Mentoring in Journalism education

How should we teach journalism - as an instructor, an an expert from the field, a lecturer or a mentor?

Dr. Asif Khan
Srinagar, Publish Date: Mar 18 2018 11:42PM | Updated Date: Mar 18 2018 11:42PM
Mentoring in Journalism educationFile Photo

It is certainly a revolutionized world we live in. The luxury of knowledge is available to all with absolute ease. The treasure of education is available to anyone who seeks it. A teacher - being next to god is an obsolete connotation now given the amount of subject knowledge and information available through technology - which is just a click away. Guttenberg modernized us with his innovation but now Internet (god of all small and big things) has overtaken everything else. And in the process, an easy access to resources, textual material, and information with the help of technology has certainly transformed everyone into intellectuals and thinkers. So who teaches what, to whom, with what effect- remains to be tested? Among myriad professions and subjects, essence of a teacher can be convincing and inspiring enough to the extent of propounding theories of metaphysics, interpreting and applying integral calculus in finding gods at infinity. But ‘prime movers’ vocation proves to be much different case for teaching and learning. Here what the subject calls for is more than teaching, counseling or advising. It demands mentoring.  

Journalism is not everyone’s cup of tea given its job requirements - hard work, risks involved, probable influence, toughness and growing horizon of this profession. Unlike other professions and subjects, journalism has always remained in a constant flux. There is a continuous integration of new technologies, formats, facades, convergence and other new changes like - all blended into same subject. Actually one has to unlearn a good deal to learn art of being a journalist nowadays. As far teaching of the subject goes- moot question is how should we teach this subject, as an instructor, an expert from field, a lecturer or a mentor? 

According to many experts, even though good teaching is too important to be left to chance, instruction through mentoring in the craft of teaching is generally not finding its way into mass communication and journalism education. And what seems a generally observed viewpoint is that mentoring is a step in the right direction even if perceived barriers include fear that, for whatever reason - a less formal approach is the way to go. Today’s student is smart enough to google any topic you teach in the classroom but the real test is to interpret, understand and find right stuff from the deluge of options available. We know in journalism, there are situations that are ambiguous and challenge our ability to apply moral certainties. If we talk of ethics, responsibilities and moral soundness of a journalist – it becomes equally more important to guide, supervise and advise journalism students about the same. So how does mentoring help people who teach students in journalism? Who is a Mentor? 

A mentor is someone who has a positive and long lasting impact on a student’s personal as well as professional life. It has to come naturally as a characteristic of a teacher where he or she becomes a role model for students and thus impacts their learning. Mentoring rather than routine teaching helps students in many ways like facilitating and assisting their development. It assists to bring about a conducive, cordial atmosphere between a teacher and student which is an important aspect to make this relationship much more positive and result oriented. While as a routine classroom work may seem imposing on a student, mentoring allows a student to explore, examine and research about things at his own pace and will. As the subject, unlike other subjects expects continuous updating on the sides, the topics, theme and ideas shared cannot be taught from the textbooks only. The concepts discussed in the classes have to be synergistic and effective as well. Mentoring helps students to command attention. The students through guidance learn the art and attitude of discussing concepts, always probing, questioning and learn the principles from their own natural discovery of things by observation, information and knowledge shared.

A mentor has to be a very honest, original and full of integrity. He/she actually has to ‘practice what he/she teaches’. Mentorship is a vital component of personal and professional development. It is one of the best ways of realistic engagement. Mentoring puts students in authority gives him a sense of reputation. It helps mentee build self-reliance and feel it easy to understand the subject as well. The importance of finding a mentor in a journalism class becomes more necessary when we talk about teaching morals, ethics, values and laws. A teacher may try to impose his or her own values, perception, opinion on students but students may find it quite opposite to their assumptions, perceptions, accepted notions or actual ground realities in the outside world. Journalism students must be allowed to sense, comprehend and co-relate nuances from different situations on their own. If their thought process is fenced in anyway, it may lead to confusion, and eventually end up in their poor professional development.  

As journalism subject demands continuous updating in all existing information world, both on part of the teachers who relay the subject matter and students who receive the information. Mentoring process has all the essential ingredients to make a classroom an easy and actual place of learning for the student. With mentoring styled teaching and practice at both places like industry and classrooms in universities, the age-old schism constructed between a classroom situation and field setting can be shunned practically. For students, to enter media profession could be a daunting experience and intimidating if he or she is not mentored and prepared well to face insecurities in this field. The mentor as a guide, as an advisor, a counselor has to offer assistance to the students, so that they are able to allay their fears of being novices in the field. Apart from the class work, assignments or internships, students need to be trained for an overall psychological development. Their work, concepts, ideation, intellective abilities must be acknowledged and likewise awarded which certainly will give rise to the level of confidence in them. A student of journalism has to be a ‘treasure-hunter’. It equally asks for a lot of commitment, interest and consistency from the students. The treasure would mean that students aspiring to be effective journalists must be realistic, creative and subject themselves to relevant training and education. Mentees must know that they have to take advice/suggestion from their mentors seriously and choose their own direction after properly evaluating it. Media students, who are sure to sail through, should be aware of what is required of them, must know their rights and duties and cling to their mentors for proper guidance and right direction. 

At Central University of Kashmir, under the guidance of Internal Quality Assurance Cell (IQAC), the University is already running a comprehensive Students Mentorship Program (SMP). In this program, students are assigned to different faculty of the department for a continuous and thorough mentorship program. The mentees (students) are guided, counseled and supervised for a bright and successful career. 

(Author is Coordinator, Department of Convergent Journalism, School of Media Studies, Central University of Kashmir, Nowgam Srinagar)


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