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Refresher training for journalists

Our local radios and televisions are telling us to wash our hands before we touch our meals and after using toilets. This is a good personal hygiene orientation for the poor communities who are pushing on lives being affected by multitudes of communicable diseases. There is no denial that we should keep our hands clean if we need to be free from disease causing bacteria and germs. People residing in urban areas may not face serious problems of getting water for this and other related issues. But preaching the rural community about using water for the purpose of washing hands probably causes a mocking laughter. How can a thirsty individual think of washing hands in a country where there can hardly be found a single drop of water to moisten throat? ‘Who do they think is a fool to spill out water for this nonsense?’ This kind of reaction is indisputably reflected by citizens who have long been suffering from lack of clean water. A friend of mine who is working for an NGO once had to accomplish water related activities in a rural locality. He along with his colleagues gave orientation to the rural communities on what they should do using water; like washing hands and clothes, taking bath… After the orientation, the farming population were given chances to reflect their reactions. An elderly man rose to his feet and said, “my sons, we heard all what you have just said. We should extend our gratitude to you for doing this. But…could you please provide us with the water so that we can use it for what you are saying?” This is to mean that the thing is a kind of the cart before the horse.
This reminds me of a slogan which was said to be posted at every corner of local towns during the Derg era. My informants told me that this was one of the slogans used to be frequented during the famous illiteracy campaign. This slogan might not be taken word-for-word, but it goes like this… “You illiterate compatriots, set yourselves free from the darkness of illiteracy! Tear off the black curtain of illiteracy!” What I am interested in is that the slogan was meant to address the innocent citizens who could not read and write.
I don’t need to elaborate all about these two notices by saying they were aimed in such a careless manner that they cannot hit their respective targets.
One bright day while riding a cab I was listening to a radio. It was around 8:00 AM in the morning. This is commonly a breakfast hour across the country. That time the radio journalists were telling us about cultural favorite dishes frequented by people of other countries. However, these dishes are the ones our people do not feel comfortable with to see, let alone eat them. Anyways, that morning we were forced to hear about the ‘favorite’ food of roasted ants, toasted locusts and others. Don’t forget that this program was being transmitted during local breakfast time! What the hell are those editors of the radio doing while such unethical thing was done irresponsibly? (sounding bossy?) … That time one could visualize innocent women and young ladies while leaving their breakfasts on dining tables untouched. Introducing various dishes of different cultures to radio audiences is appreciable on its perspective of raising awareness. The problem is that the producers of the program seem not to take time to think over identifying the proper time in which the program should be aired.
The other day I heard over a local television about a single pigeon that “costs birr 100,000.00 (one hundred thousand)”! … What!? … Is this pigeon made of gold? Or does it defecate uranium? On top of that, what if it flies away the moment it is purchased? I don’t have the slightest idea about different species of pigeons. But I have never heard in my life about a pigeon that costs such big amount of money. I don’t know whether there is a species (of pigeon) which probably devours emerald or diamond. Is there anybody out there who can help? By the way, what this shows to me is that there are individuals who feel like spending (hard-earned?) money wantonly over such useless (at least for me) things. Did I hear the young seller saying over the television that the supply and demand of the pigeons were not compatible? My question now is… should this be done in a country which is always begging for wheat? Should Ethiopian individuals pay that amount of money for a pigeon in this poor country which is crying for its eight million starved citizens? Jesus of Nazareth! … Hey, to tell you something… I would be very happy if the reporter caught an Ethiopian guy (of course, for his/her views) while paying that huge amount of money for a single pigeon. What good news it would be!
Every day I hear a radio announcement on the risk of driving fast. The announcer said that driving fast could cause unexpected loss of human lives. “Driving fast causes death… Speed kills!” is the central point. It is a good message for our drivers who assume the streets to be car racing fields. But the thing is that the message was originally meant to be broadcast via television not through radio. I have watched a good video demonstration of this same announcement on television. To be clear, the script was originally prepared for television not for radio. But unfortunately, this same script is being aired through radio. Surprisingly we are being told to ‘watch’ how the driver drives using different speeds. In fact, the announcer said over the radio, “let’s watch what will happen when the vehicle is driven at different speeds…”. My point is how can a radio listener be supposed to watch through the radio what is being done? There are several other similar commercials originally meant for television but directly read over the radio without the scripts are retouched or modified. I usually listen to many of the news items that were transmitted through television and read by the national radio without any alteration done to them. Due attention have to be given by editors and senior reporters of the media outlets to such silly mistakes.
Now, let me say a few words regarding the differences and similarities between the two electronic mediums, radio and television. This will give some helpful pieces of information to those who are involved in the sector.
Speaking of similarities, I can say that television and radio are both electronic mediums. We use them to transmit signals through electromagnetic air waves. It is advised that the two media outlets should use simple and short sentences.
Television and radio have also major differences. Radio tells you what is happening. You don’t have any opportunity to watch the thing being told about. Television tells you and shows you what is happening. The audiences of the radio cannot watch the incidents like the audiences of television.
There is a possibility of presenting events over the radio as if the audiences are watching with naked eyes. What I am saying is that the journalist can use action words that enable the radio audiences to imagine or visualize what is being told. S/he can describe the scents, size, weight of the things by using select action words. Verbs (action words) are preferable for this purpose. Using many adjectives is not advised as they may not give chances for the audiences to visualize images. Thus, radio gives you more room for imagination. The radio scripts are made in such a way that they can describe incidents. The words you are using should enable the audiences to watch the incidents the radio is speaking about. You can’t address your radio audiences by saying ‘watch’. You rather make efforts to enable them to watch what you are saying through their ears. (yes, to enable them to watch through their ears.) The scripts written for television, however, are supposed to express incidents being watched on the screen.
At last I should propose an idea which can be taken as a possible solution for professional problems the media sector faces. Last Sunday I read a news item in a weekly private paper that seven local banks were fined for failing to train their respective workers. The training issue is a noteworthy point. I feel that others should draw lesson from this exemplary deed of providing refresher training for workers. The same opportunity should also be given to journalists who are working for both the state and private media. No need to tell bosses about the importance of equipping workers with refresher training.

By Haile-Gebriel Endeshaw


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