THE THUMB PRINT SERIES
India has witnessed a surge of media institutions all over the country in the past decade. The Thumb Print has launched a special series on media education in the country in order to understand its evolution and future.
USHA RAMAN is Professor, Department of Communication, University of Hyderabad. She speaks to TERESA REHMAN on how media studies has evolved in the country and how journalism as a field requires faculty who come with both an industry orientation and some level of academic understanding
What kind of changes do you think can be incorporated in media education in the country?
For one, there needs to be more flexibility for programs that are in UGC-recognized institutions, because journalism as a field requires faculty who come with both an industry orientation and some level of academic understanding, rather than the strict adherence to the usual PhD requirement. We need more dialogue between industry and academia to arrive at an optimal balance of skills and theory. Programs need more focus on basic skills of storytelling and language, along with solid grounding in civic issues, political, social and economic histories of the region the course is catering to.
Do you think the curriculum of media education needs to be tailored according to the social milieu of every region?
Yes, but not exclusively so. The curriculum should be sensitive to the background of the students and give them enough to be able to understand the region but also give them the tools to be able to work anywhere in the country.
What are the unique characterestics of media education in your institution?
A strong focus on media critique and reflexivity, along with a social science element, with courses on history and theory along with skills. Since we are a university, students also have access to courses in other departments, which broadens their vision.
What do you think are the expectations of students from the media courses being offered in the institutions around the country?
Basically, they want to be job-ready, and because of this they tend to expect that they will be trained in technique–and so are impatient with theory, not realising that this will help in the long run.
Do you think issues like conflict journalism should be incorporated in the curriculum in the conflict-torn regions of the country?
What do you think are the features of a good media institution?
Critical thinking, independent judgment, flexibility to adapt to the needs of a changing society, responsibility to the community it serves (not business), and the ability to challenge institutions.
What is your opinion about the future of media research in India?
I think we have a very bright future, with more and more students coming out of colleges with an interest in media critique and the desire to do good work. We do need more opportunities for funding and collaboration, though.
How can media students be trained to deal with the menace of fake news?
They should be trained to have critical skills and contextual knowledge to discern the truth as well as the ability to do the work required to verify.