Saturday, August 11, 2012

My second orientation speech at the Faculty of Journalism and Communication at M S University of Baroda

Good Afternoon, everyone!

I congratulate all of you for getting selected into this programme. People join communication courses for various reasons — some want to become journalists, others want to get into advertising or PR, some want to write books or get into photography and filmmaking while still others want to use these two years of their lives to actually figure out what they want to do. You may be here because of one of these reasons or all of them. That does not matter. What matters is that you're here.

It's important that you value your decision to be here. This course has a lot to offer, but only if you are willing to take. You will meet people from different fields — academics, media, NGOs, government, politics, filmmaking, photography, art, commerce, literature, science, etc. We give you the bouquet. You may take all the flowers and throw them into a bin. You may take the bouquet home and put it in a vase to decorate your room. You may pick a few flowers and tend to them so that the new buds may bloom. Or when the flowers die, you can manure your other plants with them. What you do with this bouquet is your decision. Value it and it will be worth these two years of your life.

Now, coming back to media, I read an article in The Economist last year about the new age of news. It was called Back to the Coffee House. In the days before the media, people would meet at coffee houses, exchange their views, observations and discuss the happenings in each others' lives. That was "news". Gradually, as reading and writing became more popular among the masses, newspapers were born. People started going to the coffee houses for conversations and newspapers. News soon became a commodity of trade. It had to be gathered, sourced or created and then packaged and sold to a consumer. Newspapers had to shout out from the stands to catch the passers by's eye. The headlines became shorter, larger and bolder. Then came colour and bold photography. People saw the news before reading the paper. With the advent of television, news became more colourful and crisp. And then came the internet. News no longer belonged to the few reporters, anchors, presenters and editors who packaged it and sold it to consumers. With Twitter, Facebook, blogs and microsites, consumers could create, package and even break news. News-sharing has now become a two-way process. The coffee house culture is back!

In such a scenario, journalism is at risk. Each day, you are being bombarded with more and more information. It's difficult for you to sift the good from the bad, and after a point you don't even want to try. Truth used to be the cornerstone of good journalism. But no longer. Objectivity is still possible, but with the barrage of information that is available and the limited capacity of a journalist to analyse and investigate all of it, truth may not be pliable any more. That does not mean journalists come up with false news. Most don't. But they may not be able to find the truth and deliver it all at once. In the quest for "Who breaks the news first?" information is imparted to the masses in a piecemeal manner. As journalists, you have to find a balance between the speed at which you deliver news and the quality of information you deliver.

This course seeks to help you develop some of the skills you’ll need in the industry.  Journalism is about packaging news in a way that gives the maximum amount of information in the least amount of space as early as possible. People spend decades in this industry and are still clueless about what makes a great newspaper. A newspaper evolves with time. And so journalists have to keep upgrading their skill-sets. There was a time when writers would write and editors would edit. Not anymore. Journalists are expected to multi-task – to write, edit, photograph, design and make pages. But these are skills you can always pick up as you go along. What a journalist needs most is curiosity – a curiosity to know about things and people around you, a curiosity to find out about things that are described ‘mundane’ or ‘ordinary’ and a curiosity to know what’s unknown.

Luckily, all of you have time on your hands. I sincerely hope you will use these two years efficiently to chart your paths in career fields of your choice.


Unknown said...

MA'AM ... YOUR ORIENTATION LECTURE REVEALED MANY OF THE UNKNOWN FACTS.I especially was thrilled to learn about your experiences in the practical field.We all look forward to meet you soon for " ITTIVRUT " and hope to learn more inside stories of print journalism.

Ramesh Narendrarai Desai said...

What I liked about this speech was that you traced the history of journalism starting with the coffee house and coming back full circle to the coffee house sort of mutuality. Your analogy of a bouquet was good. In the end you outlined curiosity as the most important attribute required in one aspiring to a career in the communication industry. It was indeed an inspiring speech for the newcomers. Perhaps it will take some time before the significance of your words sink in. Hope they preserve this speech as a memento. From time to time, it will keep inspiring them.