Sunday, June 05, 2011

Media Education
The best institutes, and how to choose the right programme for you

MEDIA education in India has witnessed a dramatic change over the last decade, in line with the phenomenal growth of the media industry. The new, fiercely competitive media scene demands well trained, professional journalists who are ready on Day 1.

That's why media education is no longer confined to university campuses, but is being offered by scores of private journalism colleges, some of which have been set up by big media houses themselves.There is a growing consensus that media education needs reinvention if it is to meet the demands of the rapidly transforming media scene in India.

Hence, another radical change has been witnessed in course content and teaching methods, which are no longer focused on theory. Instead, skill-based courses are the mantra in private journalism colleges, which is the point of departure from traditional media courses taught in staterun universities.

However, the profusion of private media colleges, some of which are no more than teaching shops, is a major concern. In the absence of an apex body to regulate, or grant recognition tothe mushrooming media colleges, there is no clarity or oversight on curriculum development, course duration, faculty composition, and so on. It's all very confusing for wannabe journalists.Several colleges, in an attempt to attract students, promise assured placements. This, understandably, makes an irresistible temptation. But should a student select a course or a college on this premise alone? What about core education? What about practical skills? To get the answers to these questions, aspiring journalists need to understand how media education is structured in India today.

Many kinds of media collegesEssentially, there are four categories of institutions that provide media education in India, ranging from universities offering graduate degrees to private colleges offering short-term diploma courses.

1. State-run universities The universities remain the main providers of media education, though their dominance is on the wane. Their big drawback is that their courses focus heavily on theory. Students spend between two to three years oncampus, but finish their degree without learning basic journalism skills. Then again, the big advantage of university courses is that they do lead to a degree, without which it's harder to get a job or aspire for higher education.

Other disadvantages with universities are that they lack resources and offer outdated syllabi, taught by a faculty with little or no exposure to the industry, and who have little say in redefining the course to make it relevant to today's needs.This is not to say that students learn nothing on campus. They do get a good grounding in communication theories, media research, media laws, media ethics, and media history, which is invaluable for students aspiring to become media scholars, researchers and media academics. But for students who want to become journalists, this education is incomplete.

The biggest gap is in learning practical skills - a must to join a news organisation. It is frustrating for students, who find that their education gives them only a notional edge over liberal arts, or even science graduates. Editors realise this too. They know that media students from universities have to be taught basic writing and editing skills. Nevertheless, they open their portals to both journalism and non-journalism graduates.The importance of practical skills is best highlighted by a look at the media courses provided at the AJK Mass Communication Research Centre (MCRC) of Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi, which was set up in 1982 in collaboration with York University, Toronto and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA ).

MCRC's biggest advantages are its sophisticated media equipment, from editing suites to cameras, that was a gift from CIDA and a course structure that was conceptualised by the reputed documentary filmmaker, Professor James Beveridge. This has made Jamiafs media courses, especially electronic media courses, the most sought-after in India.Much was expected from the Makhanlal Chaturvedi National University of Journalism and Communication, Bhopal, which was set up in 1991. To this day, it remains the only university focused on journalism in India . but, it is yet to catch the imagination of budding journalists.

2. Deemed Universities: A more recent development has been the emergence of journalism courses set up by Deemed Universities. These courses are better focused and more in tune with industry needs, largely because the deemed universities are cash-rich, market-oriented and ready to invest in infrastructure.

A good example is the programmes offered by the Manipal Institute of Communication at Manipal University. It has a programme that stresses on both theory and practical skills, and has well equipped audio, video and computer labs. The faculty too boasts of a mix of media academics and ex-journalists. This balances education with training.The flip side of opting for media courses run by deemed universities is the fee structure, which is several times higher than what the state-run universities charge.
3. Private journalism colleges: Till the late nineties, the biggest private player in media education was Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. Its certificate and diploma courses were quite popular among students who wanted to take up journalism as a career. Of the scores of private journalism colleges in existence today, most came up in the last decade. The most successful and respected among them is Bengalurufs Asian College of Journalism, set up by the BD Goenka Foundation in 1994, and now run by the Media Development Foundation in Chennai

Foreign Media Schools
UG, PG and RD in Communications.
UG, PG and RD
UG and PG
PG in Print, Broadcast, Online Journalism
UG, PG and RD in journalism and MC
UG and PG in 11 areas media ethics
UG in Advertising, PG in Journalism
UG and PG; Specialisation in Business Journalism
UG, G and RD in journalism and MC
UG in News and Information
UG Advertising, Journalism, Telecommunications
UG and PG in Communication Science & Rhetorical Studies
UG and PG in Communications
UG in Media, Creative, PG in Advertising
UG and PG in Advertising, Journalism
UG in Media Arts & Technology
UG in 7 areas. PG in Journalism & Mass Communication

In these colleges, the focus is on practical skills. The students are first taught the craft of journalism, and then given the opportunity to put their learning into practice by working on lab newspapers, and producing audio/video bulletins. Journalists, who form the core faculty, supervise the learning process. This ensures that the students actually know how to write a news report or edit a story when they are in a real newsroom. The course duration varies from nine to 11 months, and the students are usually awarded post graduate diplomas. These diplomas are not recognised by universities, and canft be used to pursue higher studies.

In fact, university teachers look down upon such colleges. Their grouse is that these colleges ignore media and communication theory, lack academic rigour and at best can be described as training schools.The media industry, however, places value in some of these colleges, especially those colleges that impart quality training. Senior editors visit these colleges and handpick students. It saves their companies the investment and time that would have been spent in training raw journalism recruits. Unfortunately, not all private collegesdeliver quality education, so students must make their pick with great care.
iv. Institutes set up by media houses Today, several media houses have set uptheir own journalism schools, to counterthe dissatisfaction with media educationbeing provided by universities. The Times of India Group was the first mediahouse to set up such a school, followed by The Indian Express. Later, Eenadu in Hyderabad, Malayala Manorama in Kottayam,The India Today Group, DainikJagran and The Pioneer in Delhi set up schools as well.These schools, like private journalism colleges, focus on skill-based training. They boast good infrastructure and their faculty is largely drawn from the industry. The student therefore stands to learn a lot more inthese schools. However, the postgraduate diplomas awarded by these schools too have little worth outside the industry.
How to choose the right programme for you
Media academics estimate that the number of universities and deemed universities that offer journalism courses in India number around 200. In addition to these,between 400 and 500 colleges affiliated to different universities offer some formof media or communications degree. The number of private training institutes that offer certificate, diploma or postgraduate diploma courses in media and communications ranges from 1,000 to 1,500.A student, therefore, has many options,which makes it a challenge to identify theright college from among so many.
Fees (approximate)
FTII, Pune
Direction, Acting
Rs 27,500 
Rs 52,650
MICA, Ahmedabad
Creative; Retail Communication
Rs 2,50,000
 Rs. 2,00,000 to Rs. 275000
JMI, New Delhi
Mass Communication
Rs 91,000 (MC)
IIMC, New Delhi
Rs. 28,000 to Rs. 63000
XIC, Mumbai
Journalism & MC, PR, CC
Rs 110000
SIMC, Pune
UG in Media Studies, PG in MC
Rs 1,00,000 to Rs 2,00,000 
IIJNM, Bangalore
Print/Web/Broadcast Journalism
Rs. 2,10,000
MSC, Kottayam
Rs. 75,000

Three types of programmes

1. Undergraduate courses At this stage, the student effectively has only two choices. After 10+2, a student can opt to pursue a BA degree in Journalism or Communications from a university. These courses are built around media and communication studies, and form a good foundation for future growth. Students planning to pursue a career in media research or media teaching should select a state-run university.The second option is to choose journalism as one of the subjects at the undergraduate level. Obviously, the exposure to journalism is less, but it still gives the student some understanding of media.

2. Postgraduate degrees A Deemed University is a better choice for studentswho want to learn practical skills.

3. Postgraduate diploma courses Each college, especially those in the private sector, market themselves aggressively,and making a choice is not easy. Study the website and brochure of these colleges carefully.

Top factors to consider when choosing a programme

1. Faculty A good faculty is the heart ofany programme. In the case of a mediaschool, a majority of the faculty members should have worked in well-known newspapers or television channels, ideally at a senior level, before moving to teaching.Join only colleges whose teachers have a journalism background.

2. Practical work Go through thecourse content and find out how much time is allotted to practical work. Check if the course requires students to produce a lab newspaper, and its frequency. The minimum frequency for a lab journal ina good training programme should beat least twice a week. Those studying television should check if putting together news telecasts is part of their course work. The frequency of these telecasts should be at least once a week, if not more.

The new media students should check if the college has a website thatis run by students. Don't join a college that does not offer these facilities. It is essential that the learning happens inan environment that stimulates real-lifesituations in a newsroom. New media, broadly speaking, encompasses all those channels of communication which have been digitised and are interactive, with the increased use of internet and a deeper integration of audio, video, text and pictures on one platform.

3. Faculty-student ratio The best colleges boast of a teacher-student ratio of 1:20, or less. Anything over 20 students places a great strain on the teacher, particularly when it comes to interacting with students on a one-to-one basis. Nor will the teacher have adequate time to check assignments thoroughly. As a rule,avoid colleges where the teacher-student ratio is over 1:25.

4. Guest faculty A journalist needs to be well-informed, and a good way to improve the general awareness of students is to supplement practical training with lectures delivered by subject specialists.This has two more advantages.

One, students learn to ask questions and two,they build useful contacts. Go through the Guest Faculty list and decide if the college invites speakers who can help you become better journalists.

5. Equipment Check the equipment that the college owns. Good colleges ensure there is at least one computer for every two students, and a sufficient number of digital cameras, audio recorders and handycams to enable students to write, shoot and edit stories.

6. Placement No journalism college can guarantee jobs. You should be suspicious of colleges that boast of providing jobs to all students, and trust those which promise to do their best to place you. Go through the list of companies where students have been placed. More important, ask for a year-wise list of placements. This will give you a reasonable idea of how the industry rates the college. The better colleges are those where companies return regularly to pick up students.

7. Interaction with past alumni Ask the college to provide names and email addresses of past alumni. Write to them to find out what kind of learning experience they had.

8. Internships There was a time when an internship with a media company was considered an important part of journalism programmes. This was especially true of media courses run by universities. Professors considered it an important practical component in the learning process.The students were expected to complement their theoretical learning by spending four to eight weeks in newspapers, TV channels, advertising agencies or PR firms. In practice, the students learnt little because they had been sent unprepared for newsroom work. Their knowledge was theoretical, and it was not fair to expectthe journalists to train them in practical skills. Most students simply hung around newsrooms, doing very little.

There is now a debate on the utility ofinternships. The question being asked is:what is the point of allocating a fair portionof the course for internships, where the students may not learn or do anything? Would nft it be better to use that time to teach practical skills to students in the classroom itself? So, in choosing your college, do not place much weightage on the internships they offer. On the contrary, avoid colleges that lay greater stress on internships than on practical classroom training.

Tips for aspiring journalistsAsk yourself if you possess the skills and qualities needed to become a journalist.  Consider these points carefully before you take the plunge:

1. Command over language You have to be a wordsmith, if you want to be respected. There is no place in news papers and magazines for individuals whose grammar is awful and who can't spell correctly. Don't mislead yourself into believing that your language will improve once you start working. You will only end up getting frustrated.

2. General awareness You don't haveto be a walking encyclopedia to become a good journalist, but you should be reasonably well informed on subjects ranging from politics to sports to society and economy. This can only happen if you enjoy reading newspapers, magazines and books. Today, you can add browsing websites and watching knowledge programmeson channels like Discovery and National Geographic to your list.

3. Curiosity You must always be drivenby a desire to know more. Those who areeasily satisfied with what they see andread can never become good journalists.You must have a fierce hunger for information.

4. Enjoy interacting with people Journalists,especially reporters, must enjoy meeting people. They should not waitto be invited but should create openings.They should also be willing to take insults and get snubbed in the process,but that should not deter them from their quest for information. Those who enjoy the peace and quiet of their cabins should never venture out to become reporters.They can, of course, become good copyeditors. This is another side of journalism. Copy editors don't go out to collect information instead, they transform rawinformation into a compelling copy, and put together the day's newspaper or newsbulletin. But even they have to be good team members, if they have to be valued.

5. Working hours You should be willing to work for long hours, and at odd hours,as a matter of routine. Most important. you should be mentally prepared to work through the night at least ten days in a month. You can be sure that irregular hours will disrupt your biorhythm, eating routine and social life. There will be days when you will be frustrated having to work at two in the morning when the world around you is asleep.

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