By Kemiso Wessie:
Modestus Fosu, an Associate Professor in Language and Communication studies at the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ), is trying to make a significant impact on the field of journalism education in Ghana. With a passion for communication, media, and language, Fosu has made significant contributions to the field through his research, teaching, and collaborative efforts.
Born in Accra, the capital of Ghana, in 1968, Fosu grew up in the Volta Region, where he received his primary and secondary education. He went on to complete his undergraduate degree in English at the University of Cape Coast (UCC) in Ghana in 1998, setting the stage for his journey into the world of language and communication.
Driven by his interest in teaching and the evolving media landscape in Ghana, Fosu pursued a master’s (MPhil) degree in English (Language option) at the University of Ghana Legon, which he completed in 2004. This allowed him to delve deeper into the language of media and its impact on the target audience, a topic that would become a focal point of his research and teaching career.
Fosu’s interest in media and communication was sparked by the changing landscape of the Ghanaian media industry. Emerging private media houses brought with them a diversity of voices and liberal perspectives to the previously government-controlled media system and the one-dimensional news flow of the past. With his language background, Fosu became intrigued by the language used in the media and its impact on different audiences.
He explains that newspapers at the time were still publishing in English while early radio stations broadcast in indigenous languages as well as English. However, he was initially more interested in the newspapers and English medium radio stations because of his curiosity about the style of English used in the media and the targeted audience. This fascination motivated him to change jobs, from teaching at the Ghana Institute of Language (GIL) to joining the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ) in 2007, where he taught English-related courses to aspiring journalists.
Recognising the need to deepen his knowledge and research capacities, Fosu embarked on a journey towards obtaining a PhD in media and communication. His research aimed to investigate the connection between the language of the media and media audiences in Ghana. After extensive research and exploration, Fosu chose to pursue his PhD at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, working under the guidance of Dr Chris Paterson (now Professor Chris Paterson), who specialises in media and journalism in Africa. Fosu’s research focused on the language of journalism in Ghana and the connection between media language and audience engagement. This endeavour allowed him to explore the intricate dynamics of language and communication within the Ghanaian media landscape.
Fosu’s academic research experience has significantly influenced his teaching style. At the Ghana Institute of Journalism, he fosters collaboration between faculty and students. By engaging students as research assistants and encouraging participation in seminars and workshops, Fosu promotes a culture of collaboration and active learning within the institution. Through joint-faculty and departmental seminars, he ensures that students are actively involved in academic discussions and research. He encourages students to exploit the technological opportunities available to enhance teaching and learning methods.
He believes that there are a number of important skills and attributes a journalist must possess to be described as successful. A successful journalist today should have excellent skills in writing skills, research, multitasking, listening, interviewing and reporting skills as well as knowledge on the digital technologies available. Additionally, they should have the eyes and ears for newsworthy events, be imaginative and possess the skill for human-centred storytelling. Above all, they should have a good sense of ethics. Fosu explains that a good mix of these skills is important for the success of any journalist.
New information and communication technologies have brought about radical transformations, blurring the lines between creators and consumers. Fosu acknowledges the evolving media and communication landscape since the earlier days of his career. However, he also recognises the challenges posed by the rapid pace of technological advancements, such as fake news and misinformation. Modestus believes that rigorous research, adequate funding and Africa-focused educational materials are crucial in addressing these challenges and keeping up with the digitalised world.
Modestus believes that academics should keep abreast of developments in their field. He emphasises the importance of staying informed about the latest developments in media and communication by actively engaging with research publications, attending conferences, and participating in academic associations. In March 2023 he was a panel chair for the ‘Symposium on African Journalism Education in Post COVID-19 Digital Era’, organised by the Centre for Media and Communication (CMCR) at the Pan-Atlantic University in Nigeria. He also belongs to a local association, the Communication Educators Association of Ghana (CEAG), of which he is the chairman of the Research Committee. Additionally, he is a member of AJEN and the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR).
Modestus Fosu has recently been promoted to Associate Professor in Language and Communication Studies at GIJ and continues to teach language and communication-related courses. He is involved in several projects, including an edited book on communication, media, and social change, which aims to address the unique realities of Africa and the role of communication in social and behavioural change for development. Additionally, Fosu explores the role of indigenous radio in Ghana’s social and political development, studying how these platforms provide social interventions to address community issues.