How Relevant are Academicians in the field of Media to the Industry
It's a mad circus out there in the field of media education. Working in the domains of television fiction, advertising and branding for around 14 years, I have been associated with media education since 2015 and my observations over the past five years regarding the experience and education of media faculty in this part of the country point toward a not so encouraging picture. Sadly, so far I haven't come across anyone with a rich industry experience pertaining to television or advertising and branding. One exception to make here would be that of journalism, which of course there are too many in the academic field and outside the purview of this discussion.
Unlike other areas of teaching and learning, media education is perceived as everyone's cup of tea along with a whole lot of misconceptions. Precisely the reason why, the academia suffers for lack of 'experienced' faculty. Today, all that the academic institutions look for are the mandatory UGC NET qualification and how articulate the candidate comes across during the interview. Wouldn't be shy of admitting that this is a process I have myself been through many times and also been a part of lately for screening young talent. And yes, now they also want to know if you are pursuing doctoral research. As a result, young postgraduates focus on clearing the qualifying exam and hurriedly stake a claim to the secure job of higher education teaching-learning. Absolutely nothing wrong considering the high rates of unemployment in this country.
Alas! had the story got its happy ending here, things would have been different and better. But the reality is far removed from the ideal situation. These young recruits have a shaky, undefinable and vague value to show for their experience. Almost every resume appears similar with an odd six months stint at an obscure ad or media agency in the client servicing department and in some cases, with a production house or in rare cases with a channel. Ditto for candidates claiming to have worked in departments related to filmmaking. Such self-proclaimed experiences in most cases pertain to a student film project and again, are not commercial in nature. All this tantamount to not having any creative portfolio or on-air credits, which is as good as having no experience at all.
As a result, the recruiters, most of whom are purely looking at the cost to company, and who have whatsoever no idea about what a portfolio of creative work looks like, apply their wisdom from different domains to the dynamic media landscape. This then perpetuates 'mediocrity breeds mediocrity' cycle, without exception and everywhere.
But does it all really matter ? Yes, to those individuals and institutions who claim to be different than others. To such motivated and self-driven people who know they have come from a higher playing field and can again migrate to the fittest of the survivor arena right in the thick of the action. It more than ever before matters to the relatively aware student of today who is willing to pay high fees to such brick and mortar spaces and expects value for their money. Onboarding such novice faculty leads to establishing a typical high-school classroom pattern, simply because the teacher has no experience to share and inspire. Everything is borrowed and skimmed through. In fact as students reach towards the end of their degree semesters, they realize that they were fed information and not knowledge shorn of any experience. As a fallout, institutions have no other option but to rely on visiting faculty sourced from the industry.
Given this reality, how do the media faculty subvert the situation ? Academic life requires one to constantly publish research in journals of repute. This certainly helps in getting recognition among peers and sometimes land a coveted post also, apart from acquiring the aura of a research scholar. All of this is an integral part and parcel of the academic life, which cannot be compared to the life of a media professional.
How does industry look at academia in media ? For this you need to be a part of either media or academia and you would know the answer. Media Industry in India, especially television and advertising and now the new media has constantly been evolving with its own set of rules. It's an untamed beast that heeds no instructions or guidelines from academia. In fact, it is the academia which is trying to keep pace with the trends in media practice. No set formulae or equations to success work here. In case you are trying to figure that out, you are wasting your time. If you've got talent, you're welcome to join the party. Your degrees might be a key to secure a foothold in the door for certain domains, but unless you're exceptionally talented, especially in this era of 'content creation', you'd be left out.
What could be the way ahead? Why should there be one, when things are going fine already for both the parties? Also, the learners are more than happy to exist in a dream world leading to a rewarding career in the world of glamour. Like the engineering bubble, chances are this too might burst very soon given the avalanche of affordable learning opportunities available online. However, institutions of repute should learn to look and spot the talented faculty in terms of sheer experience as well as qualifications and not merely adopt the straight-jacketed approach of qualifications. Sharing of media experience requires skill-earned only through shedding sweat and blood. And that, demands a price like rightly put by Vijay Dinanath Chauhan. "pagar badhao".