Friday, March 30, 2012

With journalism students at Anna University...


Work and blogging somehow don’t really go together, or do they? I’ve been in and out of town, and then trying to keep pace with the deadlines for the journals I edit, deadlines that keep popping up all the time. Sometimes I wish it was just one paper or magazine that I was editing; putting to bed three can be quite a handful.

Anyway, today I finally decided to take break. And what better than addressing a group of journalism students at the Anna University's Department of Media Sciences. There were of course a few who seemed brighter and more passionate that the rest You find them in any crowd), but in the end the ones who were apparently sleeping when I spoke came up with some pertinent questions. One was about the possibility of starting community newspapers, the other about whether increasing the price of newspapers would ensure a better product from the publisher’s side. After all, newspapers in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, said one student, cost much more than they do in India.

I was reminded of what Ravindra Kumar, editor and managing director of The Statesman told a similar audience in Kolkata a few months ago. Kumar drew a comparison between the evolution of cost, of consumer products and the newspaper. A tube of Colgate toothpaste, for example, cost 12 annas once; today, the same tube costs Rs 25. Cinema ticket prices have soared more than hundred-fold over the years – from Rs 3.50 to anything between Rs 350 and Rs 500. All this, while the newspaper still sells at Rs 2.50 paise or thereabouts. Why is the cost important? “Even to this day, it is the print media which has the maximum number of professional journalists out in the field. Whether in Raipur or Dantewada or Chhattisgarh, the majority of news stories are still broken by print and if they are important they are picked up by television and then they reach a national audience... By effectively trying to analyse its (story’s) implications, print comes back into the story,” he explained.
And then he added: “There is a huge cost involved in collecting information. We try to give you a reasonable approximation of news as we can… and an honest a set of opinions as we can. This must be the challenge before any form of media. Honest news, or objective views, go for it… it doesn’t really matter whether it’s Facebook or Twitter. If the media of your choice gives you all this, there will be a cost involved. And if you want it, you will have to pay for it.”
As I mentioned to the students today, media is at the crossroads – with print under heavy pressure from digital, the like of which has never been experienced before. It is certainly an interesting time to be in journalism, a challenging time if ever there was one. For one, you have to be the Jack of all trades and master of most, a multitask performer, and for another, you have to keep in mind the fundamental principles of journalism that will always remain.

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