The history of journalism in Bangladesh is largely non-academic as people with different educational backgrounds have come up and joined this exciting profession without any career plan. Even then many of them have been able to show their mantle in the profession, while many others quit it halfway through. We can recall many stalwarts in this profession wh o had little academic background of journalism. Yet, they rose to the pinnacle of the profession, creating a good ground of journalism for their successors.
The academic practice of journalism in Bangladesh began only in 1962 when Dhaka University introduced a postgraduate diploma course on journalism. This journalism department began its journey basically borrowing curricula from US universities. Later in 1979, it was upgraded by introducing Honors and Master's degree courses. Even after the upgradation of this department, it remained largely dependent on books and curricula of foreign universities, particularly the USA.
There is no harm in referring students to the books written by scholars and academics of countries like the USA and the UK. But my intention is to draw attention to the fact that each country has its own culture of journalism and background. Reading journalism books written in American perspective is unlikely to help the students catch up with the main temperament of journalism of his or her own society, though the basics of journalism, particularly the style of story writing and the objective of journalism, are more or less universal.
Students can be benefited from the books written with the general perspective of journalism to some extent but to have the real temperament and taste of the journalism of their own countries, there should be books written by the journalists and scholars of their own communities. When we were the students of Dhaka University's Journalism department, we saw few books written by teachers or our journalists. But today things have started changing. Many university teachers and senior journalists -- the young and old alike -- have started writing books on journalism.
The other day I received a book, 'Sangbadikota: Offline Online', authored by Mahamudul Haque, deputy editor (metro) of The Daily Star. The author, also a researcher, a trainer and former editor of the now-defunct online news outlet 'Media for Media' (established in 2006),is known to me since he joined the United News of Bangladesh (UNB) as a sub-editor in 2003 after graduating in journalism.
With the unbelievable advancement of technologies, journalism across the world has got a tremendous boost both in its pace and presentation patterns. What we used to receive after a gap of 24 hours, now we get information instantly even on our cellphones, let alone the online webportals. The author has tried to catch up with the changing institutions of journalism accommodating the major issues of both electronic and print media in his book. And he rightly pointed out the new ideas and patterns of journalism. As he started his career in a news agency, he has dedicated a chapter to agency journalism as readers are hardly aware how a news agency serves its clients from behind the scene.
In his 244-page book, Mahmudul Haque has described with logic and information how the print media has run into troubles with the fast-going online media. He also narrated the changing business pattern of the media with the change of media's traditional approach. The writer also cited the examples of traditional media's survival efforts depending on their online versions shutting down their print ones. Most of the mainstream media in Bangladesh have also introduced their online versions along with their print ones. But, the media organisations are yet to integrate the traditional news management system with that of the new media to build an integrated newsroom considering it as a 'lifesaving' model in the new era of journalism, says the author.
He has also said the online media in Bangladesh could not yet put up the real challenge as they did in the Western world. He says no print media in Bangladesh has so far embraced death because of the booming online media. The writer has also mentioned news production techniques both by citizens and regular journalists and the creative strategies of media houses to boost their revenue generation alongside putting in place their new business models. This book also presents the new journalism's significant vision of Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute, who redefines news as a 'collaborative intelligence' explaining that 'news is no longer a product delivered by one cohort—journalists—consumed largely in private by another—audiences—who then interact with each other mostly in an invisible way around a proverbial water cooler. The new journalism has the potential be a more dynamic interaction between these cohorts and at its best even a virtuous circle of learning.'
In his critical analysis, the author indicates that journalists need to be 'news engineers' rather than ending up as mere good reporters and copy editors. One has to be a good news planner, designer and manager as well, he insists. Mahamudul Haque has also dwelt on newer genres and ideas of journalism, and its future trend, putting together 50 newer inventions of journalism in the developed nations, which he says, could be followed by the mass media in Bangladesh as well. The writer also efficiently analysed the history of online journalism in Bangladesh and its challenges -- both professional and administrative ones.
The author has focused on the latest journalism concepts of five Es, experimental, experiential, explanatory, emotional, and economical journalism, which are becoming prevalent in reshaping the contours of news and the media. Alfred Hermida, director and associate professor at the School of Journalism at the University of British Columbia, has pointed out these five trends as 'a prerequisite for survival at a time of flux and uncertainty' in the new media landscape. Other new concepts--online journalism, solutions journalism and embedded journalism--as well as oldest concepts--'newspaper morgue' or news library and feature in combating child labour--have also been discussed and analysed in separate chapters of the book. The author has clearly described the code of conduct for the practice of journalism as well as national policies of community radio, FM radio and television channels. The role of development communication, including the contribution of print and electronic media, to Bangladesh's development process has also been analysed based on latest statistics.
A few weeks back, I had been at Jahangirnagar University to attend a meeting of its Journalism department's syllabus committee.Taking advantage of sharing personal opinions as a student of journalism before the meeting, I urged the teachers to deeply involve their students in media houses rather than keeping them confined to the four walls of their classrooms. I also requested the teachers to work for media from their respective positions in different forms and formats. This will help them widen their line of thinking and make their class lectures more interesting. The writer of this new book also has interlinked journalism education and profession focusing on academy-industry relations to deal with the challenges faced by media organisations in Bangladesh in developing human resources, and journalism research and innovations.
Though there is a scope for one to dispute with the author over some points, which is quite natural, this book, published by Academic Press and Publishers Library (APPL), would be worth reading. It will also serve better the purposes of journalism teachers, students, researchers, policymakers and journalists as well.
The reviewer is Chief News Editor, UNB.