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Raphael Tenthani series reflects on training and practice of Journalism, PR in Malawi

News   Chapter Banda   December 6, 2018
PIC: Dr Kankuzi presenting during the public lecture.
The fifth edition of the Raphael Tenthani Series on November 30, 2018 highlighted a true reflection on how Journalism and Public Relations are being trained and practiced in Malawi.

A public lecture which was held in the Raphael Tenthani Centre for Media Excellence at the Polytechnic Chichiri  Campus,  brought a lot of key stakeholders in the Media Industry including the representatives from the government, corporate world and academia.

The lecture was presented by a lecturer in the Department of Language and Communication Skills of Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi, Dr Sydney Kankuzi, titled ‘ Journalism and Public Relations (PR) in Malawi: Reflections on Training and Practice.’ 

Kankuzi began his presentation by tracing a historical background on how these two disciplines are related to each other.

He used the thoughts of Edward Bernays to explain how Journalism and PR were being practiced then, who later his thoughts were influenced by Water Lippmann’s thoughts. The thoughts focused on the need of PR to work with Journalism to complement its positive role in the society.

To answer the question, why does PR have negative connotation in today’s journalism, Kankuzi also traced some factors that influenced it.

He said the two disciplines started working separately as the influence of United Kingdom and United States of America.

“In the United Kingdom, PR began to wear a new face in 1940s, during the war period. This was so, because the government was under increasing pressure from people who were impatient with the continuation of wartime controls and rationing,” he explained.

He added that as the communication increased in the complexity and became more staged it shifted from its original essence and became less justified.

Kankuzi also further explained how PR has greatly affect Journalism globally and Malawi is not an exception.

“Globally, the rise of PR is increasingly undermining the legacy of journalism in the society, and Malawi is not an exception to this phenomena,” he said.

He further said with the growth of the internet and other Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), every organization in now somehow a media house in its own right and often, at the expense of journalism. Due to that, PR is depending on journalism less and less while journalism is increasingly depending on PR.

In order to alleviate this problem at hand, Dr Sydney Kankuzi suggested there is a need to separate these two disciplines because they have different ideologies all together.

“PR needs to be taught more systematically in all our training institutions, and to be practiced in ways that can help the industry grow,” he suggested.

He continued that PR needs to be regulated so that those who will be practicing it will have a clear code of ethics.

He urged the Universities and Colleges that teach PR to join hands with those in practice to spearhead the information of the professional body.

A lecturer in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies, Peter Mitunda said it is a perfect and welcome distinction to pave a way for a fresh curriculum review in the foreseeable future.   

“We should welcome this academic innovation, bearing in mind that many pioneers now championing the media industry are from teaching background. Therefore; moving forward, organizations seeking to hire Public Relations professionals need the similar sensitization,” Mitunda said.

He further said PR managers should be appropriately ranked in the industry to enable them impart and represent their organizations confidently.

A fresh graduate of Journalism and Media Studies, Patuma Tonex said the lecture has enlightened her to differentiate Journalism and PR accordingly.

“I seriously thought once one has been trained as a journalist, then he or she can just practice Public Relations. Through the lecture, I have learned that is not like that as Dr Sydney Kankuzi Put it; the two disciplines serve differently in the society. For instance, he said journalism serves in the interest of the people in the society, whilst PR serves in the interest of the particular organization,” she said.

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