Amid the media industry lure,better journalists not in the making
Karachi: If you are a working journalist, then the media studies department every university is intent on setting up is good news. Teaching there may add to your otherwise paltry salary.
But the graduates these universities are churning out in several hundreds every year may not have a promising future ahead.
The booming media industry of the early 2000s and success stories like Hamid Mir and Kamran Khan it produced has turned journalism into a career that several young minds aspire for.
It brings fame and with it a fat pay cheque – at least that is the message youngsters take home until they enter the profession and realise that for many, journalism is a low paid, thankless job where only the passionate excel.
For now, nine universities in the city, both public and private, are offering media studies as an undergraduate programme.
New entrants like the Habib University and the Institute of Business Administration have hopped on the bandwagon.
At this rate over 1,000 students graduate every year looking for a career in the media industry which has witnessed a mushroom growth over the last decade. On the contrary, media gurus claim there are not enough vacancies.
“While we do hire students who have graduated in media studies or mass communication, we tend to take in students who are eager to learn even if they graduate in other disciplines like economics or international relations,” says Imran Aslam, the president of the Geo Television Network.
“Many of the editors you see today did not graduate from the media studies department, but instead studied English or international relations as their university majors.”
Graduates who do not try their luck in journalism make it to other professions like public relations firms or advertising agencies. But even there the choices are limited.
Babar Ayaz, the president of Mediators, a public relations firm that organises press coverage for the annual Karachi Literature Festival every year among other major events, maintains that universities are not producing quality graduates.
“For a career in the media industry, students should excel in at least one language. But the students we hire are neither good in English nor in Urdu,” he says. “They don’t read and that reflects in their work. Their general knowledge is minimal.”
The statement raises an alarm bell for universities which, despite increasing the number of students every year, are not honing them with the skills needed in their profession.
However, university professors disagree: “All students from our first batch which graduated this year have gotten jobs. Some have travelled abroad for their Masters,” says a professor at the Institute of Business Management.
Most private sector universities rely on working professionals from the field who work as part-time faculty at the campus.
The part-timers come cheap and do not enjoy the benefits that the permanent faculty enjoys, such as an annual leave for pursuing a PhD.
Students who graduate from private sector universities may know how to handle a camera but not necessarily the ethics involved in it, as theoretical subjects are not paid much attention to.
“Private sector universities produce students who neither know journalistic ethics nor the Urdu language, even though, save three English language newspapers, all of the media industry is based in Urdu,” says Prof Tahir Masood, the chairman of the University of Karachi’s department of mass communication.
Talking about his department, he notes that more than half of his female students never enter the profession. “They get married and choose to stay home. Over 70 percent students in my department are girls. So even if we produce 250 graduates every year, only 50 make it into the profession.”
Prof Tauseef Ahmed, the chairman of the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology’s department of mass communication, says his batch comprises about 400 students.
“Not all of them make it into the profession. Students today want instant success, but a name in journalism takes years of perseverance.”
Public sector universities may have a better set of professors in comparison with the private sector ones, but they suffer from the bureaucratic red tape and lack of funds.
Most graduates from the University of Karachi’s department of mass communication – a 50-year-old journalism school – do not know how to handle a camera, shoot a video or edit it.
Having said that, Imran Aslam still believes that the nature of the media industry is such that it is growing at an exponential rate.
“We are in a state of transition where the lines are blurring between the print and the electronic media. We have the social media as an alternate powerful medium. In these times there will always be vacancies, but students need to graduate with a lot more skills than before,” he says.
“These skills include being tech savvy and knowing about the world we live in and how we reached there.”
* While we do hire students who have graduated in media studies or mass communication, we tend to take in students who are eager to learn even if they graduate in other disciplines like economics or international relations
President, GEO TV Network
* For a career in the media industry, students should excel in at least one language. But the students we hire are neither good in English nor in Urdu. They don’t read and that reflects in their work. Their general knowledge is minimal