Social media and regional integration dominate EACA

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UCU lecturer, Okoku Obomba, presenting his paper during the conference in Kampala (Photo by Alex Taremwa)

BY ALEX TAREMWA 

Media minds once again faced off at the sixth annual East African Communication Association (EACA) conference held at the Grand Global Hotel, Kampala to discuss the developments in the industry.

The two-day conference took place on August 26- 27, 2016 focusing mainly on how media would help in the regional integration process of the East African Community (EAC). It was jointly organised by the Makerere University (MAK) Department of Journalism and Communication and the Department of Mass Communication at UCU.

The delegates who converged from South Africa, Norway, USA, South Sudan, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda discussed opportunities and threats from the emergence of social media as a tool of journalism and its impact on the media industry thus far.

Although the discussants agreed that social media has partly influenced the way traditional media currently operate and that more responsible use was necessary for it to compete, they failed to agree on whether or not government regulation of the platforms was a viable option. 

Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi, the dean of the School of Languages, Literature and Communication at Makerere, argued strongly that social media has captivated the minds of the youth making them incapable of thinking out even obvious issues.

He proposed that education programmes need to be tailored to the needs of the young generation in order for social media to better their cognitive ability.

“Most of the young people on social media do not have time for news. I have engaged most of them during interviews and they cannot answer simple current affairs questions like who the new minister of education is,” he said.

While presenting his paper entitled: “Trends in news gathering and reporting in the age of social media,” Okoku Obomba, a veteran journalist and lecturer at UCU, acknowledged social media as one of the tools for news gathering in the post-internet age that have transformed the industry in ways impossible to imagine.

“When I was still at Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC), events that would happen, for example, in Arua would be reported about two months later. Now events occur and are reported about in real time,” he argued.

He added that despite the multitude of tools that social media brings with it, modern day reporters have not fully embraced and adjusted to the developments.

“The reality today is that all journalism is multimedia or multi-platform journalism. The expectation is that one is able to use a variety of digital tools to research, to report and to generate and verify content that is created by users and to turn a broadcast story into a digital story,” Obomba added. 

UCU thrills again 

During the conference, UCU staff in the Department of Mass Communication caught the attention of delegates with articulate and thorough presentations that covered a range of different research topics.

Dr Monica Chibita, the head of the UCU Mass Communication department, was voted once again president of EACA for another year running while Ann Mugunga, the Standard Supervisor, was voted secretary general.

Other elected office bearers include Dr Wilson Ugangu from the Multimedia University of Kenya, for vice president, Dr Nancy Booker, treasurer, and Dr William Tayebwa from Makerere, as committee member.

EACA was founded in 2011 to bring together scholars, researchers and practitioners in the field of communication to share research on the media in the East African region and Africa at large.

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