So you want to be a journalist' It wasn't so long ago that announcing you intended to pursue a media career would raise eyebrows at home ' if not be enough to get your parents to down get on their knees and beg you to reconsider. 'What about your cousin' they'd say. 'He's doing brilliantly as an accountant and what a nice house he has.' Or, 'What about when you kept playing with that toy stethoscope you got when you were five. You kept saying you wanted to be a doctor. How could you have changed your mind so quickly'
But now the media is hot. Journalists are no longer impecunious ink-stained hacks. Instead, the women are glamorous and the men clean cut and wear suits. And most importantly, the paycheques are fatter, way fatter. Your parents have consoling visions of saying, 'Did you see my daughter on TV last night' Yes, that's her. She's a newscaster.' Or 'My son's hardly ever home, he's always travelling on some big story or the other.'
In the old days, job opportunities were limited to dear, but staid, Doordarshan and a clutch of print houses. But then with the advent of satellite television, the media scene took off. Cable television invaded our lives and small screen betis, bahus and newsreaders became household names.
Cut to the present and the media explosion has become bigger than ever. It's hardly surprising then that previously popular career options like medicine, engineering, banking and software are taking a back seat for many students while newer callings such as broadcast journalism, film-making, editing, script-writing and yes, even media analysis, are all the rage. An increasing number of students are looking to jump on to the media bandwagon.
Helping them along the way are the many media-related courses being offered by various institutions that have sprung up across the country. Be it diplomas in television journalism, degrees in mass media or even acting classes, youngsters are chomping at the bit to try their hands at professions that offer something different to the dull nine-to-five day.
In the days before media became the popular career choice it is now, the options for media-inclined youth were fairly limited. You either took yourself off to the admittedly prestigious Mass Communication and Research Centre (MCRC) at the Jamia Millia Islamia University in Delhi or the Film and Television Institute (FTII) in Pune. The Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), the National School of Drama (NSD) in Delhi and in later years, The Asian College of Journalism (ACJ) in Chennai, were the other options.
But now students are spoilt for choice. Reputed universities and colleges are offering short-term or university-approved media courses. Recently Mumbai University, which traditionally had shied away from such subjects, introduced a two-year post-graduate degree course in mass media. It now also recognises the three-year undergraduate degree course, Bachelor of Mass Media (BMM) offered by affiliated colleges. Likewise, Delhi University has also introduced a three-year BMM course. Calcutta too, has a host of new media centres such as the Chitrabani Institute, the Satyajit Ray Film Institute and those associated with St. Xavier's College and Jadavpur University.
And the demand for such courses is sky-rocketing with more and more youngsters looking to the media for an enriching career. But the question remains: are these courses really equipped to train aspiring media professionals and more importantly, do you really need one'
Journalist and head of department, media studies, Mumbai University, Sanjay Ranade says, 'The course designed by Mumbai University takes a broad perspective of the communication industry as a whole. We cover all aspects of journalism and media studies but yes, there are infrastructural bottlenecks: lack of cameras, studios, editing suites and more.' The post-graduate course designed by Mumbai University has a syllabus comprising 21 subjects with an emphasis on history, politics, psychology and other issues related to media.
If post-graduate degrees and diplomas in media studies now are aplenty, there are quite a few undergraduate ones available as well. With more and more universities recognising BMM as a legitimate graduation course, many colleges are offering it at the undergraduate level.
Following the Mumbai University's ruling, 23 city colleges have started offering the three-year-long undergraduate BMM course. The focus lies on practical aspects with students being expected to keep journals and submit projects. Media studies, ethics, sociology, psychology, politics, economics, advertising, marketing and administration also come under the broad gamut of the course.
Says Harsh Kalan, an MA student in mass media from Mumbai University, 'Although I eventually want to do broadcast journalism or voice-overs, this course is quite helpful as not only do we get sound technical knowledge but also because it introduces one to the communication industry as a whole.'
Agrees Sandeep Kalra, a second-year BMM student at National College, Mumbai, 'I'm determined to study international journalism in the US. But before I apply, I need to know more about it, which is why I opted for BMM. It's a great introductory course. However, the college's infrastructure isn't really up to the mark.'
Yet another youngster joining the ranks is Rishabh Chaurasia, an English journalism student at IIMC, Delhi. His stint at the institute though left him disheartened with the state of media studies in India. 'I've found the lack of infrastructure and quality faculty a serious hindrance. The overall experience is stimulating, but there's a lot left to be desired,' he says.
While Calcutta too, has witnessed a mushrooming of media courses, these are also plagued with similar infrastructural woes. Subjects like cinematography, photography and editing should be ideally backed up with practical training. But that remains a distant dream, at least for the present. Says Sudipto Shankar Roy, an MA student of film studies at Jadavpur University, 'The course I'm doing is chiefly theoretical. We're merely introduced to the principles of editing and cinematography. Interestingly, students aren't aware of the course's exact content and are under the illusion that they'll gain practical knowledge of direction and screenplay-writing through it.'
But infrastructural problems apart, media institutes continue to enjoy top draw. One of main reasons for this is the huge popularity of the electronic media. Channels are always on a lookout for new faces and confident speakers.
Says Professor Istikhar Ahmed, director, MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia University: 'Media training centres have sprung up everywhere and this has happened mainly due to the rapid proliferation of television channels in our country. But of these institutes, only a handful actually provide any valid training to students wishing to join broadcast journalism.' The institutes he recommends for those wishing to study broadcast journalism seriously are MCRC, FTII, ACJ and IIMC.
But all this doesn't answer the question of whether these courses really help or should you learn on the job if you can get someone to take you in at a junior level' After all, noted ad film-maker Prahlad Kakkar or Dr Prannoy Roy of NDTV and most of the current stalwarts of Indian media never got journalism degrees. They learned their craft on the job.
Says Ranade, 'I can't teach creativity or the understanding of news. These are inherent or acquired skills. All I can do is teach them the technical aspects, a few
pointers on creativity and most importantly, the requirement to think correctly.' However, says Istikhar Ahmed, 'I don't fully agree with the view that journalism can't be taught. There's a grammar, a technique that can be acquired. You can't teach creativity, of course, but you can polish it and groom it.'
Prominent journalist and political editor of NDTV 24X7, Rajdeep Sardesai never attended any journalism institute. He learnt at the 'school of hard knocks' ' on the job. 'I still believe journalism cannot be taught. But at the same time, if you look at television journalism today, it's more technical than ever before. Thus it doesn't harm to be familiar with the technical aspects of television reporting or deskwork. These skills are something that media courses do provide, which saves time in teaching newcomers the basics,' he says. 'Of course, I think the actual content has to be learnt on the job.'
But whatever the big guns may say, the fact remains that most media houses today prefer to recruit aspirants with some sort of degree. The trend is especially true for broadcast journalism, which helps management save time and technical help. But some still subscribe to the traditional process where the newcomer is expected to start at the bottom of the ladder and work his/her way up.
'I believe most journalism courses offered in the country aren't sufficiently comprehensive,' says a producer with a leading news channel. 'Most of the courses have syllabi that are over a decade old. Television is a dynamic medium and the training these institutes provide often becomes obsolete by the time students start working.'
Unnecessary and obsolete or useful and enlightening' Whatever your opinion on the media courses on offer throughout the country, there's no denying that right now media is one of the most sought-after disciplines. Eager students are queuing up at media schools, all hoping for a chance to be the next Barkha Dutt, Prahlad Kakkar or Karan Johar. As Sakshi Gill, a media student, puts it, 'I want to be just like Barkha Dutt. I've spent hours copying her style of reporting. I hope the course I'm taking opens doors for me.'
Like Sakshi, there are thousands more out there who dream of becoming media bigshots. While there are now plenty of schools to help them on their way, they may get disappointed when they realise that it's crowded at the top and not everyone gets to be a household name.
What’s on offer
Amity School of Journalism, Delhi
• Post-graduate diploma in journalism and communication — duration: 2 years;
eligibility: Bachelor’s degree in journalism; selection: on the basis of test, group
discussion and interview
• Bachelor of mass communication — eligibility: Bachelor’s degree in any discipline; selection: on the basis of test, group discussion and interview
• Programme in film studies — duration: 2 years; eligibility: graduation; selection: on the basis of test, group discussion and interview
Asian College Of Journalism, Bangalore
• Post-graduate course in journalism — duration: 2 years; eligibility: Bachelor’s degree in journalism; seats: 20; selection: on the basis of written tests
Film and Television Institute of India, Pune
• Post-graduate diploma in film direction — duration: 2 years; eligibility: university degree in any discipline and a diploma/degree or equivalent in any branch of cinema
• Diploma in motion picture photography — duration: 2 years; eligibility: university degree in any discipline with physics and chemistry at the 10 and +2 level or any diploma equivalent to graduation
• Diploma in sound recording and sound engineering — duration: 2 years; eligibility: Bachelor’s degree in science with physics or electronics
• Diploma in film editing — duration: 2 years; eligibility: graduation
• Diploma in production — duration: 2 years; eligibility: graduation
Diploma in scenic design — duration: 2 years; eligibility: university degree/diploma in painting, graphics, sculpture, applied art or degree /diploma in architecture
• Certificate course in acting — duration: six months; eligibility: university degree/ diploma in theatre arts with acting specialisation or equivalent
• Course for newsreaders in English — eligibility: graduation
• Basic course in film and television — duration: one year; selection: on the basis of written test
• Certificate course in film direction, cinematography, audiography and editing — duration: one year; eligibility: completion of basic course; selection: on the basis of test and interview
• Diploma in film direction, cinematography, audiography and editing — duration: 1 year; eligibility: completion of certificate course; selection: on the basis of test
Indian Institute Of Mass Communication, New Delhi
• Diploma in advertising — duration: 1-2 years; eligibility: graduation
• Post-graduate diploma in journalism — duration: 9 months; eligibility: graduation
• Post-graduate diploma in public relations and advertising — duration: 9 months; eligibility: graduation
• Post-graduate course in Hindi journalism — duration: one year; eligibility: graduation
• Post-graduate diploma in radio and TV journalism — duration: 2 years; eligibility: Bachelor’s degree; selection: on the basis of written test and interview
Jadavpur University, Calcutta
• Master’s degree in cinema studies — duration: 2 years; eligibility: graduation;
• BA in film studies — duration: 3 years; eligibility: 10 and +2/intermediate or equivalent
• BA (Hons) with film studies — eligibility: graduation
Jamia Millia Islamia university, New Delhi
• Diploma in commercial art and advertising — duration: 1 year; eligibility: graduation
• Post-graduate course in communication — duration: 2 years; eligibility: Bachelor’s degree