Every challenge is an opportunity in itself and vice versa. This is particularly true for contemporary journalism whose growth has touched heights and is assuming newer dimensions. It is because of this mammoth growth of media that journalism is now being ranked as the first pillar of the state instead of the old, relegated position of the fourth pillar.
Of course journalism in the contemporary world has taken the position of the top pillars of the state, if not exactly the first position of the state. The reason for this elevation is that journalism has, for all practical purposes, become the central mode- and hub-of communication not only among different communities and fraternities living in a particular society, but also among civilizations. The fact is that the world stands globalized like one consolidated village due to, inter alia, this spillover effect of journalism. Now the question arises what further directions and nuances are expected to be born out of this phenomenal expansion of media? The answer is that the phenomenal growth of media is a challenge as well as an opportunity. And so is the case with journalism education. The reality is that journalism and education are directly proportional to each other rather contingent on each other. So, when it comes to imparting education in the area of journalism, it becomes a challenge, given the rapid and frequent changes that are occurring in journalism in line with the rapid changes in socio-economic conditions and ethos of a society and polity.
Apart from being a big challenge, it is simultaneously a great opportunity for the empowerment of society. Rather, education in journalism is the opportunity that paves way for all- encompassing empowerment of individuals – meaning thereby the empowerment of the students of journalism and also of the society as a whole. Those who view journalism education only in the employment perspective need to review their perception about journalism. It is not wrong to study journalism for becoming a working journalist in the times to come, but it is wrong to index the education of journalism as merely a tool to get a money-making job.
If employment is the sole objective, then preference should be given to other disciplines and sets of studies because whatever opportunities of employment, prestige and social status journalism offers to the people, it remains a business of passion and devotion. Certainly, hardworking and committed people are found in all spheres and activities of life, but the deadlines and challenges that a journalist has to face throughout his career, are far greater in frequency and number than any other challenging task. A journalist is always in a state of war, a war that has to be won through round-the-clock research and incessant legwork or fieldwork in the face of counteractive threats, perils and influences (read challenges) that have of late multiplied manifold with the ever-widening split and schisms in the fabric of global understanding (avoiding the words ‘global harmony’ and ‘global unity’ by design since they still seem to be a remote possibility despite the rise of an interdependent world and increased need for peaceful co-existence).
It is in this context that the literati and intelligentsia committed to a unified goal of the entire humanity talk about global citizenship, which they think is the sole responsibility of the media. In plain words, establishing and then promoting global citizenship is the prime responsibility of media. Fulfilling this responsibility is a daunting task since journalism education is all about foreseeing all these currents and undercurrents. It is also about removing the stumbling blocks in building a unified humankind that aims at the establishment of a world free from misinterpretations and misconceptions of sorts.
(The writer is a seasoned journalist and media academician)
…..Mian Saifur Rehman