National

How The Fall Of Media Industry Failed My Journalism School

On June 14, we heard that the IIJNM institute had decided to discontinue courses in journalism from this year due to dwindling admission numbers. But it wasn’t all that shocking.

IIJNM
Photo: IIJNM
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Our campus was situated far away from the bustling city of Bengaluru. Name a colour and a flower, and one could find it on top of one of the many trees surrounding the campus. Not a shop in sight, except Akka’s abode – which became the adda for students to hang out at. Akka treated every student, from every batch as if they were her own, making dosa and chai every Sunday morning when students, including me, came to escape the mess food.

In summer, our hostel rooms were unbearable. Power cuts, unknown insects flying around, and of course no WiFi. And when it rained, it was a sight to behold. “At the end of the 10-month course, you’ll come out of the place with friends who will become family and all the skills required to take on the rollercoaster ride that is journalism,” one of our alumni had told us on the day of orientation. Little did we know then, that this place, which made us the journalists we are today, would close down.

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An intense ten-month long course, IIJNM’s postgraduate diploma in print/broadcast/multimedia journalism made us scramble for story ideas every Sunday. Some would come up with bizarre ones just to not fail the course, others would trade story pitches from each other if one had an extra one in mind that week. All for 30-odd marks and positive feedback from our faculty, who were masters in the field. I vaguely remember this one story idea I gave, to which my mentor and IIJNM’s dean Kanchan Kaur said: “So what?” These two words ring loud in my mind even now, two years into being a journalist. It was her way of pushing us to get to the crux of a story.

Production days were the most hectic. We were to edit our peers’ stories as if we were their copyeditors. Kanchan would then proofread the final copy and see if the reporter and the copyeditor performed their roles well. One spelling mistake or a comma in the wrong place, and Kanchan would spot it from a mile away.

Courtesy her, I am able to spot mistakes in my copy from a mile away too. We performed all roles, that of a reporter, copyeditor, proofreader, and fact-checker on one single day – all roles that a journalist must fulfil in their profession.

Classrooms became newsrooms. Computer labs became production units. Students became journalists. Looking back, it was pure poetry, albeit gruelling and challenging. The result day, for us, was known as the end-semester (or mid-semester) review. On one end of the roundtable were all our mentors, on the other end was the student. In the middle, were a box full of tissues (not even kidding). They would give us constructive feedback, explaining what we could improve on, and what we were good at. In my last review before convocation, Kanchan told me to broaden the themes I cover. Today, at Outlook, I try to cover most beats from politics to education to international stories. I can just hear Kanchan say “So what?” to the previous statement I made. Of course, I still have a long way to go.

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On June 14, we heard that the institute had decided to discontinue courses in journalism from this year due to dwindling admission numbers. A message to students who had paid fees for the upcoming academic year had said: “Given the recent environment in which we have been operating, it is not possible to attract enough students to avoid huge financial losses to continue the programme.” Several alumni got calls from leading newspapers and publications to give a comment. Unable to fathom the news myself, I denied giving any comment.

But it wasn’t all that shocking.

In 2023, India's ranking slipped from 150 in 2022 to 161, out of 180 countries, in terms of press freedom according to the Reporters Without Borders' Press Freedom Index, with the organisation stating that the situation for journalists was "very serious" in the country. At least eight journalists and media practitioners in the country were killed because of their work last year – paying the ultimate price for performing their professional duties. Many prominent journalists who we look up to are under the scanner of the government and police.

Hence, it isn’t all that surprising that students do not want to choose journalism as a profession. This would be the kind of news that we would discuss in our ‘What’s in the news?’ class at 9 am every day. Maybe one day, when all the jailed journalists walk out of prison, and reporters are not targeted for the work they do, the institute might have more eager applicants. Hopefully one day, the campus and Akka’s abode will be full again.

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