Punjab University Journalism Program Provides Excellence an Future

By Mahvish Akhtar, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

Dr. Mughees-uddin Sheikh is the Dean faculty of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Director Institute of Communication Studies and Station Director Punjab University’s FM 104.6. In the year 2006 under Dr. Sheikh’s supervision M. Phil (Professional Track), and M. Phil leading to PHD was added to the curriculum. The Institute of Communication Studies has been placed into the faculty of Behavioral and Social Sciences, because of which B.A and M.A have been turned into B.S and M.S.

For the past two years, semester examinations have been streamlined. A briefing was organized to update the faculty and staff about the semester system. An assembly was arranged on ‘Earthquake Catastrophe and Media’ on December 30th 2005 by the director of the ICS department. Other than that many Students events were organized, for the first time in this institutes history, in the month of April in 2004 and 2005. The graduates of this department have been employed at PTV, GEO, ARY, INDUS TV, ATV, Dawn newspaper, Daily Newspaper, Daily Times, Daily Jang among many others. Students have also been employed by 3 different FM stations.

Internship program has been carved with the collaboration of media organizations such as: Governor House, CNN, Nation, News, PTV, ATV, GEO, Indus, ARY Digital, Radio Pakistan, Daily Dawn, Daily Times, Pakistan Observer, The Sun, Nawa-i-Waqt, and others. An English/Urdu, magazine “image’ Vol-l has been published covering all the relevant activities. Next Vol-2 is in process and will be published within one month. There is a Media Cell where radio and TV programming is conducted. In under this Media Cell Punjab University transmits its radio broadcast every day.

TMO: What are the future plans for this department?

Dr. Mughees: I want to consolidate what I have accomplished. Sometimes we keep starting new things but we do not fine tune. So, what I would like to do is examine the shortcoming and fallacies and like to fix those problems and take remedial steps to do so. I think this year in addition future plans and other forward steps I would like to pay special attention to consolidation. So first of all I will consolidation I would like to focus on the completion of third phase our construction plan.

This is our top priority because we are looking at some projects in the future for which we would need space. For example Admin block is under construction, rooms for the teaching staff. Parking for our departmental vehicles also extension of our broad casting house; also extension of our library and basement for that purpose.

In addition to that we need a small auditorium, which would be a multimedia center comprising of at least 250 seats. The curriculum and new programs are concerned we are envisioning to launch our own monthly bilingual newspaper. We have sent a proposal to the Vice Chancellor in hopes that in the coming budget we get money for that newspaper InshAllah. So that will be a facility for print media students. We already have facilities for the electronic media students in the form of broadcasting setup including television and audio video labs. But we do not have any facility for print media people. In addition to that we are also looking into advertising and public relations networking. Because we offer four sequences; Masters in PR, Masters in Advertising, Masters in Print media and Masters in Electronic Media. So, we want another lab fully equipped with all required accessories for that PR and advertising setup and that will give facility to those who are in those programs because not all agencies are very accommodating. For the first time in this summer we will be starting indigenous languages in addition to our international languages courses.

Along with German, French, Arabic and Hindi we will be offering InshAllah Baluchi, Sindhi, and Pashtoo. These are the things in the pipeline and we will be starting them soon. Next summer we will concentrate on marketing, it is important because if we produce students in bulk and they do not occupy the market or the market is not consumed by our graduates then it really all is futile. So, my next target is to introduce communication studies at inter level. So, that will basically lay down the foundation for quality education at Masters Level. My vision is that basically the courses which are being offered in a condensed form and then (because we are specialized) it should be in form of one or two papers in a capsule form. Masters class is basically the top class here we should offer specialized courses which are required by the market, it should be market and skill oriented. Finally I am also envisioning establishing a research and development center where we would like to bring projects from outside the department and even outside the University. University is very generous to extend its cooperation in terms of money and grant there are some multi nationals and NGOs who offer projects which we can accept projects and we can form a group of teachers and students so that we can produce knowledge and knowledge production is always through research.

TMO: What are you keeping in mind right now when you design a curriculum? What would you like your students to accomplish after graduating?

Dr. Mughees: I am quiet satisfied in this regard. For example what I believe is that anyone from this department who knows his or her job and who is committed there are so many jobs waiting for that person. Just yesterday I dispatched five people of my choice. For the first time I went for short listing, I do not like to do that. And I received a thank you letter from that organization along with a phone call and a SMS. They said they had 29 candidates and they selected only 5 and all 5 belonged to our institute. They are still studying I might ad these students have not graduated yet. So that makes me happy. All these people are committed and are going the extra mile are getting the jobs. So, in media one should not recommend everyone. Although they have gotten admission here, but seeking admission does not mean that they are professional journalists. There are 950 students in this department and not all of them are competent. Those who are competent they find their space. I think I am quiet happy in that sense. Rather I am impatient so the length of the course will be turned form two years to one year because the demand is so high that I am not going to fulfill the demand in two years time for 15 channels. It takes time for a graduate to complete his or her course work so that they have to wait for two years for one batch. So what I am trying to do to produce producers and organizers is setting up workshops and the idea that was floated to various channels that you should not wait for graduates if you are looking for good stuff its available right now. And they will groom over the period of time they spend with the organization and become an asset for the organization.

TMO: How do you believe journalists aid in the development of a country (since Pakistan is a developing country)?

Dr. Mughees: We offer a specialized kind of course known as development journalism; under this umbrella we sensitize our students about the role of journalists in the field of development. Again since it is passed through on a convincing speed in Pakistan in the last decade still more work needs to be done. I am not very positive and satisfied in this regard because the journalists are not mentally very cautious about developmental role, this is my expression there is no empirical evidence in support of my statement but I believe we need to work more in this area.

TMO: What kind of improvements would you bring in your own students to make them more cautious?

Dr. Mughees: I think in times to come we need to focus and revise our curriculum for development journalism and collect students of capability.

The reason I say this is because the students who join this program are not very good students who would normally be in the top 100 or the top 50. Those top students go for other areas such as electronic media specialization etc.

So, Development Journalism needs more marketing. I think we need to launch a marketing campaign and design a strategy to market this type of journalism so that the students of caliber would explore this option because most of them are not aware that this is an area which is popular or is job oriented. Also, the problem is on the side of the employers as well.

They employ for example reporters who are political reporters, court reporters, but they do not employ development reporters because they have no idea. If they employ one development reporter who can cover literacy, education, human rights, women empowerment, sanitation problems, it’s a wide range of issues but the owner does not know himself that this area needs attention. Also the taste of Pakistani Media consumer is such that they are always looking for spicy things.

This means politics and he said she said kind of journalism. If a reporter works really hard and writes an investigative report based on some health issue or environmental issue, there is nothing spicy about so the owners believe that the readers will not take interest in these kinds of stories.

Even those who are aware of this area even they feel the same about employing a development journalist. We need to popularize this field, on the other hand a few good development journalists will occupy the market because nobody is going to contest there will be no competition.

They are getting awards for their work and right now they have monopolized the market.

TMO: What do you look for in your faculty and are there any training programs for your faculty members? Or do you prefer trained teachers?

Dr. Mughees: We do both. John Hopkins School of Journalism organizes a workshop on development journalism every year in Pakistan. This workshop is normally for 23 weeks 6-8 hours a day. I always dispatch teachers from this department. Three of our teachers have been trained from these workshops.

In addition to that UNICEF and WHO organized a workshop on development journalism in the 80s we all were trained at that time then it was repeated in Murree next year and we were trained there as well. And then two of our people have sought special training of development support communication from the States, Shafiq Jhalandhri completed his master. I myself did the same thing and then went for my PHD.

And then those who have taken courses of development journalism they are also trained for example Zarqa Ali did her Masters in development journalism and we have employed her here.

Also we regularly dispatch our faculty for different workshops.

We also send our faculty for higher education to places such as Germany and Whales and we have brought two scholarships from overseas and I am encouraging the young faculty members to fulfill the requirements of GRE and TOEFL so that they should be able to seek admission in good institution in United States. There are so m any scholarships all we have to do is work hard except the challenge and fulfill the requisites.

Also we are trying to cut down the size of our classes. This would control the population of the department. There will be an increase in number of programs but the number of students in each program will be more controlled.