Enhancing diverse media skills

EXPLORING CONVERGENCE: Prof. Manjunath Pendakur. Photo: V.Ganesan

EXPLORING CONVERGENCE: Prof. Manjunath Pendakur. Photo: V.Ganesan  


Professor Manjunath Pendakur, dean of the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts, Southern Illinois University talks about the emerging technologies and mass media training. K. Ramachandran

Emerging technologies and the way they are cutting across borders of different disciplines are changing both the mode of learning as well as delivery of media/mass communication courses in universities and colleges.Predictably then, students aspiring to enter mass media courses have to prepare for a challenging period of learning.Universities and colleges that offer these courses have an equally challenging task in updating their curriculum to produce professionals with diverse work skills needed by different media outlets, even while retaining the heart of the profession.Professor Manjunath Pendakur, Dean of the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale ( > , who had come to India to recruit students for his faculty spoke to Education Plus on the impact of emerging technologies, the concept of convergence and its impact of mass media, especially on mass media educational courses.The central concern however was: In the near future a field reporter will need to acquire diverse skills (but retain the core abilities of a good story teller) required by different media streams.Prof. Pendakur, who began as a cinematography student at the Chennai Film Institute in the mid-Sixties and took his Ph.D from Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada, says he has been constantly discussing the need to revamp the curriculum to cope with the technology changes."The media education field in the last 10 years has been grappling with the issue of technology consolidation happening in industry, and looking to produce media persons for different outlets whose processes and expectations are diverse."On the changes being incorporated in the SIUC curriculum, Prof. Pendakur says: "The course has got more intense and we are focused on having a concentrated approach for skills and technologies, even while learning theory, criticism and production. We also provide for an intensive internship. In the first year a student gets the core skills of mass communication/media and in the second year get a wide and flexible choice. With the help of a counseller they can choose things to work intensively on... "Years ago, SIUC got a media centre supported by Apple Inc. "It is basically a high-end computing centre that helps students learn print journalism, online media, sales and marketing communication, and animation, graphics ... In essence it is a place where the nebulous idea called convergence is getting translated to action."Simultaneously, SIUC has also made "significant hires" of practitioners and communication theory teachers. "The faculty has changed a lot in the past four years since I took over. From 26 we have increased the faculty number to 42 now and those newly hired are all interested in meeting the changes... "Asked whether he feels that basic writing skills among students are on the decline, Dr. Pendakur says his university believes that writing skills is central to media profession. "One needs to be a good story teller, be accurate with facts, able to verify facts, and still be ethical... They cannot be given up," he adds.

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