Ranjona Banerji: Faulty faculty at journalism schools

27 Feb,2015

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Discussions about the future of journalism and journalism trends in India tend to get terribly depressing, especially if the discussion is amongst journalists over the age of 40. A friend who has started guest lectures at a well-known journalism school is appalled at the quality of both students and faculty. One uses the word faculty cautiously here. All too often, people with minimum or no experience are made heads of departments and what they teach is open to speculation. As for the students, they are caught up with the glamour of TV and dream every night of their families watching them interview Ranbir Kapoor and Narendra Modi every single day.

 

But one cannot blame the students. It is not their fault that teaching in schools is pathetic – at least judging from the entrance tests that I have conducted over the years where both general knowledge and language skills have been dismal. It is not their fault that the way they understand journalism is from TV. The young do not read newspapers and when and if they do, it’s usually that glamour stuff. And in today’s India, the glamour stuff is not journalism but paid content cooked up by PR and marketing people.

 

Is it surprising that a growing number of young journalists who cut their eyeteeth in the “glamour” beats switch to PR? They know that that is where the real power is when it comes to film stars and movies.

 

But there’s another conundrum at work here, brought up by a conversation with another old friend: older journalists who turn to general PR and then become experts on how journalists should behave. Unlike the young people, this lot is excessively annoying. In many cases, you know just how good or bad they were in their former profession and how badly placed they are to be “experts” in anything at all. And yet they hold forth on how journalists should behave.

 

Unfortunately, as with any profession, the more you stay away the less connected you become. But journalism being what it is, the pull remains and this causes a sort of bitterness and resentment at what you have given up. And, let’s be honest, the power you’ve lost. It is this bitterness and regret that tints their diatribes against journalists.

 

I am willing to concede that journalists can behave very badly with PR people, ask for all kinds of favours and not do their homework. And those are genuine complaints from PR people, whether they were former journalists or not. But if journalists-turned PR professionals do not want to lose all respect of their former colleagues, they need to hold back on the gratuitous and frankly often idiotic advice.

 

**

 

The Railway Budget, as is our wont in India, led to interminable discussions on matters that most people are not really interested in. I wish TV anchors would ask their “experts” just one question before they invite them to share their views: “How often do you travel by train in India?”

 

That might give us some real opinions instead of what we are saddled with. No doubt, The Budget on Saturday will give us more of the same…

 

**

 

The world of Twitter on Thursday/Friday was consumed by a question of whether a particular dress was black and blue or white and gold. Yeah, right. Priorities.

 

As ever, mashable.com had the answer: http://mashable.com/2015/02/26/dress-white-gold-blue-black/?utm_cid=mash-com-Tw-main-link

 

 

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