Leading Jamaican media professionals provided students of the Bachelor of Arts in Communication Arts and Technology programme of the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech Jamaica) with insight into entering the current media industry during a webinar hosted by the programme on Monday, September 14, 2020. The theme of the webinar was ‘Navigating the Media and Communication Landscape’ and was moderated by broadcast journalist and lecturer at UTech Jamaica, Nadine McLeod.
The webinar was aimed at future journalists, marketing executives and public relation officers in a constantly changing media landscape which is now being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. These have all brought unprecedented changes to the personal lives of media practitioners, forcing them to be quick-witted, innovative and adaptable in the way that they work and communicate.
Entering the Media and Communication Industry
Belinda Williams – Head of Marketing and Communications at PROVEN – pointed out that having people spot your talent, coupled with being receptive, is one important way to get your foot in the door of the media industry. She said “Be open. Don’t be rigid and do not be boxed in. Do not think ‘it is not my work’ and if you think that way then you are going to be myopically positioning yourself to just doing what you are supposed to do.” Williams explains that with this mindset, students will be inflexible and unable to broaden their skill set.
Speakers (from top-left to right) Nadine McLeod (moderator), Tanisha Weir-Grant, Vashan Brown, Talia Soares, Belinda Williams, Jordan Forte and Andre Jebbinson presenting in the ‘Navigating the Media and Communication Landscape’ webinar on September 14, 2020. Screenshot captured by Nakaylia Morant
Head journalist and news anchor at RJR Communications Group, Vashan Brown reiterated the importance of “people discovering your talent” and one way for this to happen is through internships. He mentioned that it is through his internship -working long hours and having a mentor – that he was given the opportunity to anchor Prime Time News. Brown also pointed out that his aim of doing the internship was to get a job at the end of it. With this desire, he thought it was crucial to make an impact by being “willing to learn and using the resources around you and learning from them” in addition to, being “willing to venture outside… and latch on to new job opportunities”.
As aspiring media and communication professionals, the entry into the media and communication landscape may be a challenge, in that your starting point may not be the ideal that was hoped for. This was highlighted by McLeod who shared her own experience starting out in the industry. She recalled starting out as a bank clerk and receiving a weekend job in radio production as an independent producer. However, her aspiration was to become a reporter, despite having a degree in marketing. McLeod mentioned that she expressed her desire to switch from production to reporting, but was turned down due to her voice. Nonetheless, she was not discouraged and went on to complete her diploma in media and communication and surround herself with people who believed in her. She went on to become a reporter at Television Jamaica with the mantra “Never give up. Stick with it during the hard part.”
Andre Jebbinson, communications manager at a Canadian-based global medical cannabis company believes that it is vital for students to hinge on a focus and have a plan on where they want to be in the industry based on their passion. He posits that this is crucial to surviving in the media industry – knowing where you want to go and choosing the best route – and even if something derails that plan, find a way to get back on course.
Required Skills & Abilities
Giovanni Dennis, head journalist at the RJR Communications Group urged students to be willing, multifaceted and multi-platform journalists. With media convergence transforming and becoming a feature of all established media industries and services, Dennis added that it is important to adapt across all platforms, and in doing so, be creative and a practical problem solver.
Sports journalist at RJR Communication Group, Jordan Forte stated that being knowledgeable of the industry you are representing is of utmost importance. He also proposed that one should “specialise but not be a specialist.” This means that you should have knowledge on your subject and practical experience in your field, as well as, look for opportunities to expand and add value to the industry. In doing so, you have to “Recreate yourself. Be diverse…getting a foot in means you are trainable,” he stated as this is how you are going to thrive in the industry. On the contrary, Jebbinson argues that it is equally important to find your niche and become indispensable. In support of this, committing yourself and having a constant state of readiness in your presence and physical appearance will allow you to represent well.
Attorney-at-Law and entertainment journalist, Talia Soares stated that establishing your professional network and having support is equally important – being acquainted with people and surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals who can recommend you for various positions. She said “Your network is your net worth. Getting your foot in is one thing. Growing in space is another thing.” She added, “Never be afraid to ask for what you want. Put it out there that you are looking for a job, that you are willing to learn and to grow. People will never know you are available or interested in a job if you don’t ask…Take the opportunities and give it your best”.
Williams believes that “a fundamental skill set that persons must have is strong emotional intelligence. You must have the ability to explain why and be able to have an awareness of issues, learn and unlearn things quickly. Do not slavishly hold on to things that you think are correct. Be killer story tellers and killer story writers. Be well-rounded and be analytical and critical thinkers.”
At the same time, Director of Communication and Customer Relations at the Accountant General’s Department, Tanisha Weir-Grant stressed the importance of taking initiative and putting your ideas forward as she encourages students to “ask for what you want” and “do what you love.”
The media industry is highly competitive, fast-paced and constantly changing and as students, it is important to know how to navigate and build a successful career in the media industry.
Reported by Brittany Jackson