In a nation where more than half the population is below 25 years of age, professional education has boomed in the last couple of decades—to make the most of the so-called “demographic dividend”.
Journalism education—in particular—has seen gravity and logic-defying growth.
As liberalisation freed up the air waves and wallets, and TV channels made a hack’s life glamourous, hundreds of journalism schools and colleges with varying claims of quality opened shop to produce industry-ready talent.
And the rise of internet-based journalism gave specialised training a further boost.
But like with nearly everything it has encountered, the COVID pandemic has thrown a big question mark over the future of journalism education.
# Where will the thousands of graduates and diploma holders be accommodated if established journalists themselves are being thrown out of their jobs?
# Do the faculty of our journalism schools, especially in the small towns and languages, have the resources to train students for a new kind of journalism?
In this episode of J-POD, Prof Kanchan Kaur, dean, Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media (IIJNM), Bangalore, and Prof Anand Pradhan, professor Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), Delhi, discuss what is in store for journalism education.
Prof Kaur is a former journalist at the Indian Express, Deccan Herald and Gulf News. She is also an India assessor for IFCN, the international fact-checking network.
Formerly with All India Radio, Dr. Pradhan is a noted columnist and also the editor of IIMC’s peer-reviewed Hindi journal “Sanchar Madhyam”.
4.00: Prof Kanchan Kaur: “Young people with skills that can be used to reach out to everybody, will continue to remain in demand. Because they will bring in new perspectives, new ideas of communicating information, new ways of doing old things, new ways of looking at journalism that will help media houses recuperate from the terrible times we are going through.
7.00: Prof Anand Pradhan: “At the precise time when there is a crying need for credible information, our newsrooms are shrinking, people are losing jobs, editions are being shut, small and medium newspapers which represent diversity in the new landscape are facing a huge crisis. Where will our students go? Where can they go to do “real journalism”?
11.00: Anand Pradhan: “Journalism is not the first preference for good students because of lack of job satisfaction and low remuneration especially in language media.
12.00: Kanchan Kaur: “Too early to say if journalism teachers have lost jobs or journalism institutions have shut because COVID has come in between academic years.
“Every year between 20,000 to 30,000 journalism students pass out. Where are the jobs? Are they going into hard-core journalism? Or are they going into marketing, communications, advertising, public relations?
14.00: Anand Pradhan: “Some private institutions are trying to talk up the market. One of them asked me to suggest that there are great job opportunities in journalism, because this year they have a big fear that they may not attract interest as before because of all the gloom and doom around.
“It’s going to be a tough for those who did not invest in journalism education, either at the level of faculty or resources, and in the next couple of years we will hear of closure of colleges just like B-schools.
19.00: Anand Pradhan: “Established journalism faculty especially in public institutions are going to find it difficult to instantly migrate to online, remote or blended teaching. Journalism teachers will need to be retrained; courses will have to be redesigned.
“The value of on-campus mentoring, day-to-day discussions, group peer learning will be lost if we have to go fully online. Students from villages and small towns who have no computers, smartphones, even email accounts, will face the disadvantage of the digital divide.
25.00: Kanchan Kaur: “Not everybody has access to broadband, 3G or 4G. Students in and from rural areas will be handicapped.
27.00: Anand Pradhan: “Just like journalism itself, journalism education is going through a massive transition phase. Not all of the old, institutionalised, big media journalism of the past is going to survive. There will be greater consolidation with mergers. The smaller players will find it difficult to survive.
“You will see the rise of one-man armies. Journalism schools should also encourage students to think like entrepreneurs by launching websites, community newspaper or radio stations, or podcasts. They should not just supply staff to big organisations.
32.00: Anand Pradhan: “Profit-first media houses, and vested interests like chit fund operators and builders did not come into media to encourage hard-core journalism. They turned journalists into power brokers, black mailers. Corporatisation that was supposed to liberate journalism, has shackled it.
36.00: Kanchan Kaur: “Journalism is a reflection of what our society is. We have not been doing as much critical thinking as a society in the last few years. Ditto journalists, we have not been asking questions, not speaking truth to power. It is the duty of educators to reinforce what journalism should be.
40.00: Anand Pradhan: “Earlier individual journalists were power brokers. Now it is institutionalised from top to bottom. It has become acceptable that only someone who is close to the power centre can become an editor or bureau chief. These days ministers get people of their choice appointed.
43.00: Anand Pradhan: “When our students join media houses, they are told what whatever they have learnt or been taught, they will have to relearn. There is abuse in newsrooms, harassment, stress, anxiety, hypertension, diabetes. These are not the right conditions to attract good and quality talent.
46.00: Kanchan Kaur: “The engaging work being done by journalists across the world will inspire young people to study journalism.
47.00: Anand Pradhan: ”Journalism still attracts idealist students from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh. They still believe in its power to change. There is also glamour associated with the profession.
50.00: Kanchan Kaur: “Disilussioned students have gone away from big media houses and look for smaller organisations that will take their stories, that are driven around ethics and values. Technology also creates space for them to do what is meaningful.
52.00: Anand Pradhan: “Barring exceptions, I don’t see any hope in big media houses. They have a structural problem. They are trapped. It is very difficult to come out of it. Journalism will survive in smaller, decentralised groups.
56.00: Kanchan Kaur: “Journalism education in smaller towns will thrive if they are innovative enough. You don’t need deep pockets to do journalism any longer. Everybody has a smart phone, access to internet.
57.00: Anand Pradhan: “One of our students from a marginalised group started a channel called National Dastak. He has four million subscribers.
59.00: Advice to teachers: Keep your feet on the ground, have your head on your shoulders. Read more, learn more, research more.
62.00: Advice to students: Read more, particularly books on humanities, social sciences, research. Develop a broader understanding of history, politics, Constitution, economy. Imbibe critical learning. Be curious. Ask questions.
64.00: Advice to media houses: Build trust and credibility in your organisation. Expand the knowledge base. Make space for expertise and niche information.