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"I Don't Need Training." President of the former SLMWA on Professionalism

Jerry George, President of the former Media Association says, "The reality is that training not only improves your performance, but it opens doors and garners increased respect for the profession."

As I was preparing for the new semester and Monroe’s Diploma in Media Communication and Journalism, I had time to reflect how we have come full circle about the need for training to boost our media in St. Lucia. When I started in media – yes, donkey years ago – there were no training courses available. None. Getting any kind of training in media was like a trip to the moon. There was a hunkering and a yearning. We dreamt about it with a burning desire to have it at all cost; we salivated at just the mention of the word “training”, but knowing full well it was as elusive as a greasy pig on national day. We had to settle for training as trial and error, baring our mistakes in full view of a blisteringly critical audience; and so jumped through loops into several baptisms of fire; and by listening and learning. It was the scorching of the ego that left the scars from rejection and dejection; only to later celebrate the rough-edged-yesterdays transformed to healed smoothed out scars of valuable experience. There was envy and joy for those who travelled to London for a BBC course (four months) or any foreign land for a longer course of study.
At least, there was that same burning desire within most managers, as well, to have qualified staff and they were glad for the few short courses offered by aid agencies – The British Council and VOA, for example - that were just waking up to the idea of using media as what we now know was their communication strategy. It wasn’t called that back then. Managers back then, indeed, wanted trained and qualified media professionals.
Then came a six months certificate course at Codrington College, Barbados (for the Caribbean Conference of Churches, CCC); and then a one year diploma at UWI’s CARIMAC. To be accepted meant you were worthy; to complete one of them meant you had indeed earned your stripes… And your rewards of a better position and better pay with the expectations that media products matched those we regarded as being of international standards.
These days there is an abundance of training institutions, easily accessed near and far, even online…there are many sub areas of media and communications studies and even more areas of specialisations. You can choose short intensives of a few weeks or degrees over years to the PhD level. I know a lot has changed over that many years ago, but why are the majority in media, even after three years, perform like they started the job yesterday? Why is training still elusive even now when that pig is no longer greased up? Reasons upon reasons abound and I think I have heard them all.
The myth that "I don't need training" is comforting but also destabalising, especially to those who believe they possess "natural ability" to be media personalities. Ability and skill are different. Ability is what you think you have; skill is actually showing you have it. The reality is that training not only improves your performance, but it opens doors and garners increased respect for the profession, generally, but also for the trained specifically. For example, it takes an announcer - with ability - two years to be a "good" announcer by trial and error and baptism of fire; a four months announcer's training course can provide that same announcer with the skills sets to be a "great" announcer. Duh!
Isn’t it logical and reasonable to think that since we have so many more opportunities and more institutes, we would have had many more qualified persons in the media than when I started?; and that media training becomes something you don’t even give a second thought to and just do it as a matter of course? But it seems the more training available is the less inclined today’s colleagues are to desire it, to seek it and to complete it. Why are they still prefer being scorched and burnt by the fires of old?; and why are their managers, too, less inclined to demand formally trained personnel? In fact, managers - from what I'm told - frown on training (there are a few exceptions, of course) with “I can’t pay you”. So, for many media employees a little ‘kakadan’ is as exciting as just getting by on the seduction of popularity. Let me assure you I have heard many more excuses as to “why not” and few as to “Yes, I must”.
Is this, then, a case of: in the abundance of water, today’s media employee either remains thirsty or just prefers instead drinking soda? And sadly it is the listening, viewing and reading public that suffer most; because they must endure one too many burps from too much soda drinking.

Jerry George

President of the former St. Lucia Media Workers Association (SLMWA)

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