Saturday, June 12, 2010

Experiencing Media Studies

Bhanu Bhakta Acharya[1]
I began my teaching career since 1993 after my intermediate degree, and till date it is an appendage to me. During my one and half decades long teaching journey, I was an English teacher taught from primary level to Masters degree in the first half; in the second, I have taught various subjects of mass communication and journalism (MCJ) in different levels.

Several students ask me– what is the exact difference between teaching English and Journalism subjects? Obviously I have some peculiar experience even though journalism and English are complementary to each other because I strongly believe that 'a good language student is a half journalist, rest half is their skills of reporting and editing.' However, there is some unique difference; for instance, studying English literature is full of fantasy and imagination, a melancholy of the past heydays. Previously, I used to teach Shakespearean sonnets of 400 years before and make my everyday survival. Contrary to this, I need to know today's latest update with 5W1H while teaching journalism at present. Similarly, English literature has not been making most of the students as litterateurs but journalism makes most of you journalists fully or partially. This practicality is the most significant aspect of journalism subject I have found in my 15 years teaching experience.
MCJ is similar to any dimension of science, such as physics or chemistry, which needs practice, practice and practice; but the tragedy is that most of the academic institutions have misunderstood the practicality of this subject; teaching journalism in the same way as history, English literature or philosophy. There is no lab, no camera, no TV, no radio, no newspapers, no journal published, no practical classes, no guest teachers, no field visits, no library, no reference books, no computer with publishing and broadcasting software. Despite these dozens of 'no', we are teaching journalism as if teaching the swimming in the classroom. Consequently, our production is theoretically sound and practically zero and they become "broiler chicken" or what we call "the Russian doctors".
During my field visit in 2008 in Manglung of Terhathum district, I met a smart lady, who was the Station manager of a local radio. I asked her- for how long she had been working being in the post. She answered 'three month'. Again I inquired, 'How long have you been in journalism profession?' She replied, 'four months'. I was really surprised that one person has got the highest position in a media house within one month of her career owing to the lack of human resource and the demand of the market. This is just an example of abundant opportunities in this field.
According to the latest update, there are 2866 newspapers registered, 379 licenses issued for radios and 31 licenses issued for television till the date; similarly, 848 newspapers are regular, 231 radio stations are on air and more than a dozen of televisions have begun their everyday job. Just imagine, how many station managers, news editors, reporters, program presenters are required in this country. In addition, the government has provisioned an information officer mandatory to all government and public offices in order to implement Right to Information Act. This also consumes a large share of the pie of skilled media students. Besides, MCJ subjects are complementary to the fields of public relation, advertising, marketing, etc. There should not be any elements of worries since mass media and journalism is the most developed domain after the restoration of democracy in 1990, and educated journalists are gradually replacing the non-educated generation of this field. I can guarantee if one has the competence to address the market, the opportunities knock him/her in a wink.
There are several challenges in journalism studies; some of them are pointed below:
· Journalism education facilities are being swelled up in the Kathmandu valley mainly because TU does not allow journalism as the interdisciplinary subject to study in Bachelor and Masters Levels, and other Universities are expensive and metro-centric.
· Academically sound, experienced and skilled journalism teachers are not enough even in the Kathmandu valley; outside of it, their availability is very rare. The non-academic but experience-based teachers can't do adequate justice to the various dimensions of MCJ subject.
· The faculty of humanities and social sciences is on the verge to decline in the metros and their outskirts. This faculty is badly portrayed as the education for the low graders- 2nd and 3rd division holders. All the first division and distinction holders are encouraged, even forced, to read science and management streams. This decay of humanities faculty is also devouring the journalism subjects automatically.
· The colleges have taken journalism a classroom based, lecture dominant subject. They never bother about the laboratory and buy any equipment like camera, computer labs, media equipments, field study, practical classes, etc. There are very few colleges, which produce newsletters and journals or any media programs as the part of journalism teaching. This indifference towards the practicality of this subject propagates mere degree holders but production is blunt and unfittable to the media markets.
· The teaching faculties of MCJ subjects are outcast from other faculties since most of them are 'helmet' teachers, remunerated as per the class basis and engaged only for one or two periods. Neither motivation, nor job security.
Many senior journalists query me about the significance of education in their old age; some argue that know everything of journalism by practices and training opportunities. Always my answer to them is- education makes them younger than they are at present; they may have knowledge by practices but they are not well shaped; and they may be perfect in one or two aspects, but MCJ have dozens of dimensions. Since all experienced and non-experience journalists need the knowledge of media studies, the significance of the media studies is really escalating up. Some of the media practitioners overestimate themselves that they know more than they have to read in the colleges and University levels but they know one dimension of the total package, not all the aspects. Media studies required to practicing journalists more than anybody others because theoretical understanding helps to shape up your vision into the solid practicality of everyday works.
Unlike Shakespearean sonnets, journalism needs everyday update; by your accompaniment with new media like blogging, twittering, etc. you will be conquering the world being in one corner of it. So, do you have any more doubt on the significance of media studies? Obviously you don't.

[1] Bhanu Bhakta Acharya is the author of several books in journalism, affiliated to different colleges in teaching journalism and mass communication, and a freelance op-ed maker. He is involved in the Department of Mass Communication and Journalism, Purbanchal University.

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