Electives form a vital component of the ACJ’s academic programme. Over the second and third terms, all students take three elective courses chosen from a wide variety of offerings. At the time of admission in July, all students are expected to submit to the Registrar a list of seven electives, in descending order of preference. Ideally, students will have two electives in one term and the remaining one in the other. Please note that students may not get all the electives of their choice. These courses, which may be conducted in the form of lectures, seminars, or workshops, are taught by adjunct or full-time faculty members who are experts in their fields and are drawn from both academia and the media. The electives provide students an opportunity to study some of the subject areas introduced earlier in greater depth and to learn certain specialised kinds of reporting.
The list of electives varies from year to year, and subjects may be added if there is sufficient student demand. The following electives are offered for the year 2018-2019.
Critical International Issues
Dr Sudha Ramachandran, an independent analyst, who writes on South Asian political and security issues.
Stanly Johny, an independent journalist/analyst who specializes on conflict and security issues.
Part I of the Critical International Issues (CII) course will focus on peace and conflict issues. In addition to analysing the India-Pakistan conflict over Kashmir, the Sino-Indian border dispute, the Sri Lankan civil war, and the Israel-Palestine conflict, the course will explore issues such as third-party mediation and reconstruction. China’s growing role in the Indian Ocean and its Belt and Road Initiative will also be examined.
Part II of the course examines the origin and evolution of armed conflict in Afghanistan,
Sri Lanka, Northern Ireland, Sudan etc and explores related issues including the role of international actors in fuelling conflict, conflict resolution, reconstruction and so on.
D. Krishnan, Photo Editor, The Hindu
A course on basic photography and an understanding of light is given to all the students in the first trimester. This enables the students to get a working knowledge of professional photographic equipment. Explanation of photographic terms like shutter speeds, aperture, film speeds etc are taken up with practical examples.
The elective builds on that foundation. Sessions in shooting VVIP visits, covering functions, use of the flash as a creative tool, are taken up in the elective classes. The elective also deals with writing captions for photos. Students have to submit two photo features on topics given to them. The work includes street and candid photography. Lectures and slide shows by professional press and commercial photographers supplement the course. Classes on basic Photoshop and photo transmission are included in the elective.
T.S. Subramanian, Associate Edior, Frontline
The elective course will emphasise that archaeology does not mean excavation of artefacts alone but includes decipherment of scripts such as the Indus, the Asokan-Brahmi, the Tamil-Brahmi, the Pallava Grantha, the Tamil Vattellutu, the Sumerian script, sculptures, carvings, pre-historic rock art in caves, murals in temples and palaces, copper-plate charters, exquisite bronzes and so on. (Despite attempts by scholars from different parts of the world, the Indus script has not been deciphered so far).
The course will deal with how archaeologists identify a particular site for excavation, what are the indications available on the surface of a site, how they excavate a site, how they analyse it stratigraphically, how they date the artefacts if they find them and so on. The course will deal with the discovery of stone tools used by hunter-gatherers, dated to several lakh years before the present, the paleolithic tools, the neolithic tools, dolmens, cairn circles, menhirs belonging to the Megalithic Age, how the Indus sites were discovered, the history of the Indus civilisation, how vast it was, why it collapsed and attempts at deciphering the Indus script.
There will be focus on Jainism, Buddhism, how the Jaina and the Buddhist sites were excavated in India, the spread of Buddhism to Sri Lanka, Burma and other countries, the artefacts including the Yakshi and Yaksha artefacts belonging to Jainism, the Asokan period, the Nagarjunakonda and the Amaravathi sites, the Pallava age (Mamallapuram), the Chola dynasty, the Pandian and the Chera rulers, the Satavahanas and so on. There will be classes on Angkor Wat and the Hindu temples in Laos and Vietnam.
Making Sense of Politics
A S Panneerselvan, Executive Director, Panos South Asian & Readers’ Editor, The Hindu
The party politics of India is a brilliant polyphony. It is not like the cola-choice of the United States and other major western democracies, where the choice is binary between Republicans Vs Democrats or Conservatives Vs Labour or Christian Democrats Vs Social Democrats. Indian political reality is truly multi-party in its construct.
It has multiple representational characters as well as many intrinsic democratic deficits within like lack of inner party democracy and entrenched glass ceilings. The centrality of politics keeps democratic heritage on track and does not permit the army or the judiciary or the executive to trample on the supreme will of the people. Comprehension of the current politics is central to understanding the dynamics of our own growth and developmental models.
The course will explain the broad trajectories of three political strands of modern India: the nationalist, the Left and the reformist. It will explain the salient feature of four phases that define Indian politics: the postindependence euphoria that lasts till the split in Indian National Congress (1947-1969), the distortions and subversions of the institutions between 1969 and 1977, the period of flux between 1977 and 1991, and the contemporary phase of post-Mandal, post-Babri Masjid desecration, post-liberalisation coalition era (1991 to the present).
It will elaborate on the delicate division of powers between the Union and the States that provide the federal balance. It will focus on how the finer elements of an asymmetric devolution that is inherent in the Constitution to address the political aspirations of the people from different regions, for example Article 370 which confers a special status on Jammu and Kashmir, are undermined by the desire to have an explicitly powerful centre. The course will help students to understand the functioning of the democratic institutions like parliament, state assemblies and local bodies and their relationship with the other arms like the executive and the judiciary. By explaining the existing checks and balances framework, the course will enable young journalists to understand the success and the failures of our political class.
Aarati Krishnan,Chief of Bureau Research, Deputy Editor, The Hindu – Business Line
Mushrooming sources for business news and the wide availability of information has made business journalism an extremely competitive and skill-intensive profession in recent years. Today’s business journalist is expected to not just report events and developments in the world of business, but also to provide interpretation, analysis and contextual information that makes the information useful to the businessman.
The Business module on companies, markets and finance is designed to equip students with these fundamental business reporting skills. Designed to provide even students with a non-finance background with the required foundation on these subjects, the course is designed to familiarize students with the essentials of microeconomics and macroeconomics. It will also acquaint them with the key drivers across different sectors of the Indian economy and with what makes or breaks the cost structure and profitability of firms.
Students will also be familiarized with developments in the corporate sector over the last decade with insights on trends and variations in output and profits across sectors and the policy developments that affect them. The course introduces students to the functioning of the stock market, how firms are valued, drivers of bull and bear markets, asset classes such as equity, debt and alternative assets, apart from stock market regulation, investor protection, and capital market reform in recent years.
Students learn to analyse issues raised by attempted or ongoing reform across key sectors such as banking and insurance and discuss the problems of regulating a liberalized financial sector. Students also gain a basic understanding of recent global capital market developments and the various international stock market indices like the Dow Jones Industrial, S&P 500, FTSE, Nikkei, and Hang Seng.
This will be done with the backdrop of economic theory. This will enable them to report on complex business and economic phenomena in a simple and comprehensible manner.
Jayalakshmi Shreedhar, Medical Doctor and Health Consultant
This elective offers an overview of health journalism and trains students to make sense of research reports and clinical studies, examines the pros and cons of public and private health, discusses the coverage of outbreaks and epidemics, explores the recent promotion of ‘packaged’ healthcare and contextualizes the rise of lifestyle diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. At the same time, poverty-related diseases like malaria, malnutrition, TB, gastroenteritis, and occupational diseases will be covered, along with social issues related to organs’ trade, infanticide, sex selection and HIV/AIDS. The students will learn about the controversies surrounding patent protection and human protection, new developments in medical technology, patients’ rights and government health policies. In addition, there will be information on traditional medicine and on mental health. As part of the course work, there will be article reviews, group exercises, student presentations and written exams.
History of South India
Chithra Madhavan, Historian and writer
The history of South India has unfortunately been virtually neglected by the syllabus-makers at the school and college levels. With a recorded history spanning at least 2000 years, and with monuments still in existence from at least the 6th century A.D., it makes for a delightful and interesting subject.
This course could comprise of many units, beginning from the Roman contact with India with literature, coins, urns and other archaeological findings as authentic evidence from the early centuries of the Christian Era. This corresponded with the Sangam Age of Tamil Nadu about which there is plenty of evidence from Tamil literature and other archaeological data.
What is not taught in schools and colleges is the correlation between North Indian and South Indian history. When Asoka, the Mauryan ruler was in the north, the Cholas, Cheras and Pandyas were ruling in the south. The same script was in vogue throughout the country at that time, while the languages were different.
The Pallavas of the present-day Tamil Nadu, the Chalukyas of present-day Karnataka and Harshavardhana of Kanauj were contemporaries. The Pallavas defeated the Chalukyas who had earlier defeated Harshavardhana.
All these political, economic, social and cultural contacts are seen over the centuries between various regions of India. The South in particular was safeguarded from many an invasion and hence many of the ancient and medieval monuments are still in a good condition. The development of temple architecture of South India is a fascinating one which reveals the expertise of the engineers and architects of times bygone. The inscriptions found in the temples are authentic sources which throw light on many interesting details of everyday life, apart from the political and economic conditions of those times. A study of the sculptures also shows the refined technique of stone carving and bronze-making overtime.
This course could consist of a comprehensive study of all the major dynasties of South India- Pallavas, Pandyas, Cheras, Chalukyas, Cholas, Hoysala, Kakatiya, Vijayanagara, Nayaka and also many of the smaller dynasties such as the Nolambas, Gangas, Kadambas, etc. Their contribution to various spheres of activity can be the highlight of this course.
— in association with UNICEF —
Anjana Krishanan, Research Associate, ACJ
The elective aims to introduce students to the concept of child rights, expose and sensitise them to the broad range of issues affecting children in South Asia, with a specific emphasis on India, and help them understand how to report on children’s issues responsibly and sensitively.
The course will introduce child rights in a larger human rights context, explore the notion of the child as a potential individual with rights, and examine some of the barriers to the realisation of these rights. It will also explore the various dimensions of child rights issues plaguing children and the exploitation and deprivation children face. With emphasis on both ground realities as well as policy angles, the elective will examine in detail some of the pressing problems in society today, including child labour, unequal and gendered access to adequate education and health care, rising malnutrition, violence and exploitation, and female foeticide and infanticide.
Media coverage tends to focus on the sensational, is often replete with stereotypes, and ignores the array of real problems affecting the young the world over. More importantly, issues are reported with little regard for confidentiality. The elective will emphasise reportage with a human rights approach, and discuss the guidelines for sensitive reporting by professional journalists, as well as the need for accurate representation of children in the media.
V. Ramnarayan, Advisor, The Sanmar Group, Editor-in-Chief, Sruti magazine, and columnist in Cricinfo and Wisden India
This elective aims to provide prospective cricket writers with an understanding of the historical moorings of the game and its practitioners and also take them on a tour of some of the finest writing on the game through the major part of its history right up to the present. There will be anecdotes galore. They will make you laugh sometimes, move you to tears at other times. They will make you think about the way the game has
evolved over the last couple of centuries, its commercialization, its troubled present, and the decisions it must make to achieve a smooth transition into the future, satisfying all its stakeholders.
The challenges of cricket writing are many. To start with, it is perhaps the only outdoor sport played in three different formats. And within each genre of the game, seemingly infinite variations are possible, in terms not only of the wide scope for specialisation among batsmen, bowlers and fielders, but also the playing conditions that can change from continent to continent, city to city, and turn a game upside down when the weather changes. Traditionally fought among national sides—mostly England and the former British colonies, to be precise—the game has been reinvented to offer a brand new form of entertainment through the high-octane, hyperbole-driven Indian Professional League. With 24×7 television bringing the game into your drawing room or I-Phone, with expert commentary by some of the greatest cricketers around, writing on cricket after the event has never been a more daunting task. Though recent revelations of skulduggery may indicate that the game is ethically at its lowest ebb, controversies have always dogged the ‘gentleman’s game’. Covering their ramifications as a journalist will need honesty, courage and skill.
Theatre and Performance
Padma.V, Theatre Person and Faculty, Department of English, Stella Maris College
The course combines practical exposure to the training of theatre, the basic components of theatre and the theoretical concepts of theatre making and practice around the world. The thrust of the course would be to unpack the matrix of aesthetics, politics and performance. It would also posit the emerging trends in inter-culturalism and multiculturalism in the context of globalization, commodification and homogenization. Finally, it would focus on cultural nationalism and the way it appropriates the performative codes prevalent over centuries.
Body politics and spatiality would be the realms in which performativity would be elaborated. The linkages with gender, caste, religion and class would be studied. Alternate ways of looking at evolving ‘glocal’ paradigms would form the primary objective of the study. The students are expected to bring to the course their own exposure and responses to the cultural context of their specific region and context.
Covering Women’s Issues
Kavita Chowdhury, Freelance Journalist writing on development, politics, women’s issues, and the visual arts
This elective will focus on actual reporting in the field, taking it beyond the realm of theory, to having a more informed approach when reporting on women’s issues in a developing economy like India.Through the duration of the course, students will be acquainted with a gamut of issues that they are likely to encounter as working journalists. To move away from episodic incident-based coverage requires a multi- pronged approach that is not necessarily confined to the conventional ‘beat system’ of newspaper and television reporting. Therefore, this elective highlights the need for a gender-sensitive outlook when reporting on any issue or story, by not overlooking the woman’s perspective.
The course will guide students on how to grapple with the realities of ground reporting, to steer clear of the usual blame-game narrative while reporting on incidents of violence against women, and to delve into the complex socio- economic dimensions implicit in such issues. The elective will explain how, for instance, women are often subjected to violations that are technically not classified as crimes under the IPC (Indian Penal Code), such as unequal pay and varying degrees of security for men and women in the labour force.
Since understanding of women’s rights and human rights cannot be conducted in isolation, this elective also looks at how women’s issues are framed and reported in the media in other countries. The course will explore topics that are currently being globally debated such as, “Does it make a difference to have women as decision makers in the news room?” Or “With more women engaging with social media, has it in any way overcome the confines imposed by a patriarchal society?”
By the end of the course, students will gain insights into their role as responsible journalists and how their reportage could work towards bringing about a positive change.
R. Nagendran, Professor of Environmental Science & Engineering and an Enviro-legal consultant.
Environment and Development are often mistaken as entities opposing the tenets and sub sects of each other; in reality, they are complementary to each other. The course brings out this feature and highlights the need to incorporate the same in environmental journalism. While elaborating this aspect and thinning the line of separation between the two, the course demonstrates the usefulness of select Ecological, Environmental and Sustainability concepts and principles [e.g., Ecodynamics, Environmental due diligence, Environmental Audit, EIA, EIS, Environmental Economics, Sustainability indices] in strengthening and adding scientific value to reporting.
The societal and administrative reactions and responses to ‘reported‘ stories on environmental matters and issues more often than not lead to knocking of the doors of Courts seeking justice and streamlining processes and procedures. In this context, the establishment of the National Green Tribunal has played a major role in developing Environmental Jurisprudence in India. Keeping this as the nucleus, the course outlines the salient features of Environmental laws [e.g., laws pertaining to industrial citing, infrastructure development, utilization of natural resources, waste management, biodiversity and wildlife protection, forest and coastal management] in vogue and the contribution of judiciary in upholding the environmental integrity in India.
Linking the facts, science and relevant provisions of law adds credibility and authenticity to environmental reporting. The course covers this aspect based on contemporary environmental issues.
Post the course, the reporting will be ‘different’ in the sense that it is muscled with techno-scientific analysis as against arraying facts alone, and open for techno-legal scrutiny to a great extent.
The objective of the course as elaboratred will be achieved through lecture sessions, group discussion, team-research, seminars and physical attendance in the National Green Tribunal during the case hearing followed by group learning exercises based on this experience.
Uma Vangal Shivakumar, Prof & Head,Media & Entertainment, LV Prasad Film & TV Academy
The course is an introduction to film and its understanding. It attempts to provide an insight into the key aspects of film, the ideation, scripting, film language, film grammar, the mise en scene, film technology and film making process. The study of film form in terms of genres, treatments and film craft will enable students to become discerning as ideators, writers, mediawatchers, filmmakers and film aficionados. The study of films via screening, discussion and theoretical inputs will aim at seeing films in all its dimensions – as a business, as a performance art, as a media text and as a popular cultural artefact. At the end of the course, students would be able to read the film text, perceive the nuances of its subtext and perceive the narratives within a global as well as specific cultural contexts within which it is made. From a cultural studies perspective, film is a reflection of its collaborative nature that reflects the society it is made in with specific motifs and themes and it appeals to audiences at various levels.
Leading Issues in Economics
Venkatesh Athreya, Advisor, Gender and Food Security, M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai
The elective will provide an analytical and historical account of the development of the Indian economy since independence. The students will be introduced to the role of international institutions like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation in the current context of globalization. The implications of India’s path of development for growth, poverty and employment in India will be discussed.
Students will be introduced to some basic concepts and analytical approaches in macroeconomics. They will receive an exposure to policy debates over such issues as food security and the implications of fiscal deficits, primarily in the context of the Indian economy.
Identities in a Plural Society
Nalini Rajan, Professor, ACJ
The idea of what constitutes an “Indian identity” is of crucial importance to working journalists. In a country of such bewildering diversity and pluralism, it is important to analyse the social construction of identities. The reporter should be sensitive to the specificity and particularity of individuals and groups while at the same time locating them in the mosaic of the Indian social polity. While reporting on caste and communal relations, the journalist must be alive to the sensitivities of her or his subject groups. This course is designed to give the student an understanding of the dynamics of a pluralistic society through the study of contemporary popular culture, media articles, and contributions by distinguished social scientists. The subject assumes special relevance in the context of the constitutional interpretation of secularism, culture, social and economic equality, and the nation state. Students explore the question of identity against the backdrop of the experience of other multicultural societies.
KC Vijaya Kumar, Sports Editor, The Hindu
There is a great demand for good sports writing in India. In addition to theoretical issues concerning the nature of sport and its function in society, this course leans heavily on practical work. A good sports writer has to be, above all, a good writer.
While knowledge of particular sports and games is essential, it is not sufficient to ensure high quality sports journalism. The exercises teach the
Sports appreciation is also part of the course. What do they know of sport who only sport know? The course lays emphasis on context, and on both depth and breadth in good sports coverage.
The course also considers the market for sports writing — what story to do, and where to place it. It introduces students to the special requirements of sports reporting for various media. Students read outstanding sports writers, including‘non-specialists’ who have written with passion on the sport they love: C.L.R. James, Mike Marqusee, Norman Mailer, and Joyce Carol Oates, among others.
K K Krishna Kumar, Freelancer, People’s Science Activist, literacy- community education volunteer
We are living in a world increasingly shaped by science and technology. People need to be aware of scientific advances as well as their implications. A good deal of public knowledge about science is acquired from the mass media. The reporting and coverage of science in the print, broadcast and online media become a vital part of contemporary journalism.
The purpose of this elective is to train students to cover scientific and
technological developments and make a clear, accurate and compelling story for a reader who may not be familiar with science. Students will learn to write not only cutting-edge research, but also about funding and policy.
We will read examples of the best science writing today in newspapers, magazines and books for the general reader. We will discuss the science that informs these stories. We will try to understand the techniques these reporters and writers use to communicate abstract ideas and to make complex issues comprehensible. We will also look at some not-so-good science writing.
The science beat in journalism is extremely varied. Students get to study and write on issues of local significance such as drought, desalination or the fate of our ground water. They will deal with new frontiers in science as in gene therapy, stem cell research, black holes and the future of the universe. The range of topics helps students learn the challenges and excitement of making science accessible through a journalism of precision and liveliness.
Covering Ecology and Environment
Nityanand Jayaraman, independent journalist and social activist
Issues relating to ecology and the environment have received substantial, though not insightful, media coverage in the last decade. The coverage, by and large, has failed to make the linkage between environmental degradation and issues of justice. The effects of environmental degradation are portrayed as affecting all of humanity in a similar manner.
However, an overwhelming body of evidence maintains that the poor, the marginalised and historically oppressed sections of society suffer a disproportionately high share of the ill-effects, while the well-off and politically powerful manage to not just fare better in the face of adverse environmental circumstances, but also benefit from the degradation.
Writing on environment and ecology requires an ability to make sense of social and natural sciences, in addition to the conventional journalistic skills of identifying sources and interviewing. In covering science, the ability to discern fact from conjecture becomes crucial. The role of industry and commerce (corporations), through their control of media and scientific institutions, needs to be understood if one is to tackle the myth that all “science” is science and that “science” is objective. The course will also touch upon some of the critical environmental issues. More importantly, though, it will help students pitch environmental stories and identify environmental angles to mainstream stories. This course will heavily emphasise “environmental justice” (Who gains? Who loses?) as a framework to understand environmental problems, their causes and effects. The course aims to develop research and analytical skills. This elective will be a combination of lecture sessions, field trips, interactive sessions, research projects and role-play exercises.
Music and Freedom
Gowri Ramnarayan, Musician, Playwright and Journalist
This elective looks at three kinds of music – art music, music as communitarian/cultural expression and bonding, and entertainment music. Distinct as these categories are, the lines have sometimes crossed or got blurred. All three have come under fire at sometime or other in human history.
While music is possibly the first art form practiced by humanity, moralists in many cultures have damned music as pandering to the senses and therefore debilitating or downright dangerous. Starting with Plato who excluded music and all other arts in his republic, totalitarian regimes past and present have banned certain kinds of music, fined, jailed and killed songsters and music makers.
This elective will look at the reasons for this antagonism and also devote some classes to understanding art music – specifically Carnatic and Hindustani genres, its role in society, particularly some gender issues about the confinement of women artistes to a certain social class, limited by convention to making only certain kinds of “feminine music”.
Baradwaj Rangan, Film Critic and Senior Deputy Editor, The Hindu
This is a class that aims to encourage students to bring to bear on their cinema viewing a unique perspective. Therefore, this will necessarily be a class about watching cinema, which is not the same as leaning back in your chair and stuffing your mouth with popcorn. We will watch a film or two over the semester, analysing it to shreds, with students saying what they “saw” (i.e. how they interpreted this segment with respect to staging, acting, or any other aspect which catches their unique eye).
For the midterm assignment, students will present and discuss a film clip of their choice. The finals will involve a written essay
Tim Holmes, Senior Lecturer, Cardiff School of Journalism, Cardiff University
Jane Bentley, Lecturer, Cardiff School of Journalism, Cardiff University
Magazines are a distinct media form that demand specific skills, abilities and knowledge from the journalists who create them.
This course will start by giving students an understanding of the political economy of the global magazine industry, in print and digital formats, with specific reference to the Indian market.
The main thrust of the elective, however, will challenge students to devise and develop a new magazine concept. Starting with a bare idea, each student will learn how to research and present a supporting business plan before starting to create content to suit the magazine’s readership. Workshops on writing news and features will help to reinforce good practice before students venture out to find and bring back real stories for their title.
Then it will be time to establish a suitable design style and turn words and pictures into actual pages. At the end of the course each student will have a new magazine concept, a business rationale to support it and a set of sample pages that demonstrate both style and substance.
Creative and Critical writing
Vikram Kapur,Writer and Professor
The creative and critical writing elective uses a mixture of classroom lecture, in-class writing, workshops and production of work to familiarise the students with the nuts and bolts of prose writing. Over the course of the elective, we will discuss the cornerstones of writing memorable prose, such as using autobiography to create fiction, choosing the right point of view from which to tell the story, creating a memorable character, coming up with a beguiling plot, drawing a setting, framing affecting dialogue, finding the right language for the story, and, finally, editing and revising a rough manuscript into a polished finished piece. The emphasis will be on writing as a reader, and reading as a writer. Other than doing various writing exercises, the students will also produce one short story of 1000 words and a critical commentary of 500 words. By the end of the elective, students should be well-versed in the nuts and bolts of prose fiction, and have learnt story-telling techniques that they can use to create fiction as well as narrative nonfiction.
S. Anandhi, Associate Professor, Madras Institute of Development Studies
Students studying to work in the media are engaged in the business of looking and reporting, seeing and understanding. But one rarely looks and sees innocently. There are ways of seeing which we have inherited from the past and which define vision itself. The gender lens is primary in this context — it frames and naturalises inequality, deprivation, violence, and injustice.
The course argues therefore that gender — as a way of seeing, living and understanding — has to be both unlearnt and re-Iearned, in the interests of equality and justice. To do this, the learner has to implicate herself in what she wishes to analyse, put herself in the middle of her subject of study. This does not mean that the classroom turns into a confessional, but it does mean that the everyday we take for granted be stood on its head and examined critically.
The course demonstrates how we may do this, both conceptually and practically. It begins with an examination of the circumstances in which gender emerged as a category of analysis. It suggests that gender relationships are historically contingent and goes on to demonstrate why and how we might want to deploy gender as a critical category.
The units that follow examine critically those personal, social and public sites where gender routinely ‘happens’: family, kinship, community, work, sexuality, art, and culture. The last set of units is titled ‘Issues in Focus’. This section looks at contemporary concerns using the gender lens: caste and community, political power, poverty, and survival.
Investigative Journalism Techniques
Nikhil Kanekal, Journalist and Lawyer
This course is intended to teach students how to report and present investigative news stories and features. Student journalists will be taught how to dig for information, analyze data, and flesh out the investigative edge in stories.The class will also learn about and discuss topics such as corruption, public accountability, terrorism, unethical business practices, environmental hazards, public health and conflicts of interest that key people face in their private or public lives.
The course will include hard interviewing techniques, learning to piece together documentary and digital evidence, and explanatory ways of writing or producing a complicated story – since most investigative stories are intricate webs of information. By examining a few investigative stories as case studies, the class shall attempt to take students through the process of forming a hypothesis, collecting evidence and then presenting it in a cogent, lucid narrative.
The course will be kept platform-neutral as best as possible – students from print, broadcast or digital media can take it – and teaching material will range from book readings, films, seminars on investigative journalism and guest lectures from investigative journalists in the field.
Culture, Communication and Consumption
Uma Vangal Shivakumar, Prof & Head,Media & Entertainment, LV Prasad Film & TV Academy
ET Hall says : Culture is communication; communication culture. This is exemplified as we study the media ‘s role in creating mass cultures and niche sub-cultures in audiences as they target them for commercial and entertainment purposes. Increased negotiations with Co-cultures and Intercultural travel, relationships that are Cross-cultural, the media plays a crucial role in creating assumptions and breaking stereotypes. While exploring the ways in which media works in the Transnational, the global and the local media markets, audiences become intertwined today with the strands of media and news cultures. As audiences are increasingly drawn into the mediated worldview, shared symbols and socialisation permeates every aspect of their lives.
Culture dictates media and in turn the media encapsulates culture. Audiences across the globe are linked today by all forms of media in an increasingly connected world. Media makers and practitioners are no longer looking at specific audiences within borders. Every mode of communication is now mediated through various cultural prisms. Mediated cultures in transnational communication being consumed by a by glocalised audiences and a study of media formats fed by cultural notions will be the focus of this course and students will attempt to find ways to create meaning, make meaning and find new ways to navigate news and cultural scapes.
Journalism and the Law
Suhrith Parthasarathy, Lawyer, Madras High Court
The purpose of the class is to learn to write and report on the law. The course will aim to teach students not necessarily to become legal journalists, but to become journalists, who can inform their stories through a nuanced and thoughtful understanding of the law. In any given beat of reporting, the law plays an underlying, if not all-pervading, role. The idea, therefore, is to train journalists, regardless of the platform of their interest, to read and understand Indian law and the Indian legal system.
Naturally, the course will begin with a basic introduction to the Constitution—the object here is to not engage in lawyerly discussions, but to try and understand the Constitution in a manner that will inform most pieces of reportage. It would involve a conversation on how the Indian state is structured, the rights that citizens enjoy, and crucially from a journalistic standpoint, the division of responsibilities between the central and state governments. When a reporter is asked to write on a Bill introduced in Parliament, it is to the Constitution that he or she must turn to add nuance; when reporting on the story of a banned book, it is again the Constitution that informs us of our rights; when a journalist reports on a mercy petition filed by a convict on death row, he or she must add nuance by telling us what the law on the subject is. The objective of the class, therefore, is to understand how to read the Constitution and its concomitant texts. As a journalist, one needn’t bother themselves with the finer aspects of constitutional interpretation and debate, but writing a refined reporton India’s polity, society and culture will require a basic understanding of the Constitution.
The class will also involve introductions to a variety of other laws that are crucial to journalistic exercises. But the focus will not be on a verbatim grasp of these provisions. Instead, the aim will be to teach journalists how to read legal texts in a manner that canilluminate and add substance to their reporting. In so doing, the class will hopefully also teach students how to think generally about stories, about looking beyond the mere facts into the larger workings of the law, and its impact on society. Over the course of the class, the students will each report and write two short 800-word pieces and a long 2,500-word piece on subjects of their interest in a manner that intertwines the law into their reporting.
Documentary Film and the Investigation of Reality
– Nilita Vachani is a documentary filmmaker, writer and educator who divides her time between India and New York.
The power of the documentary comes from its engagement with the world around us, its social, political and ethical concerns, its exploration of urgent and compelling stories, and the many ways to tell them. Since the birth of cinema, non-fiction film has evolved into a diverse range of forms and styles, resisting any simple genre classification.
Through a series of lectures and screenings from world cinema this course will provide students with a firm understanding and appreciation of the genre’s wide- ranging possibilities, whether ‘realist’, ‘political’, ‘poetic’, ‘ethnographic’, ‘cinema verite’, ‘direct cinema’, ‘essay’ ‘personal,’ ‘reflexive,’ and new hybrid modes. Any documentation is equally about form and content- the filmmaker in exploring her universe is influenced by the technology available, by concerns of art and aesthetics, by demands of narrative and spectatorship, of distribution and funding, of state control, propoganda and censorship, of agendas, both personal and political. This course will nurture an informed understanding of the documentary form, its many possibilities and pitfalls, with the aim of creating responsible, reflective, and creative practitioners.
The Independent Gaze
(Understanding communication theory in the Internet era)
Carlo Pizzati, writer and journalist
The course “The Independent Gaze – the metastasis of communication and the anorexia of information” investigates a simple question: what is media? And the corollary implications of what media meant and means, what it has done in the past and how it is transforming in present society.
After a historical excursus, the dialogue will focus on the birth of Internet. From the first days until the transforming, fluid world and liquid society we are experiencing nowthrough social media and interactive news, participatory journalism and revolutionary so-called whistle blowers.
How has our gaze into reality changed through the Internet interface? How influenced are we by the medium that delivers the news, whether we are news-deliverers or news-recipients?The course will dig into the rules, the limits, the anarchy, the red-flags, the difference between information and knowledge, the transformation of text and images in communication, finally landing on an extremely contemporary question: how is Internet changing our brains and our perception of information?
The course will end by approaching issues like the New Intelligence and analyze what these contemporary quandaries can mean in the context of the transforming media and the information universe.
Storytelling for ‘Lifestyle’ Television
– Amrita Gandhi, Lifestyle Television Producer and Media Consultant
In this elective, students will closely examine the narrative structure and story telling techniques used in contemporary Lifestyle television and then go on to create their own original television series idea.
By studying the storyboard of selected Indian and International Lifestyle TV programmes, students will familiarize themselves with a range of TV formats in genres that range from Factual Entertainment to Docu-reality to true life inspired fiction. Some of the shows selected for analysis may
include‘30 days’ on FX ( USA), ‘Satyameva Jayate’ on Star World ( India ), ‘Confessions of an Indian Teenager’ on Channel V ( India), Supernanny on Channel 4 UK among others.
Students will get hands on experience in the step by step process of Creative Development by which they take their own idea from concept to story board to final treatment and ‘pitch ‘ document.
The second half of the elective looks specifically at Food andTravel programming. The shows discussed here may include Highway on My Plate and Band Baaja Bride (NDTV Good times), It Happens Only in India (Fox Traveller) and Project Runway ( Bravo, USA). Here we analyse the evolution of a series over multiple seasons and see how scripts are carved from vast amounts of footage. Finally students create their own food and travel show concept and complete an on-paper script for one episode.
Karen Coelho, Madras Institute of Development Studies
The urban turn we are going through is increasing the importance of cities in our life. The sheer size, number and spatial convergence of activities puts cities as the engines of growth and makes them epicenters of cultural production. For the same reasons, they also become the sites of contestation. Some view cities and their growth as parasitic and anti-rural. Others think India no more mainly lives in villages, but in cities as well. An understanding of what forces shape urban life and development has become compulsory to cover cities.
This course will offer an overview of urban development in India. It will focus on city planning, real estate markets, city laws and culture of cities. Issues of infrastructure investment, private partnership in city development and role of civil society in city affairs will be discussed. The rural-urban divide and urban poverty would be one of the key concerns of this course. A special section on the cultural and political landscape will explore mapping tools to gain new insights into city life. The course will draw on select writings on urban development and also include representations of city life in popular literature, including films, as its resource.
Mastering Social Media
Krishna Prasad, Former Editor-in-Chief, Outlook, and member, Press Council of India
As a publishing platform that emerged in the Web 2.0 world, “Social Media” has become a double-edged sword for modern newsrooms and journalists. Its operability has turned every user into a producer and disseminator, and vice-versa. Its interactivity has broken the top-down, one-way hierarchy, and made the media more heterogeneous, dialogic and accountable. Its technology has changed the way interconnected communities consume news, but it is also rewiring brains and holding them hostage in algorithmic echo chambers and filter bubbles.
In the post-convergence era, “Social Media” is both an editorial tool and a marketing weapon, allowing all previous forms of communication to ride on it. It is, at once, the cause of many of old media’s current ills and the solution for some of them. As readers and viewers turn away from newspapers and news channels, “Social Media” opens up ever newer ways and avenues of reaching them and capturing their attention through words, images, audio, video and interactive content.
“Mastering Social Media” enables students to take the first steps from passive consumption to active participation. Here, you will learn how to use “Social Media” as a both as a citizen and as a career-journalist. Here, you will learn how to negotiate the information overload and build your own credible online voice. Here, you will learn how to train your mind and mindset to be future-ready. In short, “Mastering Social Media” will teach you how to use a constantly evolving medium as a force multiplier, with pleasure and to profit.