Multimedia training helping better journalism

Gerald Businge during one of the training sessions. Photo / Joan Salmon

What you need to know:

  • Equipping. Times have changed and with this has come a change in how people consume their news. It is on this premise that Ultimate Media Consult started training communicators to keep upto date.

After graduating from university, Innocent Atuganyira chose to concentrate on reporting for radio. “Through the years, all I knew was audio editing and writing news briefs for airing on the radio,” the Diiho FM reporter says.

He says this routine changed when in 2021 he got an opportunity to attend a multimedia and digital skills training organised by Ultimate Media Consult (UMC) and the US Mission in Uganda. 

“We were given skills in multimedia content creation, including video and audio production, taking and editing photos, graphics, website design as well as other skills,” Atuganyira says.

After the training, he says he created a website, Ug, which has given him a broader audience owing to posting many stories on a daily basis.

“With these added skills, I have come to appreciate the importance of journalists leveraging the available technologies to disseminate content and improve modes of reporting,” he adds.

Unlike traditional journalism where TV, radio and print are used to disseminate information, multimedia journalism is focused on utilising new media technologies, including websites, blogs, social media, among others to tell stories in different ways.

More people are acquiring smart phones and prefer to access their news, information and entertainment needs online. As such, the trainers emphasised the importance of journalists ensuring they produce content suitable for consumption on internet-connected gadgets thus targeting to reach a worldwide audience.

While journalists do not veer off the tenets of journalism; objectivity, accuracy, impartiality, fairness, truthfulness, public accountability and credible sourcing, they are called to use media type combinations in their delivery. For instance, they can combine images, text, videos, graphics and sound to tell a well-rounded story.

Although most of these concepts are taught in journalism school, it is basic and many easily forget them.

Christine Awori, of QFM in Lira District, says she did not pay much attention to multimedia in school.

“When I joined the media, I realised multimedia journalism was a new trend but could not easily join the flow. Getting an opportunity to go through multimedia training by UMC and US Mission enabled me to learn to package my stories better. Specifically, content curation and aggregation have been very helpful in helping me run my blog, sharing stories in a way I could not previously,” says Awori.

With the new face of journalism, it is vital that every student of journalism, lecturer, practitioner and communicator is equipped beyond the basics of journalism to be able to utilise multimedia and digital skills for effective reporting.

Atuganyira is glad that several Ugandan companies and organisations have embraced the growing technology of creating websites and social media platforms as a mode of communication.

“However, there is still a gap in technology usage for proper, accurate and timely communication and reporting. Training in content production, fact-checking, writing for online and mobile, using mobile phones to tell stories, shape journalism better,” he shares.

Further training in multimedia and digital journalism also provides a range of skills on how to use digital devices. That allows for information access and management, creation and sharing digital content, communication and collaboration, and solving problems of limited space or airtime. That translates into effective and creative self-fulfilment in life, learning, work, and social activities at large.

Ivan Lukanda, the projects coordinator in the Department of Journalism and Communication, Makerere University, agrees on the importance of re-skilling in new media, saying multimedia platforms allow journalists to package stories for different audiences depending on how, when, and where people access the content.

“The online platforms allow journalists to interact with the audience for feedback about stories. That also allows for newer angles to stories from the content produced by the audience,” he says. 

Lukanda adds that new media has emerged as a source of job opportunities and self-employment through podcasting, vodcasting, blogging, live streaming, among others. 

“Demand for journalists with multimedia skills will increase,” Dr Lukanda says.

Through multimedia training, Gerald Businge, the tam leader at Ultimate Media Consult, says they have seen practising journalists and communication practitioners acquire best practices for telling stories to online audiences.

“Media practitioners need to know the best practices and skills for telling stories on the web as well as to a mobile audience, and on social media. We additionally show them how to ensure safety and security for themselves and sources,” he says.

Businge adds that during capacity-building training for journalists and journalism lecturers, they help participants learn how to engage with video, digital photography, audio, immersive storytelling, writing/packaging for online and data visualisation using phones and computers as well as different digital tools for quick content production and sharing.

The US Embassy through the US Mission in Uganda has funded these trainings for the past three years. Tony Kujawa, the US Embassy spokesperson, says audiences are changing and modern storytelling requires the ability to tell stories in digital formats.

“Journalists must learn to develop skills to question online information and sources of data honestly and with integrity. That is why enhanced multimedia and digital training are a necessity,” Kujawa told journalists at the close of a training for journalists taking place in Fort Portal., Kabarole District.

Kujawa is, however, concerned to note that the few journalists who venture into the frontlines of creating, curating and disseminating critically important information online, face a lot of threats from surveillance, user attacks to new laws while working digitally/online.

That aside, he says, journalism students, lecturers and practitioners stand a better chance when they enhance their multimedia and digital skills in the face of the new information dissemination trend.