For Orissa's aspiring journalists in the 70s and 80s, the only way to gain a journalism degree was to qualify for the course at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), Delhi, or enroll at the Berhampur University in the southern part of the State. A command over the language was only considered important and the absence of skilled and trained professional was not really missed by the editors. And most of those who passed out then were adequately employed in the vernacular media.
However, it has all changed with the turn of the present decade with nearly 15 institutes in Orissa — both government and private — offering courses in journalism and mass communication. With declining interest in normal degree courses and a growing demand for professional programmes, more and more students in the State now want to join journalism-training institutes. Likewise, the expansion in the print media and television channels and creation of fresh job opportunities in the profession is attracting more and more to join the profession. Nearly 200 students at present pass out from such institutes every year in the State.
However, though the increase in the number of journalism education institutes have given a large number of hopeful students the opportunity to get trained in a career in journalism — the burgeoning growth and lack of employment opportunities are a matter of concern. Moreover, few institutes have required infrastructure and qualified faculty to deal with the subjects being taught.
The journalism courses and mass communication courses offered by Utkal University (UU), Bhubaneswar and Ravenshaw Autonomous College, Cuttack, are self-financing ones and often run into trouble. The courses of some of the other private and Bhubaneswar-based institutes like the Institute of Media Studies (IMS) and Academy of Management and Information Technology (AMIT) are affiliated to the UU, when in fact the Dept. of Journalism in the University has itself run into rough weather. Though electronic communications constitute a major part of the course at UU, the students hardly receive any hands on practical training due to lack of required equipment and infrastructure.
Most of the institutes do not have qualified and full-time staff with a handful of media professionals and academicians teaching the students as visiting faculty. The curriculum also seems archaic with little emphasis on practical training. Computer training in editing and page-making skills are hardly given importance. 'The kind of training imparted in many institutes is grossly inadequate and no recruitment policy is followed while selecting the faculty,' says the J. S. Giri Rao of the Dept of Journalism, Berhampur University. 'The poor quality of training imparted adversely affects the standard of the students,' opines Rao, who has been on the Board of Studies of various journalism institutes. The fees charged by the institutes range between Rs 12,000-20,000 for 9-months to one year course and nearly Rs 50,000 for two-years programme.
At present, the IIMC, Dhenkanal — a branch of the IIMC, Delhi — is perhaps the only media education institution in Orissa that is relatively well equipped in both infrastructure and faculty. With a view to meeting the increasing demand from eastern states, the Institute opened a branch in 1993 in Dhenkanal where nine-month Post-Graduate Diploma Course in Journalism in English and Oriya is being offered. A majority of the students after passing out also get placed in media organisations both within and outside Orissa.
Besides, the Berhampur University that started the course way back in 1974 has full time staff trained and also invites professionals and academicians from time to time. The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan (BVB) Bhubaneswar, which recently started a diploma course in Journalism and Mass Communication in is now keen on having a full time faculty. 'We realize the significance of having a well qualified and permanent staff and good quality infrastructure and have been concentrating our efforts on it,' informs Sarit Panda, Director of BVB's Centre for Communications and Management (CCM). 'Quality of education definitely matters and we feel that more than your certificate your proficiency is important.'
In order to attract as many students possible, the institutes hardly conduct screening and entrance tests for the applicants. Moreover, they do not have special placement cell for students' appointment in various media organisations. Except for few, there is barely any scope for students' internship in media organizations to gain practical knowledge. Says Anuradha Biswal, a journalism student from a Bhubaneswar-based private institute: 'At the beginning we are assured of all possible assistance, but once the fee is paid and the course comes to an end, the institute hardly bothers about our internship and placement.'
Another serious concern is the quality of journalists being churned out by the private journalism training institutes in the State and the effect it would have on the future of the profession. 'The serious, dedicated and the best compete through entrance exams and qualify for the course. On the other hand, the not so serious students who consider doing a course in journalism fashionable without any aptitude for it join private institutes. And as we see their standard is quite poor,' maintains a senior Orissa-based media person.
So when on one hand the growing media and journalism education institutes in Orissa have opened vistas for many who want to pursue a career in journalism — their unregulated growth and the poor quality of training being imparted is a matter of serious concern not only for the students' future, but also for the profession.