The Peter Quaqua School of Journalism (PQSJ) over the weekend held its 4th commencement convocation with 94 prospective journalists and Public Relations Officers (PROs) earning diplomas in their preferred areas of choice.
This year’s graduation exercises were characterized by a week-long schedule of activities, beginning with the baccalaureate service, awards and dinner night, and climaxed by the the commencement convocation.
The ceremony was held in Monrovia under the theme, ”Media Education, Its Impact on General Education, Trainers and Students’ Role,” which increased the total number of graduates to 231 since the establishment of the institution on March 16, 2015.
In his keynote address, Edwin Clarke, one of the trainers, described media education as ‘very important,’ because it serves as a fountain for knowledge — to include the exchange of ideas and opinions.
He spoke on the sub-theme, “What difference can you Make to Impact Education through the Media?” According to him, the media, as a strong pillar of democracy, must be fully utilized to bring about peace, love, and understanding and not cause confusion.
He added, “The role of the media is to inform and educate the public, and if those goals must be achieved, we have to exert the necessary efforts by being ethical and professional in what we say and write as Journalists.”
“Our messages should reflect a doctrine of truthfulness, and not lies and perceptions, because if the media decides to wrongfully and intentionally mislead a gullible society, it will be contributing to a messy education system that we all dare not to accept,” Clarke said.
He said the Liberian Media, since the war, especially the last war in 2003, has been faced with numerous challenges, ranging from capacity-building to restriction, adding that the media nowadays, unlike other professions, has now become a transit point for would-be abusers, whose sole intention is to accomplish their selfish desires at the expense of this noble vocation.
He told the gathering that the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) can no longer be considered a toothless bull-dog amid this growing wave of irresponsibility, and must have the emotional fortitude to change the narrative for the good.
“To ensure commanding respect for this noble profession,” Mr. Clarke said the PUL must draft the necessary legislation to ensure that the profession is protected against intruders, and work on media owners, who are causing ‘an embarrassment’ for the media.
He said the refusal of media owners to pay trained journalists, who know the job, is a major contributing factor to the ‘brain drain’ situation that is eroding the integrity of the media.
“These executives have refused to pay the qualified individuals, so at the end of the day, they hire the services of cub reporters, and refuse to pay them. Their actions not to pay their untrained staff gives rise to unethical reportage,” Clarke said.
Clarke said reporters, who find themselves in said category smell the glory being enjoyed by their bosses, something they view as not being filtering down to the last man, who is to ensure that the newspaper is on the newsstand on a daily or weekly basis.
PQSJ Executive Director, Titus Tokpah, said the school hit the ground in 2015 running with 30 students, and has remained a household name in the journalism community with a specialty in hands-on training.
He said, “In 2016, the 1st class contained 15 females and nine males, the 2nd batch in 2017 graduated 20 female and 25 males, and the 3rd class had 25 females and 43 males, while the 4th class in 2019, is graduating 45 females and 49 males.”
“The growth,” Tokpah said “In the number of graduates from 24 to 45, now 94, points to challenges and successes of this training program.”
As part of the collaborative training program launched by the American Embassy’s Public Affairs Section with PQSJ in May 2017, the department trains teachers and students in several advanced media courses via digital video conference from Washington, D.C and Paris.