Yes! Linguists can fare better in journalism





By Ismail Afolabi Marble

Journalism is a craft. Though some pen pushers, especially those who studied communication detest this claim, it is self-evident and can be verified.

Like every other organised human activity, journalism has its do's and don't's and is guided by ethics that can be studied and internalised independently.

For a fact, good communication skills - knowledge of the grammar, and the vocabularies of the language of communication is very important and put anyone who is interested in journalism on "good standing."

In the last seven years of my active participation, I have seen and interacted with colleagues who did not study journalism or communication and they are not only doing well, they are also setting the pace for others.

This is because, media houses are interested in individuals who have words at their fingertips and good command of the language of communication, nothing more.

This explains why people from diverse fields but with the required competence are doing well in journalism irrespective of their backgrounds. Examples abound...!

While I admit that journalism is beyond news/features gathering, writing, processing, editing, and dissemination, field-based facts support the claim that journalism is a craft. The ability to lace words to convey a meaningful message to inform, educate, persuade and sometimes, entertain is the big deal.

Given that use of language is the foundation stone of journalism, linguists who have the mastery of the code of communication are "hot cake(s)". It is funny but true, the phonetics and phonology courses that many linguists take for granted are what people pay extra fees to study in radio school and specialised centres during a voice training session for broadcast journalism.

****No! no!! it is not pronounced that way. When the sound [p] preceded other sound segments in a word, it is to be pronounced with a puff of air. So, you have to be technical when pronouncing words such as "pit', " pin" but the sound [p] remains the same when it occurs elsewhere.***

The above captures some of what voice training in journalism, at the basic forms, looks like. Whereas, this is nothing to a linguist who knows his or her opinions and is already in tune with the fact that the said sound [p] is a voiceless bilabial plosive, and the phonological reality there is aspiration conditioned by the environment where the sound occurs.

Going forward, a linguist can also have a field day in print journalism by putting sound knowledge of morphology, semantics and pragmatics into use.

Metalanguage development and formation of new words (in line with dynamism of language) to capture new emerging phenomenon and discoveries make linguistic competence relevant in the media world. Understanding of word formation processes such as coinage, back-formation, reduplication, blending, Acronyms and several other morphological realities that we take for granted matter a lot in journalism.

The extent to which semantics and pragmatics are also relevant to journalism especially the print media is limitless. For instance, news writing employs inverted pyramid style and 5Ws and H. Issues are presented from the most salient angle to the least and paragraphs are linked with transitional devices. The said transitional devices are not different from our cohesive devices in Semantics while the order of presentation is just a format - convention.

From the headline to the lead and the body of the report, the thrust of the story is pitched on: the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How. These are simple but tactical blocks in the formation of news report.

And, lastly, the aforementioned ethical codes coupled with the house style of the preferred media station and selected media laws including privacy and defamation can be sought for, acquired and internalised for hitch-free operation.

If historians, biochemists, lawyers, economists, doctors, statisticians and others with linguistic and communicative competence could thrive in journalism, then why can't  linguists? Answer the question silently, ๐Ÿ˜‹๐Ÿ˜‹๐Ÿ˜‹

...I hope this token contribution whets your appetite.

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