Journalism is a major growth area in South African tertiary education, and in the process of expanding the area has become ever more sophisticated. No longer can media courses content themselves with training aspiring journalists how to identify newsworthy stories and then write them.
Media management is a new item in the armoury of some media studies programmes. Reporters are often rewarded for outstanding performance in news gathering and writing by being promoted into management positions.
‘But being good in these areas does not guarantee that people have the skills or knowledge to manage and motivate employees, take responsibility for budgets or think strategically about marketing,” says Peter du Toit, deputy director of the Sol Plaatjie Media Leadership Institute at Rhodes University.
On the other hand, ‘Many media organisations have been recruiting people into top management positions from outside the industry. While these people have the necessary business backgrounds, they often do not have an in-depth grasp of the social, ethical and developmental roles that media organisations have to play.”
Rhodes University’s school of journalism and media studies this year launched its postgraduate diploma in media management. ‘The diploma aims to introduce people with a journalistic background or interest to the skills needed in managing the business operations of a media enterprise, while simultaneously introducing people with a general business background to the conventions and practices that ensure that media organisations play socially useful roles in our society,” Du Toit says.
Media management integrates theoretical concepts and skills required in the general management of organisations with a specific focus on how these are applied to media organisations.
The one-year diploma is aimed at students with an undergraduate degree, as well as individuals with an equivalent qualification interested in advancing their career in a media organisation.
Eight modules cover topics such as human resource management, markets and audiences, advertising and managing media content. Individuals who cannot take off a whole year to study have the option of choosing which modules they want to do. Each module takes approximately three weeks to complete.
The ever-evolving concept of new media is very popular today and many organisations are making use of digital technology. The Rhodes diploma also focuses on the different ways in which media organisations use new media to add value to existing products, increase market share and attract additional revenue.
Students will be required to complete a two-week internship period at any media organisation in order to give them practical experience pertaining to media management. After completing the internship, students will have to submit an assignment on their experiences, comparing the theory with the implementation.
Upon completing the course, students will be able to venture into a variety of management fields. Avenues to explore include marketing, advertising, distribution and content management of programmes for broadcast.
Entrepreneurial skills are also developed in the course, providing students with the essential knowledge to launch their own media initiatives. ‘The module on media policy and institutions has piqued my interest in the entrepreneurial opportunities that can result from the convergence of old media — newspapers — and new media — the Internet and technology in general,” comments Kamal Singh, a student currently doing the course.
The key requirement to qualify for entrance into the course is an undergraduate degree. ‘Undergraduates in any field, not necessarily journalism, are welcome to apply,” says Du Toit. The employment possibilities are wide enough to encompass students with a BCom degree. Individuals who don’t have an undergraduate degree will also be considered, but will have to adhere to different application requirements. They are required to have approximately three years’ working experience in the field of media.
‘The feedback from students has been positive. But this is the first year the course is being offered and we will be building on this experience for next year,” says Du Toit.
Minoshni Pillay, a BJourn graduate currently doing the media management course, says that a focus on media management is necessary as there are areas of media that aren’t covered when doing a journalism course. ‘I’ve realised that journalism is much more than just reporting.”