I was quite surprised the other day to receive a call from Dr. Sundari, head of the PR Department at Stella Maris. She wanted me to take a couple of classes on journalism for M.A. students of the PR course. I gladly agreed.
Occasionally, I’ve been taking journalism classes – reporting, editing and writing – for several years now, having started with the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Mylapore, the institution from where I completed my journalism course years ago. Even so, stepping into an all-girls college, into an all-girls classroom did give me a few initial nervous moments. However, all the nervousness vanished after I was introduced to the class first by Dr. Sundari and then by a student.
It is always good to see bright young faces and I noticed quite a few among the 15-odd students who listened to me attentively. Although news, newsrooms and newspaper organisations all over the world have changed dramatically the past few years and are continuing to change, what with the advent of citizen journalists and bloggers, the fundamentals remain the same.
Citizen journalists and bloggers have a place but so do sub-editors and reporters. Newsrooms and editors now have to grapple with several challenges, one of which is checking the authenticity of citizen journalism stories that come in by the hundreds. Another challenge is to get middle-level and senior editors in the print media to accept change and adapt quickly. The third is to keep pace with technology – it is not just the Internet today, but Web 2.0, RSS, broadband formats, printed electronics, the semantic web, and what have you.
I managed to take the students across a broad sweep of history – the past and present. Above all, I told them that if they wish to succeed and rise above the ordinary, they must have honesty, commitment, dedication and a passion for what they are doing. I hope that the girls will remember the finer points rather than the niceties of theory. One girl stood up to say that they had learnt a lot from my sessions over two days. I am sure she meant what she said and hope that some of that learning is not about journalism but about human values.