Why Study Media?

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Three out of five media analysts opine that one doesn’t need a specialized degree to sustain a career in media, perhaps a basic level of interest would be enough to take you to places.

A think tank sat for a panel discussion on ‘Why study Media?’ held under the auspices of IBA-CEJ on Wednesday, discussing the prospect of extensive degrees in the media firms and the disconnect between curriculum and the real world.

Moderated by Dr. Huma Baqai, The panel included Founder and President of HUM Network Sultana Siddiqui, American journalist Dr. Chris Merrill, Founding Dean of The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication Dr. Lawrence Pintak, Founder of digital agency East River Faizan Syed, and Managing Editor at Dawn Media Group Atika Rehman

The gap between the curriculum and the professional field is thought-provoking—what is taught in media schools, more or less, is called vague once you’re in the practical run.

It’s possibly the “broader disconnect is due to the matter of keeping faculty”, the panel discussed, is the faculty connected with the media industry? Are the media school instructors in touch with the real world?

Perhaps, there may be another way to bridge the gap between the syllabus and the media forefront. The call for media training for binding the gap. That’s where Atika and Dr. Pintak put forward that, as much desirable and crucial it is for media firms to train their employees prior to handing over tasks, they can’t afford to, given the urgency in the financial reality in the media and time.

There was a time in the States that the freshly graduated employees were not allowed to be on floors—they were sent for training. There have been lucky journalists who happened to have a great mentor at the desk one could ask for.

High time for the beginners to be competent.

“There was a lot of room to absorb people who didn’t have skills. Now the financial curb in the media industry has intensified the challenge”, Ms. Rehman added.

Having said that, the question remains what to make out of the media degrees and the fancy names given to media or communication degrees?   Mr. Syed puts that ‘ a degree is a hygiene test’, employers should train because they are getting value service. After the hygiene test, it’s lifelong learning at work.

Five out of five hailed the idea of providing or sending employees off for media training.

A Panel discussion on the prospect of media degree with panellists (left to right); Managing Editor at Dawn Media Group Atika Rehman, Founder of digital agency East River Faizan Syed, Founder and President of HUM Network Sultana Siddiqui, Award-winning journalist Dr. Lawrence Pintak, and Director of International Writing Program – University of Iowa Dr. Chris Merrill.

Would you spend on providing training to employees?

Ms. Siddiqui: “I have provided a lot of foreign training, it is important despite aptitude. I consider it my duty to acquaint people with necessary learning. We started the Karachi Film Society and many workshops, but others must also contribute in similar areas.

The system needs to expand, there are people who don’t have the money to study abroad.”

A highly-conditioned undergraduate program may cost you more or less Rs1.6 million—there follows a confusion whether a person must opt for an extensive degree, given that the most feasible option to sustain a career in the media industry is actually getting your foot out in the real world? As Dr. Merrill opined that ‘practice supported by theory can be useful, but need to work’.

Ms. Siddiqui: When you study media, it doesn’t mean you are studying it—‘you’re studying about it’, When you step in for extensive degree, you get the specialization then. I believe in aptitude, aptitude is needed in creativity.

Be the job provider, when you study just for jobs, you get stuck: Ms. Siddiqui


Is it about a good school or a good program?

Ms. Siddiqui: Storytelling is important even if you have good schooling. The need for aptitude.

Some people without a degree cannot be any bad, some areas need a degree but [by large] it’s practically not that crucial. They do not necessarily grow, there should be given the thought to not just do jobs but explore what’s more to the profession.

Mr. Syed: Strong practical aspect, the ability to articulate your thought. A lot more development skill set is needed by the time you graduate.


Do people make media schools because they’re big and attracting?

Mr. Syed: We need media schools, it is about articulating a thought. Storytelling is important, structured teaching is an art.


Is it crising out lower middle-class voices that can’t afford journalism?

Mr. Syed doesn’t agree. “Look at kids doing online courses, is it promoting elitist culture?

We had a peon on the floor who aspired to get behind the camera, we tried it and he’s been doing well. We can give opportunities on diplomas, employers need to step up, and they need to cater to opportunities.

As far as a degree is concerned, in his idea, it’s how you articulate your thought and doesn’t matter what medium you use.”


Dr. Merrill opined that one needs technicality and a genius to survive. [with or without a degree]


Dr. Pintak doesn’t agree with the idea of welcoming amateurs.

“You need skills, it’s not in your DNA to do a score of stories right when you set foot out for the first time or walk into a news studio”, he added.


How would you comment on the specialization of journalism, do they specialize in journalism, do they specialize in environmental or politics?

Ms. Rehman: You need a basic level of interest, very few investors have money and time to train employees. I was lucky to find some mentors.

Dr. Pintak: If you have a true professional degree, you can get an extensive degree later, you don’t need both.


Can media do what is being taught in social or communication science?

Media studies isn’t for journalism only. You can start off with YouTube, photography, adding the description, explore and apply what appeals to you, Ms. Rehman suggested.

Ms. Rehman said the sad reality is people do not evolve with the reality will be left behind.

Dr. Merrill said, “We cannot topple the computer to take out frustration on the desk like the editors were able to do with the copies, we have to adapt to changes likewise.  Twitter is bringing into insight, the knowledge that can be applied to the new age of media lens.”

The session concluded with Ms. Siddiqui suggesting that media may be in trouble but not for the youth. “There are many places the millennials can go to. Because if media is shrinking, it’s shrinking everywhere”, she added.