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Journalism students in India face choice, pressure

Written by pat_perkel

By Mahendra Ved

Being three days on the selection panel for Journalism in English language formed by the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) this year gave me some new insights into the minds of the youth aspiring to study and join the media. 

I call them ‘new’ because I returned to the panel after five years. Now, the aspirants are more confident, but also more under pressure to choose a career than before.

Coming from smaller towns and even villages, they are part of a huge movement that is urbanizing and educating India.

An overwhelming majority spoke better English than the aspirants I had interviewed in 2007. This is also complemented by their varied interests. 

To the question “why do you want to be a journalist,” a ‘smart’ reply earlier was “I want to be like…”, naming a TV celebrity.   It is no longer so. 

Writing on politics and on economic and business were the dominant choices earlier. Today, while they remain, it is sports, social issues, development, environment, lifestyle, entertainment, cinema and TV.

Some aspirants want to write on defence and national security issues. Some are only interested in online media.

Applicants included engineering graduates, Masters – especially in English literature – and post-graduates in disciplines ranging from political science to sociology. 

Aspirants included those from tribal areas of Northeastern India. The IIMC has a quota reserved for those belonging to the Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Other Backward Classes (OBC) as per the country’s Constitution and the rules framed by the government.

To reach out a vast territory, new centres have been opened. IIMC has six centres –Delhi, Dhenkana l(Odisha), Amravati (Maharsshtra), Kottayam (Kerala), Jammu  (Jammu and Kashmir) and Aizwal (Mizoram). 

Some 4,500 aspirants from across India applied for courses in journalism in English and Hindi and in TV and advertising. The number was less compared to the last year, apparently because of greater choice available to aspirants in an estimated 500 media training institutions.

Many media organizations have opened training wings, but unfortunately, many of them do not absorb the students they train. This leaves a large number of the young to fend for themselves. Many of them go into PR, events management, join NGOs, or pursue callings unrelated to media. 

IIMC, an autonomous body under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, has been in operation since 1965 and is one of India’s premier institutes for training, teaching and research in mass communication. It was set up on the recommendation of a team of internationally known mass communication specialists from UNESCO and the Ford Foundation, and has been India’s premier institution for media studies.  

Mass communications and journalism colleges and institutes, advertising, modeling, film and tv, event management, acting, editing and scriptwriting courses and institutes, careers in film and TV, film making courses, institutes and colleges abound in Delhi, Bangalore, Pune, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Noida, Ahmedabad.

This is how Chilli Breeze web site introduces the media studies scene in India:

“In the late 1960s, when Vinay Som took up a job at the Ananda Bazar Patrika, his longtime fiancé Radhika refused to marry him. The reason she gave was: “My father will never agree to this match as he believes that those who have nothing else in life to do become writers or journalists!”

“Year 2004: Shravani Mishra, an MBA from IIM Ahmedabad plans to take up writing has her full time career as “With the phenomenal growth in media it’s the most happening career right now!!”

“The rapid expansion of media in the last two decades has not only changed the perception of the people towards journalism as a career but has also increased the demand for competent media persons, well versed in latest communication technologies. This in turn has given rise to several schools for wannabe journalists across the country. Some might believe that the power of pen is something inherent that cannot be taught but has to be developed with years of continuous and meticulous practice. Yet this new age Journalism Schools [popularly known as J Schools] promise to teach the “craft of journalism” with a span of 10 months to two years.

“However, the J school aspirants are facing a problem quite similar to the one B school aspirants faced back in the early nineties: How to select a quality institution? Moreover unlike B Schools, there is no official survey done on J Schools that would make it easy for an aspirant to choose his or her college. Nonetheless certain factors could help one to make his/her choice.

“The first thing that a student should consider is placement. High placement figures substantiate the fact that the training imparted at the College is held in high esteem in the industry. In this respect, colleges that have been around for sometime like the IIMC, Asian College of Journalism, Jamia Milia Islamia, and Symbiosis do have an edge over the others.

“Infrastructure or facilities is the second factor to take into consideration. One should definitely check out if the institute has a proper computer lab with facilities for photography, video editing and producing lab journals. The other factors that should guide one in deciding his/her college are faculty, class strength, tie up with other media houses and practical exposure given during the course.

“Although journalism is basically a craft, there is an academic side to it. Journalistic skills can be learned on the job. But, an academic foundation may never be acquired at a later stage. A journalism student should do a lot.”

Delhi, July 1, 2012. 



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