Background and Significance
The University of Liberia’s Mass Communication Department was principally conceived as a training program to develop media experts, specifically journalists and communication specialists. It is in this context that the department’s specialized focus has been on print and broadcast media, an emphasis that propels the students to become equipped either as print or broadcast journalists. It can not, however, be ignored that consistent with the department’s mission and vision, communication-related courses are taught, thereby, providing job opportunities for graduates, such as in the areas of Public Relations, Advertising, etc.
Early managers of the department were not oblivious of the need to blend practice and theory as a stimulus for students’ professional growth. And so, until the later establishment of LUX Radio, the department sought links with radio stations for practical by the broadcast majors. For the print students, the department’s established a student-run Newspaper, The Varsity Pilot. The Varsity Pilot over the years became an ideal practical instrument, enabling the print-major students to acquire news room experience, to complement theoretical knowledge.
The availability and use of The Varsity Pilot for student practicum exposes students to hands-on training in news gathering , writing, and reporting which mostly would usually begin with conducting field or studio interviews, writing the news script, and reporting the outcome, applying multiple techniques. Exposure to writing and editing news, writing features and commentaries and newspaper layout would be difficult, if not impossible, in the absence of The Varsity Pilot. Working with The Varsity Pilot, while at the same time gaining theoretical knowledge, has made it easy for graduates to find jobs with newspapers. More importantly, the practicum experience has guaranteed their excellent on-the-job performance.
Some of Liberia’s outstanding print journalists, including the current College Dean of Liberia College, Dr. J. Moses Gray; Attorney Philip Wesseh; Freedom of Information Commission Chairman, Cllr. Bedor-wlah Freeman; former Deputy Information Minister and now Professor and Chairman of the Political Science Department at the University of Liberia, Richmond Anderson, current Director of Communications at the Ministry of State, Hon. Sherman Seequeh, and current Information Minister, Len Eugene Nagbe make up the list of graduates of the department who had memorable stints with The Varsity Pilot.
Certainly, the training of communicators/ journalists in modern academia is not achievable without a hands-on approach that ignites learners’ interest and prepares them the challenges of the real world. Hence, The Varsity Pilot’s reactivation and sustenance in the Mass Communication Department is an imperative.