Dr. Pradeep Mahapatra
The practice of news reporting during student career can be termed as ‘Student Journalism’. The development of modern journalism is closely associated with the spread of printing technology. The earliest versions of newspapers appeared during the seventeenth century after about 150 years of the invention of the printing press in Germany. Britain had to wait for another 100 years for the launch of its first English daily newspaper till the eighteenth century.
Journalism was considered as a new profession during the publication of periodicals long before the appearance of daily newspapers. But as more and more news writers joined in the publication industry, journalism achieved professional excellence and social recognition during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. New entrants to the profession depended upon various forms of non-formal training to learn the techniques of news reporting. Mostly they attended printing shops or newspaper establishments for apprenticeship
The practice of journalism requires training. Since the students who have themselves in journalism courses have decided to enter into the profession of journalism, at least in the primary stage, they need qualitative training. The practice of Student Journalism can be considered an effective step in the right direction.
Formal education in journalism was initiated at the University of Missouri in the United States for a short period of time during the later part of the nineteenth century and a full-fledged journalism curriculum became available at Colombia University at the beginning of the twentieth century. In the later part journalism education was expanded to nook and corner of the world as a university-level course of studies. Journalism education started at Lahore-based Punjab University in 1941 in undivided India under British rule. It flourished during the post-independence era, mostly in the post-emergency period.
Journalism curriculum in the academic sector lay importance in information collection, news writing, and editing. Students participate in the process of news production in an imagined environment inside the classrooms as a part of the curriculum. Journalism students also write news stories based on developments in the campus to publish in laboratory journals. Similarly, they produce audio, video, and online reportage.
A section of universities in the United States engage their students admitted to journalism courses in programmes for news reporting in the neighborhood city limits and rural areas. A successful venture by ‘The Center for Community News’ adopted by the University of Vermont attracts the attention of media analysts and education administrators. The University of Vermont is situated at Burlington town in the borders of the United States and Canada. The place is 150 kilometers distance from Montreal, a populous city in Canada. The university was established in 1791. About 12,000 students get enrolled in the courses offered by the university and above four thousand teaching and non-teaching employees are engaged.
‘Community News Service’ organises liaison with a few local news platforms for the implementation of its programme. The news outlets identify the topics they intend to cover in their forthcoming editions and the students prepare the stories under the supervision of a professional editor appointed for the purpose. The news stories are published with by-lines of the student reporters. The service is provided free of cost, It is calculated that about 300 news items in the text, audio, video, and online format are being provided to the local media every year. The programme has been proven to be beneficial to students, news platforms, and local communities.
First, the program opens up opportunities for the students to practice journalism in a location instead of an imagined environment in the classroom. They learn to get connected with the public, collect information from composite sources and write news stories on real situations of society in real-time. It helps to increase interest in journalism and showcase their creativity.
Secondly, local news platforms in the post-pandemic scenario faced with decreased income and enhanced spending are in trouble. Student Journalism can provide them with verified content that will help to continue publication. Thirdly, the efforts to cover local issues, and discuss challenges and prospects can help to mitigate social problems which can benefit the local communities.
Community News Service supplies news reported by student journalists to 14 local news outlets and a majority of them are print weekly newspapers. In the post Covid-19 pandemic media ecosystem news deserts are fast expanding in the United States. Enrichment of local news outlets demands priority and the University of Vermont’s initiatives to support ailing local news platforms has a lasting impact to safeguard democracy. Center for Community News compiled a list of 120 projects with similar objectives being implemented throughout the country.
The profession of journalism achieved relevance during the twentieth century. Experts figure out four reasons for the development. It includes training for journalism, publication of books and literature on techniques of journalism, the rise of journalism professional institutions, and the growing importance of the social responsibility of journalism as a profession.
The inclusion of Student Journalism in the curriculums offered by Indian universities can be considered a timely intervention. The National Education Policy proposes to offer journalism as a subject starting from secondary school. Student Journalism should get adequate attention as a practical solution for qualitative media education at the entry level.
The practice of journalism requires training. Since the students who have enrolled themselves in journalism courses have decided to enter into the profession of journalism, at least in the primary stage, they need qualitative training. The practice of Student Journalism can be considered an effective step in the right direction.
The formal journalism curriculum started more than a hundred years ago. However, Student Journalism encourages students enrolled in other than journalism courses to practice the vocation of journalism. Students enrolled in subjects like Literature, History, Political Science, and Economics take part in Student Journalism programmes. Opportunities offered to youngsters to learn the techniques of reporting in the real field seem like a revised edition of age-old apprenticeship in a printing press or newspaper office.
Implementation of the Student Journalism programme in Indian universities is wide open. On one hand, complaints arise that diploma holders of journalism from educational institutions lack practical knowledge on reporting in the field. Mandated apprenticeship for students in journalism courses does not prove to be sufficient. In such an environment. The practice of Student Journalism during four semesters in a post-graduate master’s degree course in journalism can pay dividends.
On the other hand, as print daily newspapers faced causalities relating to independence and loss of public faith due to various reasons that led to news avoidance among the readers in the post-pandemic period, print weekly newspapers are the possible viable alternative to avoid news deserts at the regional level. But the weekly press lack investments for adequate content generation. Student Journalism can play a vital role to supply qualitative reporting by students for the local weekly print outlets to balance the newspaper economics.
The inclusion of Student Journalism in the media curriculums offered by Indian universities can be considered as a timely intervention. The National Education Policy proposes to offer journalism as a subject starting from the secondary school syllabus. Student Journalism should get adequate attention as a practical solution for qualitative media education in the entry-level.
(English translation of the original Odia newsletter by the author circulated on April 21, 2023. https://tinyletter.com/pradeepmahapatra/letters/message-298
It is an open-access content, free for translation and reproduction)
Dr. Pradeep Mahapatra is a retired faculty of Journalism, Berhampur University, Odisha.https://about.me/pradeepmahapatra
Watts, Richard. How student journalists are filling the void to help save local news.
Community News Service : Reporting from UVM