The growing clamour to be a journalist in Delhi

By Radhika Bhirani, IANS

New Delhi : Good salaries combined with the social prestige that comes with being part of a booming industry have made media courses some of the most sought after in the Indian capital today.

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Admission seekers are thronging the over 100 government and private institutes offering undergraduate and post-graduate degrees and diplomas that are seen as the first steps to striking it big in journalism.

A 20 percent annual growth rate in the media industry has contributed to a dramatic rise in the number of students who consider journalism and mass communication a lucrative career option.

"The increase in the number of print publications and also TV and FM channels has created a growing demand for trained media professionals," explains Ambrish Saxena, who heads the journalism and mass communication department at the Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University here, popularly known as IP university.

"The handsome pay packets and the glamour quotient also catapult students into seeking professional training in the field," he added.

Aparna Saxena, a student at Kamala Nehru College, one of four Delhi University colleges offering journalism courses, says: "Media is a dynamic field – it pays well and gets you in the public eye."

There are students who cite other reasons for wanting to be journalists.

Shweta Sharma, a final year student of Delhi College of Arts and Commerce (DCAC), explained: "I joined the (journalism) course as it commands a lot of respect and not because the profession has a glamour tag attached to it."

Pragya Khanna, still in school, explains why she aspires to be a journalist. "Many of us are running after journalism courses because it is really a challenging job. Each day it has something new to offer and remains a learning process forever. I think it is a great field to get into."

The demand for media courses has led to a proliferation of media institutions in the city.

Delhi University first started an honours course in journalism at the Delhi College of Arts and Commerce in 1989. Three other colleges followed suit. Today the university takes in around 100 students every year in its journalism course.

Separately, 450 seats are offered by IP university for its undergraduate course through seven affiliated institutes. "It has recently introduced a two-year masters degree in journalism and mass communication," said Ambrish Saxena.

Several private institutes have also sprung up in the city offering specialised courses in specific fields of media. Many students interested in higher studies in media opt for the well-established Jamia Milia Islamia university and the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC).

Unfortunately, there is immense disparity between the number of students who apply and those who are accepted.

A journalism course can cost Rs.5,000-Rs.7,000 annually at Delhi University whereas in private institutes such as those affiliated to IP university fees soar to Rs.40,000-Rs. 60,000.

The private institutes say they charge more because they provide equipment such as cameras, audio consoles, video cameras and studios.

Delhi University, however, takes students only after an admission test – and so gets better pupils.

Students and teachers say the craze is more for courses that can fetch a job in the more glamorous electronic media. Compared to boys, more girls take to anchoring, news reading or reporting.

But professors complain that many students aspiring to be journalists do not have good command over English and lack the basic skills needed to write simple and readable stories.

In the process – and also realising that making it big in journalism is not easy – many simply switch over to call centres to make a living.

Seasoned media professionals suggest that students streamline their choices beforehand.

Says Om Gupta, a veteran journalist who now teaches journalism here: "There is an urgent need to introduce media awareness programmes at the school level. This will help them prepare themselves to get admission into media institutes."

But do these degrees give students an edge over others in the industry?

Yes, says Gupta. "Even though media organisations continue to hire students from non-journalistic streams, a media degree surely acts as a gate pass for entering the industry. On the contrary, a degree is not a compulsion since media aptitude is always presumed to be instinctive."