The Vikram Sarabhai Residence Hall at the prestigious National Institute of Technology-Rourkela (NIT-R) was in a very bad shape till August last year. An overhead water tank and some of the pipes were leaking and the toilets were left without water for many days. A few wash basins were in need of repair and the water purifiers were in need of new filters.
The hall houses nearly 500 students and the situation did not improve even after the election of the executive body of the hall. When all other efforts failed, it is the media that came forward to help. ‘Monday Morning’, having both print and online editions, took up the matter and ran stories highlighting the problems and slamming the authorities for their inaction. The authorities woke up from their slumber. The warden and members of the executive body were on their toes and the situation began to change dramatically. Leaks got repaired and water purifiers acquired new filters.
Similarly, the Monday Morning ran a story on child abuse in the mess of one of the halls of residence last year. It led to the Chief Warden taking notice. He formed a team to inspect and raid all halls of residence caterers and mess owners to check on the number of children below the age of 14 working there and how they were treated. When the same newspaper ran stories on another problem at the students’ hostels, putting immense pressure on the Chief Warden, Director and other officials, they went to the extent of saying that reporters should control themselves.
If you think the Monday Morning is one of the mainstream newspapers, you are wrong. It is the campus newsletter of NIT-R and the reporters are none other than the engineering students. But their journalistic spirit is no less than that of any professional scribe. The content and stories are on par with the mainstream media.
Though the concept of campus journalism is yet to gain momentum in India, it is taking concrete shape at the IITs. Monday Morning is only an example. There are other such newsletters like The Scholar’s Avenue of IIT-Kharagpur and InsIghT of IIT-Bombay which showed how vibrant campus journalism can be.
The newsletter was formed with the simple motive of letting everyone on the NIT-R campus know ‘what’s happening in the institute’. With time, it evolved from just a reporting-facts-agency to a body that addressed anything and everything of the students, professors and alumni, said Samik Ghosal, chief coordinator of Monday Morning .
“Besides highlighting the issues and problems on the campus, the newsletter is a means to bring students and faculty together. It helps in better interaction, especially when more than half the issues facing the institute result from misunderstanding between the two.”
The newsletter is purely a students’ affair. The three chief coordinators are responsible for setting up the agenda for the issues, guiding and coordinating the content team members and editing the reports sent by them. The ground work of collecting information and writing reports is done by the content team members. A team of four makes policies, introduces new features, sets long-term goals, performs periodic reviews of the newsletter and takes decisions on controversial issues. Normally a member has to devote 2-3 hours per week for this. The campus computer facility is used to bring out the newsletter, Mr. Ghosal said.
Other than these, there are picture and video galleries. In the video gallery, apart from videos of institute events, selected interviews are also aired.
The weekly poll ‘Student Pulse’ is meant for regular interaction with the readers and ‘Pick of the Week’ is meant for photography. ‘Placement Live’ is a section which provides live updates of campus placement results of final year students on real time basis. From this year onwards a new section of cartoons will be added to facilitate expression through caricatures.
InsIghT , the student's newsletter of IIT-Bombay, is yet another noteworthy piece of campus journalism. Apart from having different sections dedicated for different purposes, this newsletter contains a special section named the ‘Shout box’. Here the students flag a problem or voice an opinion.
A student, Priyanka Bhardwaj, ‘shouted’ against the autorickshaw menace at IIT-Bombay. But more interesting is the post by another student, Kovid Kapoor, who ‘shouted’ out his dismay over the selection of editors.
“The current procedure for the nomination of the InsIghT editors clearly lacks this vision. Saying that opening up this post to elections will result in election of biased editors is a flawed argument; the view of the editors will then truly be representative of the view of the janata,” he wrote.
Those who read these campus newsletters will be pleasantly surprised by the professionalism and journalistic spirit of these ‘campus scribes’. Though produced and published by the techies, they have emerged as models worthy of imitation.