In this commentary, Uganda-based journalist Caleb Okereke shares deep personal insights into why media schools in East Africa must rethink their curriculum. He stresses the need for trainers to begin teaching media ownership to better equip journalism students for the dynamic and cutthroat job market by taking us through his journey as a journalism student and media owner.

 My decision to start a media company while in university had both pros and cons. The first thing I struggled with was having to combine studying full time and running a media organisation. I didn’t realise how tasking this would be until I had to live it day by day. On the other hand, there seemed to be a visible advantage. I assumed that I would be able to put a lot of what I had learned in school into practice and was expecting a very workable experience of my university education. Unfortunately, this was not precisely the case.

Studying done alongside the process of managing a media company was a resolve that often involved a conditional and not entirely exciting. It involved splitting of my brain to oscillate between media founder and student. This was further exacerbated because my knowledge in school did not directly reflect my present challenges as both an editor and media founder of a primarily digital publication.

Empowering the masses through stories 

The plan with Minority Africa, the company I started in November 2019, was to have a digital publication that tells minority stories from across Africa using a data-driven multimedia approach.

It’s safe to say we have achieved this in the two-plus years of our firm’s existence. We’ve published over 50 feature-length multimedia stories and reached around 500,000 people through our website and social media. Minority Africa has featured on DW and IJNET, the latter as a platform using ‘innovative storytelling for inclusion’, raised a considerable amount of funding to continue the work, and trained several journalists on how to cover minority stories.

Rebooting journalism training

My university education endowed me with many incredible skills that I have been able to put into practice. However, I believe journalism training as it is currently, and precisely in East Africa, needs some fixing, especially when you consider how news production and consumption has changed due to Covid-19.

I say this both as a recent graduate in journalism from a university in Uganda and as a media founder and journalist who’s worked for various national, regional, and international publications.

Ugandan journalist and Minority Founder Caleb Okereke believes journalism training as it is currently, and precisely in East Africa, needs some fixing, especially when you consider how news production and consumption has changed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Generally, I discovered that my university curriculum, however great, seemed to be set and locked into a time in which journalism training and practice were a lot more conventional. For instance, while we learned how to design or write for newspapers, we were taught almost nothing about creating or writing for online media. Similarly, even though we learned how to shoot and edit videos, audios, and photos, our media instructors spoke little about the importance of syndicating such content for [modern] digital audiences.

We were not exposed to digital forms of audio, video, and photo distribution. Instead, the entire syllabus mirrored an old-fashioned view of journalism where people simply work for traditional media or venture into public relations.

In some cases, my university tried to organise training sessions with external facilitators during which we were equipped with some fundamental digital skills. But in a broader sense, there was no room in the existing curriculum for what happens if a person decides to start a media company or innovate around present obstacles. And so, we learned nothing about media revenue, business models, grants, or just the fundamentals of starting and sustaining a media company if we decided to follow that path.

The question of media ownership

It is plausible to draw inferences as to why this is the case. First, top media ownership is split among billionaires and business moguls and not necessarily trained journalists. From The Washington Post to The Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, and The Atlantic, these media companies are owned by business individuals with little to no journalism experience.

But there is a sharp contrast to how some of these well-established news outlets were founded. The Atlantic, for example, began in 1857 when a group of men, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, who were a blend of writers, essayists, editors, and poets, came together to form the magazine. More than 150 years later, the magazine is now owned by American billionaire businesswoman Laurene Powell Jobs.

The debate on whether or not billionaires should own media companies and the impact on editorial independence has been explored elsewhere and is not my focus in this piece. Instead, my proposition is an evaluation of what’s lacking in how we teach and approach journalism.

Whether in Uganda or elsewhere, journalism education has been designed to align with the most cardinal occurrence, culminating in a system in which journalists are merely people who practise ‘journalism’ but not people who start or own ‘journalism.’

I believe that they can be both. There is, of course, a need for journalists to learn how to do quality journalism, but there is a corresponding exigency for them to know how to start a media company and how to sustain it. This need is notably greater for media companies disseminating news stories and creators publishing newsletters and podcasts in Africa, where colonialism influenced and distorted media ownership.

In North Africa, for example, the press in the region was brought by the French colonialists who published numerous newspapers and controlled them. The very first paper was published in 1820 in Morocco. It was in Spanish and was called African Liberal. At the same time, these papers advanced the colonialists’ ideals and presented French occupation as life-saving to indigenous people. Printing in Arabic or importing Arabic articles was strictly forbidden.

In Anglophone Southern and Central Africa, the press was mainly introduced and owned by European settlers. In the Cape Colony, there was a law mandating a 300 pounds fee before press operators could publish. French colonialists across Francophone Africa worked hard to ensure only colonial media thrived by placing a heavy tax on printing imports to discourage homegrown media initiatives.

‘Decolonising’ media ownership 

Today, one-third of all African stories in news outlets on the continent continue to be sourced from foreign news agencies and services. My idea of media decolonisation involves African media professionals not just working for foreign media organisations as correspondents but extending to include them owning media. This progress, I believe, continues to be stunted by the content and direction of journalism education.

I have been fortunate to be a media Innovator in Residence since January 2021 with Aga Khan University in Kenya and DW Akademie for my media startup, Minority Africa. This residency reserved for disruptive media innovations across Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, has opened my eyes to the nitty-gritty of media ownership and an incredible network of African journalists and storytellers who are innovating and starting their niche and peculiar media companies. From the LAM Sisterhood in Kenya, who were part of my cohort, telling stories to make African women feel seen, heard, and beloved, to Ona Stories, Tanzania’s first VR and AR storytelling company.

The common thread is that these media companies are founded and owned by people with experience in creating the content they are disseminating. I’ve seen the same in Nigeria, where I am from. Media companies like the Rustin Times that tell LGBTQ+ stories and Document Women platforming African women’s history are both founded and run by journalists. This [media ownership] bolsters the possibility for a novel African media landscape in which journalists can go further beyond just reporting on the news. Africa’s journalism education must reflect this prospect.

I am not ignorant to the reality that changes to a curriculum are not a walk in the park. Nonetheless, I believe discourse like this marks the initial start to a revolution. The realisation and eventual acceptance that the norm as we know it might be leaving a critical component out can then prompt institutions of learning across the region to strategise on ways to prepare journalism students and journalism practitioners outside of the curriculum for a future in media ownership.

Media Challenge Initiative(MCI) collaborated in the publication of this article



About the Author


Author ProfileCaleb Okereke
Caleb Okere is a journalist, founder and editor of Minority Africa - an online news platform focusing on the marginalised minority. Caleb’s Minority Africa is also a beneficiary of the Media Innovation Centre’s Innovators in Residence Programme.

Similar articles


Media Innovation Centre launches report on media innovation and media viability in East Africa

The report specifically analysed eight major variables which include: newsroom structure and resources, media ownership and business models, organisational capacity, innovation culture, journalism culture, financial trends and results, content quality and COVID-19.


Maureen Mudi’s quest to make media a better space for journalists

Mudi, in her role as Media Council of Kenya regional coordinator in charge of Mombasa(covering the entire coastal region), has found herself at the forefront in advocating and fighting to protect journalists’ rights, culminating in her being awarded for her peace efforts in the run-up and during the 2022 general elections in Kenya.


Journalists’ experiences covering Kenya’s 2022 general elections

The 2022 general elections have been mentally draining for journalists, some of whom have had to stay on the campaign trail for over a year. Others have had to toy with the tough call of managing teams in the newsroom. East Site’s Isaac Swila and political writer Rawlings Otieno recount their experiences


How social media influencers shaped Kenya’s 2022 General Election

What role did social media influencers play in the election? What voice did they give in political discourses during and around the election period? And to what extent did political candidates involve the influencers in marketing their manifestos to sway votes in their favour? East Site writer Steven Omondi unpacks the details


Why audience research is crucial for Media Viability

The media industry is experiencing enormous transformation as new digital trends emerge. With the vast opportunities that the digital space offers, media owners and content producers must deliberately adapt to how the audience consumes content.


Opinion: Excavating the Truth through Fact-checking

With the increased Digital Technology at the palm of just anybody; there are a lot of information that distort whether deliberately or not highlighting the need of robust Fact0checking as Asha D. Abinallah explains


Social Media: Where should journalists draw the line?

Is there a danger in media personalities having a vibrant social media presence? Assuming they have a massive media following, should they self-regulate and filter what they post? And when they engage with followers, should their opinions be taken as personal, or does it represent the journalist’s media house? East Site writer Isaac Swila explores


The pursuit of gender-inclusive reporting in East Africa

Media stakeholders are raising concerns over the lack of gender-inclusive reporting in East African newsrooms. They want concerted efforts to ensure more female journalists get equal opportunities like their male counterparts.


Media Innovation Centre partners with Mozilla to launch Pocket

The partnership will also ensure that local content is curated and distributed to better optimize the product and meet the needs of Kenyan online users.


How media outlets can safely handle user-generated content

The news industry is constantly changing, and in the last few years, User Generated Content (UGC) has become a ubiquitous feature in news sourcing and packaging. However, media houses and journalists need to establish verification and credibility safeguards to avoid the misinformation trap.


Six tips journalists need to know when covering elections

Reporting on elections is, for many journalists, an opportunity to establish themselves as reliable political reporters. But the task comes with certain risks, particularly in the East African sub-region.

Stakeholders are now calling for concerted efforts, better planning and preparations for journalists before they are sent out on the field to cover Kenya’s high-stakes August 9 General Elections.


The perils of political reporting in East Africa

East Africa’s media grapples with a myriad of challenges whenever general elections approach. Not only do editors struggle with balancing the competing political interests, at times at the altar of professionalism, but individual journalists pay dearly, many suffering attacks in the course of their duties.


Enact policies that guarantee education for all

As Form One students settle into a new life in secondary school, this has also been a period of reflection. We have read tear-jerking and heart-warming stories of determined students who overcame many odds to get an education and how well-wishers came together in their aid.


Optimism in Tanzania’s media industry after a dark period

There is renewed optimism in the Tanzanian media space following the ascension to power of President Samia Suluhu whose regime is keen to relax some of the laws deemed punitive to journalists and media houses


RSF 2022 Press Freedom Index: A mixed bag for East Africa

Uganda fell behind, whereas Kenya improved its press freedom ranking in the Reporters Without Borders 2022 Press Freedom Index. And after years of media freedom decline, Tanzania appears to be on the right track. But overall, media freedom activists say there is still work to be done.


Good journalism does not come cheap

A free and independent press is the cornerstone of any democracy and the foundation of economic success, mostly because through our free press, we’re able to hold the leadership to account.


Opinion: Rethinking media houses revenue streams in the Digital era

To align with the changing times and stay relevant in the business, media houses are challenged to rethink their strategy and to adopt and understand obstacles and challenges they face towards rethinking and exploring alternative sources of revenue and on developing the digital strategy.


Hamasa Media Group: Tanzanian innovators with a solution to organisation management

A team of young, Tanzanian tech-savvy communication professionals is dreaming big. It seeks to usher a new dawn in media business management in Tanzania by optimising employee output and offering consultancy to media businesses on how they can operate with a minimal budget but still attain their goals.


The legal challenges facing East Africa’s bloggers and influencers 

Bloggers and influencers have become an integral component of information sourcing across East Africa. The public uses blogs, privately run websites and social networks to crowdsource information from social networks, which they then publish and distribute. But it’s not all rosy for this group of content makers.


Afyatoon: How two medics are transforming lives through story-telling

The chances of meeting a medical graduate practising journalism are usually very slim, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. But two Tanzanian physicians have broken away from that norm by inventing a start-up called Afyatoon. It uses visual art technology to tell compelling medical stories. They narrate to the EAST Site their experience and share their vision for the future.


Five astounding findings from the MCK state of Kenya’s Media Survey

Did you know that in 2021 Kenyans watched less TV and spent more time on social media? Or that some Kenyans rely on family, friends, or even social media icons and bloggers as a source of news and information? These are some of the conclusions highlighted in the 2021 State of the Media Survey conducted by the Media Council of Kenya (MCK).


Uganda’s media strives to reinvent itself post Covid-19

The effects of the Covid pandemic continue to change the world in ways we had not imagined possible. The media is going through a painful transformation to keep up with changing production, distribution and consumption habits. In East Africa, Uganda’s Media Challenge Initiative (MCI) recently hosted a panel discussion on Media Viability comprising experienced journalists from Television, Radio, Print and Online/Digital media to address lessons learned from the pandemic. East Site’s Moses Mutente attended the panel and compiled this article.


Dwindling trust in media raises concerns ahead of Kenya’s General Election

For the second year running, a survey commissioned by the Media Council of Kenya shows that the trust level in Kenyan media has nosedived, raising fundamental questions on how media will play its watchdog role more so with landmark elections set for August 9. EAST Site writer Isaac Swila explores.


Opinion: Media needs credibility to survive the pandemic and digital transformation

Legacy media is currently caught between a rock and a hard place — the Covid pandemic and the rise and proliferation of social media has hit revenues hard. Some say this could signal the end of news as we used to know it. However, Ugandan decorated journalist Ernest Bazanye believes the industry will survive and thrive, but not without a fight.


Opinion: We should all be concerned about the future of media

Free media is often described as the fourth estate, the gatekeeper, the whistleblower, and many more. American singer Jim Morrison once said, “whoever controls the media, controls the mind.” No wonder governments worldwide try hard to control the press. But the media itself, particularly in Uganda, faces a severe identity crisis that requires urgent action, writes guest commentator Jimmy Spire Ssentongo.


Invest in journalists’ verification skills to help curb disinformation, expert Redondo advises

World over, disinformation is a virus that continues to permeate newsrooms giving media managers and journalists a headache on how to deal with it. Dr. Myriam Redondo,  a newsroom trainer in digital verification and associate professor in International Relations (PhD) explains how to tackle the virus in an engagement with EAST Site writer Isaac Swila.


Opinion: Never lose sight of your vision when fundraising 

No one sits down to write proposals only to seek money. There’s an idea, a vision, an important goal, the need for impact, and last but not least, the need for change.


Media faulted over its coverage of people living with disabilities 

According to the World Health Organisation there are between 60-80million people with disabilities in Africa and over 1 billion in the world, many of whom live under deplorable conditions owing to societal myths.


How Kenyan journalists are preparing for the 2022 General Election 

Kenyan voters will go to the polls on August 7, 2022, to elect new leaders. As expected, the media is burning the midnight oil, trying to develop strategies to cover the polls. But how prepared are they?


Tanzania: Striving for women digital inclusion

Tanzania has a massive digital gender gap. As a result, it is unlikely to hear stories about successful Tanzanian women, either in leadership or the media.