It took a long time for journalism to enter into the portals of the university. Journalists have been described as ‘scatter-brained’ and ‘muck rakers’ by western scholars and in the late nineteenth century, only one or two American universities had agreed to allow journalism to be studied as a separate discipline.
In India, the University Grants Commission introduced a ‘model syllabus’ for journalism as late as 1990, when they thought the subject had progressed from simply “crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s”.
Things have changed. Today, most of the 700 universities in India have courses in Journalism and Communication. Gen XYZ even leave mid-way engineering and medical courses – which their parents might wish them to pursue as better careers - and study journalism. According to the FICCI-KPMG 2017 report, the overall size of the Indian media & entertainment industry in 2017 stands at ` 1261 billion. In 2021, the projection is ` 2400 billion. In spite of constraints (that’s there in other industries as well), there are enough jobs for skilled people in the media.
Unfortunately, media educators have failed to assert themselves and transform it into a mainstream subject. For example, management students study a subject called ‘business communication’. In most courses, it is confined merely to learn how to write a sales/marketing letter or an office memo. Elsewhere, the subject is described as ‘business discourse’ and is accepted as being ‘multidisciplinary multimethod’ in nature. Communication today is accepted as a part of the power-game in business. Much of the business ‘negotiations’ depend on communication skills. Research has shown global trade negotiations are lost because of language and cultural deficiencies. Critical thinking, analysing, synthesizing information - which come from the rigours of media studies - are essential for success in business. No wonder, there are people who strongly believe that ‘communication is business’.
We learn to speak our mother tongue naturally - without much effort. But to learn to express oneself
logically – even in one’s mother tongue – needs effort, needs skill. Sometimes, people tend to think that media is everybody’s business. But to express simply, a difficult subject, is not that simple.
Clarity and simplicity comes with effort and that is what journalism teaches.
An advertising caption has to match the image to draw one’s attention; a streaming video has to tell a logical story. The huge amount of information in today’s social media contains a lot of fakery and triviality; but media efforts are being taken (for example by Facebook and Google themselves) to help people become more aware and be able to discriminate. To learn to discriminate between fake news and real news - between propaganda and fact - is an educative element which can emerge from the media for the benefit of society itself.
Media is essentially a tool - and its worth depends on how we use it. Mishandling it can turn it into a Frankenstein’s monster as politicians, businessmen, and journalists them- selves have done it in recent times. But it has not run out of its utility yet. It’s the melting pot for several disciplines; and if used properly, it can teach one to imagine, to reason and sieve fact from fiction.