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Journalism and advertising careers: What they don't tell you

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

While media continues to be one of the most sought after fields in the new age, freshers in the industry often stumble on factors they realize are vital to the field, but were not stressed upon in college. Tanishka Sodhi talks to journalists and advertising professionals to uncover these varying factors

The media industry is best summed up by Amal Kalantri, who once said, “The only private sector industry where employees work with their lives at stake for the interest of common people is the media industry.” It may not be the most glamorous job in town, or the one that makes the biggest bucks, but there is something about this growing industry that is inviting more candidates every year to pursue it.

While there are a fair amount of professions who have entered the field after studying courses that are not necessarily related, most of the working professionals have graduated with a degree in Mass Media, or as it is commonly referred to as – BMM (Bachelor's of Mass Media.)

In the third and final year of this bachelor's course, the students are required to choose their specialization. Although the media industry is vast, the options in BMM are limited. Students are to choose between journalism and advertising. This one year period with subjects specific to the specialization chosen is expected to train them for the professional world outside, which most students immediately step in after graduating. However, as they make their way up the ladders of the world of deadlines, sources, different creative processes and more, they realise there are some important factors, vital to the industry, that were not stressed upon in college at all. Although this may somewhat be the case in most fields, and there exist certain things that can't be taught in a classroom, freshers in journalism and advertising find this to be challenging in more ways than one.

Ashok Wadia, the principal of Jai Hind College, one of the most sought after colleges in the city for pursuing BMM gives his inputs on the growing popularity of the course. "The number of students applying for this course has definitely been increasing. Earlier, to be a journalist, students would just take English or Political Science as subjects and then go forward, but now they have a specialized course to train them that have projects to help them understand the work too- mass media is opening up the avenues."

Can journalism only be learned on the field?
Simran*, a city reporter working with a tabloid in Mumbai, opens up about the language barrier that is essential to overcome in this field. “As a young journalist now, and having studied journalism as a course during graduation as well as post graduation, I got to know only during placements that I could not do reporting in a place of where I did not know the local language,” she says, addressing this unsaid rule of journalism. “Knowledge could also not be confined to the spoken, but one needs to be able to read, which is not possible unless one has studied in a state board of that state in early school years. No journalism school tells you this very important thing. This is what one will be asked at every job interview, and will limit a lot of your options,” she adds.

“In college, they tell you to write about 'xyz', but the whole part about making your sources is a very gray area,” said a journalist who is currently working with a leading national newspaper. “To be fair, you can't entirely teach news gathering; but there should have been a much better curriculum to share knowledge about this ...it should have been a separate module altogether.”

Sheriar Irani, a broadcast journalist who also used to teach the graduating batch of BMM in a South Mumbai college some subjects, said, “Journalism is one of those fields where by nature, I never thought you need to be taught things. It's more like an interaction between someone who's in the field and a fresher going into the field. It's a very volatile and unexpected field ...most things are learned better on the field than tin classrooms. Journalism isn't about the smartest person. It's about the person who will stay through the struggle and till the end of the race.”

A student pursuing her masters in Journalism from the Mumbai University, who has also been working as a full time reporter, says, “College journalism looks at stuff very broadly. They don't discuss practical situations a new journalist is likely to face. For example: How to talk to people, chase stories, and form sources. A lot of people think that these things just come to you, but that's wrong. These are skills that can be learned and eventually perfected. One of the general assumption by teachers seems to be that you can only learn stuff when you work outside, which is not wrong, but a lot of it can be brought to the college level as well. So much can happen in classrooms, that isn't happening!”

The unsaid rules of advertisement
Nynoshka Rodrigues, a fresher who started working in the advertisement industry eight months ago, tells us, “Client management is something that was never focused on in college. We had a lot of in depth projects on pitching, writing and making creatives, but never stressed about the client side of things. I think it's necessary to include a topic in ad classes that focus on each aspect of the agency and the career prospects available for students. There was a lot more focus on the creative side of advertising than the actual working of an organisation.”

Riya*, an ex student of Pune's Symbiosis Institute of Media & Communication, known to be one of the top media schools in the country, says, “It's not always about the quality of your work. You can put out excellent work, day-after-day, but you've got to sell it to the right people. The entire concept of 'hard work always pays' is a little flawed in advertising. A lot of it is maintaining good relationships and really pushing for your ideas.”

Deep Chhabbria, who has been working as a creative partner of an advertisement firm in the city after studying the same in a leading advertisement institute in the US, speaks to us about his experience. “Knowing what clients will pay for is something you're not prepared for in college. We're taught to be creative but not practical. You enter an agency trying to send brands to the moon, and then reality strikes. Eventually, your creativity suffers. Balance and value of ideas is something that I think colleges should stress upon.”

Priyanka Nazareth, an advertising professional who recently graduated, tells us what she is still getting a hang of. “In college, we should have been taught to understand and interpret the data of our consumers. We are supposed to build communication based on algorithms and this unstructured data we have of our consumers. How we can use this seemingly useless data to communicate with consumers is so important. Data is the future ...everything is targeted to you based on what you buy, scroll through, etc. How data and advertising go hand-in-hand should definitely been stressed upon more ...it's barely spoken about in colleges.”

While the struggles in the media industry may not be limited, they can definitely be overcome. For jobs like journalism and advertisement, passion and dedication is a must - which the budding professionals seem to have plenty of!

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