requirement?

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