To create a reasonable space with contemporary curricular focus, balanced training options and integrated counselling structures is the need of the hour.
During the last decade or so, a paradigm shift has been witnessed in the field of media and journalism and most of it depends on the professional input from media schools. The expansion of media industry and the proliferation of such institutions in both public and private sector, has been somewhat proportional. Even in J&K, at least, four universities and higher educational institutions offer journalism and mass communication at master’s level while half a dozen colleges are offering bachelors.
Notwithstanding this expansion, the critical point is that, in Kashmir, we have mostly had journalism sector as the main player within the media landscape and these J-Schools have significantly produced reporters and communicators who handle the news and other operations in the field and continue to do so, parenthetically.
What remains challenging is where we are headed for as in media education apropos of allied (not-so-thriving) media, minimal career prospects, questionable sustainability of local media set-up in terms of economics or simply its overall ecology. Even for gaining practical and hands-on training while studying, a concrete and supportive ecosystem is absent here, which is otherwise an edge for any youngster from any J-School from Delhi or for that matter, any other city. The difference in the media-system is of crucial significance while one is inside the field and also while one is preparing for it. One can say that even if journalism and news media school spectrum provided for the training of native journalists and editors contributed immensely towards the creation of this human resource pool of indigenous professionals who could advocate beyond polarised and frozen issues, the future inclination among the young trainees seems less inspired. Consequentially, the profession of journalism may not seem as lucrative as it was appearing till some years back.
An interesting dimension of issues within this news industry entails fragile media economies, saturated mainstream news media space, less exposed freelance opportunities, lack of independent media clubbed with an almost always kind of a phenomenon— that of low and uncertain wages.
They say passion is the difference between having a job or having a career and many are indeed passionate about this field, but these layered concerns have of late been a reason for an upsurge in disinterest among the rookies and even seniors, who eventually look for better opportunities. Lesser number of journalism and mass communication degree holders are now opting for active reporting every year and there is a sudden but expected drift towards other fields of mass communication like PR, documentary making, photography and films, which again are toddling. So the core issues concerning lack of media industry, sustainable revenue options, internship and training opportunities will mostly remain the same.
Although, in the mainland India, one has been witnessing a supportive and coherent political economy of the mainstream media as a consequence of concentration in media ownership in India which led to conglomeration or Murdochization of news, that did not quite translate into plurality, as a result, at different levels. Much is being said, or written about the supposedly idealised egalitarian manifestation of this agent of surveillance and ‘messiah’ of communication, but we see less of it as a truth-teller, sense-maker or watchdog. Whether we talk about plurality in terms of representation in the newsroom, or that of voices, or even of issues and content, the true essence of the growth does not reflect participation and inclusivity as one would have liked.
A case of neo-imperialism and content colonisation of the sorts has taken place which has incapacitated the profession of journalism shredding off the traditional ethics. This, in fact, is the era of post-truth. The rampant existence of fake news and disinformation even doesn’t hide during a pandemic and one could see how effectively social profiling, misinformation and factually incorrect reports and images were circulated as goes the globally reincarnated consciousness about the trend for fact-checking. This massive infodemic, even during the times of no-pandemic, if not controlled, could take a serious toll on multiple fronts. In this regard also, media education framework along with inputs from global regulatory and even international agencies like UNESCO underscores media literacy as the order of the day. The onus now shifts back to the stakeholders in this arena, which includes the good old educator, the editors, the regulators and above all the budding journalists who in the middle of a popularly media-literate world with citizen social media journalists all around have to bring back the sanity to this field and instil a sense of faith in the nice principles of journalism. A collaborative investment in the pedagogical reforms, and academic and intellectual infrastructure with a knack for socially relevant storytelling will do its bit for sure. At least one can keep trying till one finds a way to create a reasonable space with a contemporary curricular focus, balanced training options, integrated counselling structures for the upcoming media-persons.
Monisa Qadiri teaches Journalism and Mass communication at IUST Awantipora and has been University’s first Media Advisor to VC.