When the first Covid-19 case emerged in the Hubei province in China in the later part of November 2013, very people could imagine that it had the potential to redraw the history of the world. Almost 10 months down the line, scientists are still grappling to contain the deadly disease that has affected more than 17.5 million people and terminated the lives of nearly 7 lakh people.
While governments the world over continue to adopt lockdown as the only viable means to contain the surge of the virus, our lives have drastically changed. Almost all the areas of human activities are being done online barring the essential services. In the given scenario, education has also witnessed a radical change in its delivery structure. From offline classroom delivery to online virtual interactions and from a pen-and-paper evaluation structure to online examinations; education isn’t the same anymore.
The larger trends have been the same across specializations and domains. However, like everything else, the approach and strategy to deal with different domains are evidently different. Journalism, as a field and as an academic discipline, needs a certain rigour that can be delivered online only if certain checks and balances are religiously followed.
In consonance with the spirit, journalism academics globally are resorting to some innovative means. This has resulted in some distinct changes in the structure and mode of educational delivery. Unless we are in denial, these changes that have cropped up due to the sudden onset of Covid-19 are here to stay even when the Coronavirus scare becomes history. Let us look at how academics are coping up to keep the flag of journalism education fluttering high:
- The Purpose of Journalism Education Has Changed: Before the pandemic, teaching journalism was all about instilling the right skills. Now, it is not just about skills, it is about adaptability as well. From “how and what to cover the story”, it is now “what are the other means if a certain story can’t be covered according to the rules given in the book”. Covid-19 has taught journalists that skills and knowledge alone don’t suffice. Flexibility and alternative ideas are required when the going gets tough. Covid-19 has also shown the ugly side of the industry that has been brutal in evicting even good journalists from the system.
- Technology Will be the Key Differentiator: From a domain that was largely content-driven, journalism has metamorphosed into a technology-driven field. This change that was setting in since the last two decades has been suddenly given a major push by the onset of the pandemic. Journalism academics are now increasingly focusing on building the technological skills of the students. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to note that a technology-deficient but content-proficient professional would be able to go nowhere. Not only now but even after the pandemic, academics would do well to keep this reality in mind and train the students accordingly.
- A Deep Dive into the Field Has Become a Sine-Qua-Non: Today, more than ever, a deeper knowledge about the governing dynamics of the profession has become critically important. The fact that the industry is chucking out people by the hordes and slashing salaries are necessitating a deep introspection into what might have gone wrong. Covid-19 couldn’t have caused this big a jerk. The churning in the industry only illustrates the pre-existing maladies, which have only been intensified by the onset of the pandemic. This is exactly where the journalism academics should come in. They should reflect on what is wrong and how the same could be rectified. The resultant knowledge should be passed on to the students so that they become resilient professionals, who could change the rules of the game.
- Journalism Students Need to Understand that News Is also a Business: All these while, the students of journalism were blissfully ignorant of the revenue structure followed by the news industry. The academics were partly responsible for this trend. However, Covid-19 and its impact on the industry have established the primordial nature of revenue in the news industry. The students need to understand that it is important to generate revenue in addition to churning out fantastic stories. One of the reasons the news organizations are shutting down the world over is falling profitability and lessened advertising revenues. The students need to be mindful of these shortfalls.
- Journalism Education Needs to Adopt a More Humane Approach: With the Coronavirus having shown the rather hapless condition of humanity when confronted with nature, it is primordially important for journalism students to have a humane approach towards the profession. Even in terms of business, consumers are increasingly turning to human interest stories. In fact news organizations such as BBC News are churning out an increased number of human interest stories to keep in tune with the demands of time.
- Industry Collaboration Holds the Future Key: Journalism education can’t happen in a vacuum. All these while, multiple institutions were conducting journalism courses sans any effective industry collaboration. Today, it is critically important for the students to learn from the key figures in the industry. Therefore, academic institutions need to forge meaningful ties with news organizations and reduce the gap between the industry and the academia.
- Convergence and Mobile Journalism Will be the Twin Keywords in Journalism: Journalism academics need to increasingly teach the students about the importance of convergence in journalism. No longer will content be unidimensional. The industry will demand content that is multifaceted and multimedia. The sooner the students understand this, the better it is. Mobile Journalism or MoJo will continue to grow in significance. The Covid-19 tragedy will only quicken this process. Academics need to take stock of their own knowledge base and update it so that students are prepared for the post pandemic scenario.
- The Importance of Skill-Based Education Will Only Grow: With Covid-19 having shown us the mirror, journalism academics should uncompromisingly emphasize on the importance of skill-based education. The intent is to create industry-ready professionals, who can take journalism to the next logical level.
The Kolkata-based Adamas University has more or less dabbled with all the above-mentioned points. The online educational structure adopted by the university after the pandemic set in has left an indelible mark on the students of journalism. These students are now only growing with each passing day and the day is not too far away when they can safely graduate into the industry ready to make a difference.
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