Friday August 19, 2022

Experts discuss if journalism can be taught at varsities

By Our Correspondent
June 26, 2022

Addressing as a keynote speaker the opening session of a two-day media conference titled ‘Extreme Reporting: Conflict and Peace in the Digital Age’ being held at the Centre of Excellence in Journalism (CEJ) at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) on Saturday, senior journalist Hamid Mir said that when he was the editor of a newspaper he would through away CVs of candidates who had masters in journalism because he knew what they would have studied in universities.

Sharing the story of his journalistic career, he said he joined a newsroom after he had graduated. At that time, he said he wanted to do masters but was not sure what should be the right discipline for him.

He said his late father had been a professor of journalism at the Punjab University who called for updating the curriculum but could not persuade the authorities to do so. Mir said he chose to pursue masters in journalism because he knew it would not be challenging and he would not have to study much to get a masters degree.

He said the institutions like the CEJ were important for the survival of journalism in Pakistan.

As he thanked the participants of the conference, IBA Executive Director Dr S Akbar Zaidi also touched upon the issue of teaching journalism. Explaining why he decided to discontinue their MS in journalism degree at the CEJ, he said the Higher Education Commission wanted the CEJ to hire at least two PhD faculty members to offer the MS programme but the issue was that journalism was not a discipline in which people earned PhDs.

He shared examples of various journalism schools in the United States where the professors did not have PhDs. He hoped that the HEC would reconsider its decision.

Dr Zaidi shared that the debate on teaching journalism at universities had been going on for a while. “My friends who are editors use to say that there’s no need for a degree in journalism because you learn on the job. They would say, ‘you send someone to us, and we can make them into journalists’,” he said.

Talking about conflict as a social scientist, he said that in the social sciences, there was conflict in everything including the family. Hierarchies created conflict and conflict could also have many forms, he explained.

CEJ Director Amber Rahim Shamsi said the conference was about conflict and on the direction of journalism in Pakistan.

“Journalists do not broker peace, that is politicians’ job,” she said, adding that journalists helped those who sought justice as this was their fundamental job. “I am hoping some of the questions in this conference will shock you, surprise you and answer one fundamental question: why do we need journalism?” she remarked.

A moment of silence was taken to remember journalists who passed away recently, including The News senior editor Talat Aslam, M. Ziauddin, IA Rehamn, Rahimullah Yusufzai, Mehdi Hasan, Farhad Zaidi, Arif Nizami and Khurram Baig.