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The Prospects and Pitfalls of Journalism Sector in Nepal

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Journalism can be an enticing sector for many young aspirants who look forward to making the society a better place to live. Journalism is a profession which truly holds the power to create a better society by bringing important, relevant and transparent information in the forefront. Journalists can make the society aware of the subtle yet important information which would otherwise go overlooked in regular hustle and bustle. 

There are a few things that the aspirants for journalism should keep in mind before joining this sector because the decision to become a journalist doesn’t only impact the individual’s personal life but it also affects the society as the power of word that journalists possess is so immense that it could either make or break the society. Revolutions like Jana Andolan II became successful because of the tactful role that media played during those situations.

Glocal Khabar correspondent, Mahima Poddar, interviewed three diverse people who have been involved in the journalism sector for more than a decade to take their insights on what they think about this sector so that the opportunities and obstacles of this sector could be brought forward.

The pay might not be so hot in journalism but the experiences and learning are:

The Government of Nepal, in mid-October 2018, increased the minimum wage of journalists by 25% and currently any working journalist should be paid a minimum of Rs.24, 300. 

The minimum wage policy seems to be on place but what lacks is the implementation. There are many big media houses which don’t follow the mandate of minimum wages for working journalists and to make conditions even worse there are some situations where the payment of salary is not cleared for months.

As revealed by the book ‘Shramajeevi Patrakar Media Adhyayan Prativedan, 2067’ 45% of working journalists had not received an appointment letter and 37% were not getting minimum wages in 2012.’ 

Though 7 years have passed, nothing significant seems to have changed yet. 

According to Ms. Charu Chadha, the editor at Media 9 which produces Business 360 and WOW magazine, “It is ignorant to start expecting good financial returns in the entry level position itself. Investment in education is the first step and then one needs to invest on one’s career by developing oneself, and when one eventually proves one’s worth, the financial returns will be earned proportionately.”

She further added saying, “In so many sectors including journalism, the pay level isn’t in alignment with the international standards. There are a few media houses who have taken efforts in bringing their remuneration in par with the international standards. If an enthusiastic media person can bring values like commitment, capacity, integrity, efficiency and focus on the table, the person will be recognized by good organizations and will be paid accordingly.”

Talking about the future she said, “The media industry is fast evolving. How we consume our news and entertainment is changing across demographics. For young journalists, it means that they have to be exceptionally versatile. Today, in reality, people don’t even have to belong to a media house. With internet channels, your geographic location hardly matters, your content and ability to capture public attention does.”

Offline media continues to be the paragon of authenticity:

10 years ago, in 2019, when a journalism professor in the U.S., Philip Meyer, predicted that print media would run out of readers by March 2044, it took all the media houses by surprise. 

The development of Internet has led to newer ways news media has been emerging in the country. This has led to growth of various online news portal in the country. Approximately, 350 online news portal have been recognized in the Press Council of Nepal. (Aryal, 2016). 

Though the number of online portals have increased and the media consumption habits of people are also slowly changing, one major thing which keeps traditional media so alive in Nepal is people’s trust over them. 

32% of people say they believe television content. Television tops the list of media for reliability which shows that television news channels still are an important source of news for Nepalese people. Likewise, radio is the second best choice after television for national and international news. (Acharya & Chapagain, 2019)

While the number of online news portal is increasing, the inclination of people towards such online newspapers is still very less. 94% of newspaper readers till the day do so with a physical newspaper in hand and only 14% of those who access print media read newspapers and magazines via mobile applications. (Acharya & Chapagain, 2019)

Talking about the reliability of online news, Ms. Shrijana Shrestha, Lecturer for Journalism and Mass Communication at St. Mary’s High School stated, “It’s a good thing that online news portals and media channels are now emerging but problem arises when such platforms do not abide by media policies and regulations. Today, online media platforms publish sensitive information, photos and even videos without considering the consequences of their action.”

She further added elaborating how yellow journalism has become all the more prevalent as today Internet is being used to spread information haphazardly. She stated, “Numerous online media channels and newspapers don’t really publish original analysis of information. They look out for information in other sources, add some more of their individual analysis into it and publish it. Such channels also ensure that more negative than positive information is spread out as negative information gains more publicity and such instances clearly prove how the growth of media is now being inclined towards commercialization whereas ideally, media is supposed to be a service-oriented industry. ”

Today, many media houses are clearly running with the objective of generating more money through advertisements than with the objective of publishing factual and relevant information which would be beneficial for the community.

Internet has become a convenient and economical tool for mass communication all around the world including Nepal, but for it to become as powerful and effective, the reliability and credibility dimensions need to be carefully worked upon. For young media houses and personalities to become more impactful, they first need to be ethical and factual.

Journalism is a skill-based sector which requires more than just getting a degree:

Journalism as a course, can never be limited to something which is taught inside the boundaries of the four walls of the classroom. It requires a lot of soft skills and practical exposure.

As stated by Mr. Kapil Kafle, Editor of Nepal Samachar Patra and Training Co-ordinator for Nepal Press Insititute, “Journalism is a skill-based sector. It requires people to go out, gain practical experiences, become a part of various events, do some field work and only then will they truly be able to learn journalism. Journalism is a skill very similar to driving where the person wouldn’t learn how to do things until and unless s/he isn’t seated on the driver’s seat.”

However, because journalism is a skill-based sector, so many young aspirants believe that they wouldn’t have to study journalism to become a journalist and such a mindset has resulted in a situation where the criteria for selecting potential journalists has become so open that many people with absolutely zero knowledge of the sector are now involved  in it. This has resulted in the degradation of the overall sector in itself.

In order to improve the quality of people involved in the profession, it is of crucial importance that both the theoretical and practical aspects of journalism are blended well together in the academic curriculum. For blending these two aspects together, it is imperative that media houses and educational institutes join hands together and work with each other as partners so that students can both gain the knowledge and skills required to become a journalist side by side.

As stated by Mr. Kafle, “It is important that any academic or training institutes involved in journalism education, build partnerships with media institutions, give practical exposure to their students and also make sure they track the performance of the students in each of the practical exercises.”

He cited an example of Nepal Press Institute saying, “We provide various practical exercises to our trainees and we constantly track what activities our trainees are performing well on. We then try to place our trainees on the sphere of journalism they perform the best in. Journalism opens up multiple avenues and it is upon one to decide what area one would like to work for depending on one’s personal interest and proficiency.”

There is an expansionary growth happening in the journalism sector in Nepal. The journalism sector is full of opportunities yet there are a few challenges that the sector is currently facing. 

Government has been putting forward various policies to uplift journalism as a profession, and now the gap between initiation and implementation needs to be fulfilled.

Similarly, journalism requires more skilled and educated young people who can showcase an immense love and passion for this sector .With increased involvement of young and enthusiastic people in this sector, this sector is sure to flourish and reach newer heights in the coming days.

References

Acharya, M., & Chapagain, B. (2019). Nepal Media Survey 2019 Findings. Sharecast Initiative Nepal. Retrieved July 18, 2019, from http://www.sharecast.org.np/nepal-media-survey-2019-findings/

Aryal, K. (2016). Nepal’s online revolution: It’s residue. The Himalayan Times. Retrieved July 18, 2019, from https://thehimalayantimes.com/opinion/nepals-online-revolution-residue/

-Mahima Poddar