JOURNALISM AND COMMUNICATION STUDIES– IN KERALA; INDIA AND THE WORLD: An Etymological and Historical Approach
By Professor Dr. J. V. Vil’anilam
Before I begin the article, let me deal with a common misunderstanding among some scholars regarding the terms communication and journalism. Journalism is the parent term since everything in communication started with it, but communication is an umbrella term for journalism (both print and electronic, film and audiovisual, including social communication in the new media) and it covers the activities of all media of communication.
Journalism in Kerala, an offshoot of Literature:
Journalistic writing evolved from literary writing all over the world, but a formal University department was started in India in 1941 three dozen years before it was started in the University in the University of Kerala, two decades after the formation of Kerala. The state of Kerala came into being on November 1, 1956, following the SRC (States Reorganization Commission) Report. Before that the three principal Malayalam-speaking regions, namely Travancore in the south, Kochi in the middle and Malabar in the north functioned independently under two kings and the Governor of the Madras Province, respectively. There were of course movements for independence from princely rulers and from the British government not only in each of these three regions, but in most parts of India. India’s long struggle for independence from Britain came to a successful end on 15th August, 1947.
Movements for social, economic and political reforms were strong in all the regions of Kerala for several decades before that date. For uniting the three regions of Kerala emotionally and culturally, the journalistic writings (including literary ones) of several people helped a lot. Those writings led to an all-embracing linguistic unity and social cohesion. However, most writers and social reformers in the Kerala region were engrossed in Malayalam literature covering life of all Malayalam speakers and their cultural, socioeconomic and political activities. The journalism of those days was confined to mostly literary efforts, with the result that early journalism was identified with literature. There was nothing peculiar about this because in many parts of the world, literary writers were closely associated with journalistic efforts.
For example, outstanding literary figures of Europe, were early journalists too. Dr. Samuel Johnson, the first to compile a Dictionary of the English Language, was a journalist and essayist, who started the Rambler , a weekly journal; Johnson was associated with other journals too, the Tatler, etc.. The early American newspapers were also started by literary writers. Again the 19t century saw great literary figures such as Charles Dickens and Upton Sinclair who were also journalistic writers who could bring out certain bad consequences of the Industrial Revolution (IR) through their fictionalized but realistic writing, offering valuable insights into the new industrial society of the Western world. Realistic literature can expose the miseries of struggling humanity if it is inspired by what is happening in the surroundings. The distance between the two is not great.
There were literary attempts in different parts of the composite state of Kerala, but only those that treated the events and personalities from the sociological angle have survived history. The teachings and writings of Srinarayan’a Guru contributed much to the social and economic development of the people of Kerala in the 19th century. The literary and journalistic writings of Vakkom Moulavi, Swades’aabhimaani K. Ramakrisna Pillai, Kesari A. Balakrishna Pillai, Kandathil Varughese Mappillai, K. C. Mammen Mappillai, C. V. Kunjuraman, K. Sukumaran, Chengulathu Kunjirama Menon, K.P. Kes’ava Menon, K. Kel’appan, and others were significant to social developments in the early part of the 20th century. They were supported by the politically significant sacrifices of Pattom Thanu Pillai, C. Kes’avan and T. M. Varughese during the early and middle segments of the same century. The left wing of the Indian National Congress under Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhash Chandra Bose influenced the thinking of young radical thinkers such as A. K. Gopalan, Sushila Gopalan, E. M. S’ankaran Namboothiripad(EMS), P. T. Punnoose, Rosamma Punnoose, T. V. Thomas, K. R. Gouriamma, Annie Mascrenhas and others in Kerala. Resurgent Kerala was influenced by all these leaders, and the journalistic writings of many of these leaders were supplemented and supported by famous literary figures in the same and the next generation—people like Thakazhi S’iva S’ankara Pillai, P. Kes’ava Dev,Vaikom Muhammed Basheer, Changampuzha Krishna Pillai, O.N.V.Kurup and others.
But Journalism as an important university faculty started in the early part of the 20th century in the rich developed world——U. K., USA, France, Germany and it had its early beginnings in India within the next two or three decades. It had its entry in Kerala within the next two or three decades.
It was in the University of Missouri that a full-fledged Faculty of Journalism was created in 1904. The second old Department of Journalism was started in the University of Columbia in 1912.Then came departments of journalism in other parts of the U.S. By the middle of the 20th century, schools of journalism/communication/mass communication in at least 200 of the 2000 universities in the U.S. at that time.
An International Look at the History of Journalism:
Reporters’ gathering of facts and figures relevant to society, editors’ evaluation of them, and printers’ and distributors’ dissemination of those facts and figures through an efficient system of printing and prompt delivery of these products—– these are in essence what is happening in the realm of newspaper journalism. Radio and television make use of sophisticated systems of reaching the facts, figures and other matters of moment and historical interest to the media users in audio-visual form. In the cyber world of interactivity, the process of communication is completed through exchange of information, ideas and suggestions for action. The older media of communication which we can now call conventional media of communication are all one-way. The process of communication is incomplete because the media users just receive the information passively; but do they talk with the television or radio sets
Journalism Studies in India: R. P. Singh is credited with the starting of a Department of Journalism in the University of Punjab in 1941. He had his journalism education in the University of Missouri, USA. It took only a little more than three decades after that, for a Department of Journalism to start functioning in the University of Kerala in 1977.
After Punjab, it was Mysore University that started a department of journalism. Then followed Calcutta, Madras, Waltair (Andhra University), Osmania (Hyderabad), Pune and Nagpur Universities that opened journalism departments. By 1970, there were a dozen universities that had departments of journalism, besides a few institutes of journalism such as the one in Adayar, near Madras where the famous Annie Besant of the Home Rule League had started an Institute for the training of journalists in 1938. But private institutes of journalism did not flourish, whereas the Press Institutes started by regional governments served the government departments that needed such service. However, the universities that opened departments of journalism did their best in strengthening journalism education. Credit goes to important English newspapers such as The Hindu, the Indian Express, Times of India, and the Hindustan Times, etc. for recruiting promising young men and a few women to undergo their in-house training. It will not be an exaggeration to say that most newspapers in the regional languages had no journalism training programmes in those early decades. In some cases, newspaper agents themselves filed reports as “Swa Leys” (Own Correspondents)!
Things have changed now. Most newspapers recruit young people trained in the university departments. Some big newspaper establishments such as the Malayala Manorama and The Hindu (Asian School of Journalism) have their own training schools.
The Department of Journalism, University of Kerala Campus at Kariavattam, Tiruvanantapuram:
Maxwell Fernandes, a postgraduate in journalism from the University of Mysore. Already there were university departments of journalism in Punjab, Bangalore, Mysore, Andhra (Waltair), Calcutta, Madras, Nagpur, Osmania and Pune universities. Maxwell did his best for establishing the Department in Kerala, with frequent visits from his professor Nadig Krishna Murthy and others. The first batch of students in the Kerala University Department of Journalism could not complete the course in the prescribed two years, mainly because there was not enough number of properly qualified university teachers in the country to help them. The first batch took three years instead of two and graduated with a Master of Journalism (M.J.)degree in 1980. Another reason for the protraction of the course was students’ non-cooperation with the Faculty that wanted to incorporate a course in Research Methods. Many students thought that a study of research methods was irrelevant for students of journalism! The students had moral support from the media (in those days mainly print media). The newspaper publishers in those days had no great enthusiasm for research methods, which they felt would impede the literary talents of journalists!
“Journalists were not born but made
Professors B. S. Thakur of Punjab, S. Bashiruddin of Osmania, N. V. K. Murthy of the Film & TV Institute, Pune, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, the world-famous film director, PG (short for P Govinda Pillai), well known editor of Des’aabhimaani, the organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Thottam Rajasekharan, Director of Public Relations in the Government of Kerala, famous Malayalam poets and writers of the period, and officers of the Press Information Bureau were all guest lecturer who helped out the Department through their lectures and personal experiences. Help from prominent writers continued in the subsequent batches also, but dependence on outsiders diminished as the years went by.
Professor K. E. Eapen with many years of teaching experience in the Department of Journalism in the Hislop College (under the University of Nagpur) joined the Department as HOD in 1979. He had a research degree to his credit from the University of Wisconsin in the U.S., besides close ties with the professors and researchers in the field all over India and in several foreign countries. During his three years’ headship in Kerala, he did his best in strengthening the Department with two additional staff—Mr. M. Thangadorai with a degree in Public Health Communication and several years of work-experience in a government organization in New Delhi; and Mr. Ravi Varma, with considerable experience in agricultural communication, and educational experience abroad. Both were valuable assets to the Department.
The Department under Professor Eapen had three M.J.s from the first Batch—Smt. Rekha M. Sasidharan who had secured the first tank at the 1980 exam; Shri V. S. Sas’ibhooshanan Nair and Shri M. Vijayakumar; besides, M/s Thangadorai and Ravi Varma. Altogether there were six teachers for teaching various courses including research methods, handled by Professor Eapen. But there were dissatisfactions in the department’s faculty because many of their expectations were not met for valid reasons.
It was during this simmering of discontent that the University advertised the position of a full-time Professor. Professor Eapen was due to retire on superannuation at 60 in November, 1982 after three years of service. I applied from the U.S., came for interview in October, 1982 and got selected by a committee consisting of three subject experts from other universities, the Dean of the Faculty (Journalism was under Arts), a Senior member of the Syndicate, Shri S. Ramachandran Pillai, (who is also a member of the Politburo of the CPI (M)) now; and the Registrar of the University, Shri C. K.Devassy. This statutorily constituted Committee was headed by Dr. A. V. Varughese, the then Vice-Chancellor. There were only three candidates including me. The other two were Ravi Varma and Thangadorai. Naturally, I was selected by the Committee. I was the only candidate with a research degree, Master of Science in communication studies from the School of Communications & Theater, Temple University, Philadelphia, USA, and I had several publications in Communication and Journalism. My M. S. thesis was published in monograph form by the State University of New York (SUNY, which had also published my monograph on Communication and Journalism Education in South Asia (seven countries).
All the three experts from other universities were especially impressed by my qualifications, teaching and research experience, and publications in world-renowned journals such as the Journalism Quarterly, Journal of Communication, Gazette (Amsterdam), Media Asia (Singapore), etc. I did not know any of the experts who recommended me, and I did not encounter any problem when I took charge from Dr. Eapen on November 8, 1982, more than 34 years ago! Real trouble burst out only when I was selected in 1992 (after 10 years of service as HOD) to head the University as Vice-Chancellor. I am not going into the details of my tribulations in the early 1990s because many readers are familiar with all the newspaper reports of the time.
The Initiation of Changes
First, I wanted to change the name of the Department to “Department of Communication.” There was great opposition to my suggestion from some colleagues, some media owners, and well-wishers including students. In those days the term, media, was confined to the print media. Even the radio and film which were in existence in pre-Independence India were not referred to as media of communication. (Incidentally, “media” is a plural noun with its singular form medium but, unfortunately, many who are ignorant about such grammatical subtleties use “medias” as the plural form of “media”, which they mistakenly consider as a singular word! Words like media and data look singular, although they are plural in meaning. Their singular forms are medium and datum. Well-educated, especially those in high POLITICAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE positions should never use words, such as “medias,” datas,” “ phenomenas”, etc.)!
Since I had already spent almost a dozen years in the U.S. and Europe from 1971 onwards, I was clear in my mind that journalism or any printed variety of it was considered part of the umbrella term, COMMUNICATION, and I wanted to change the name of the department to “Department of Communication (or Mass Communication) to keep abreast with what was happening elsewhere in the world, especially in the U.S., considered even then as the “Mecca of Mass Communication”. I could not easily understand why there was so much opposition to my simple suggestion. Some students in my department were vehemently advocating the retention of the title: “Department of Journalism,” and some important newspaper establishments in Kerala supported them. I was accused of importing “communication” because of some personal interest!!
As a total stranger here (I was out of Kerala from 1961 onwards elsewhere in India, and later on in the U.S.A., and Europe till the early 1980s). I was totally innocent of the inner machinations that governed universities in India; but I stood for the change in nomenclature, purely for academic reasons. There were some fair-minded members in the syndicate at that time and they supported me. Probably they were aware of the changes that were taking place in many foreign countries where the title had already changed to “Department/School of Communication/Mass Communication/Telecommunication, etc. My own alma mater in Philadelphia, namely, TEMPLE UNIVERSITY (established in 1864) had a SCHOOL OF COMMUNICATIONS & THEATRE and my alma mater in Europe, the University of Amsterdam (established in the 17th century) where I did my doctoral studies in the Department of “Massacommunicatie” (Mass Communication) under the world-famous British sociologist, Professor Denis McQuail.
Eventually, our compromise name, Department of Communication and Journalism, was accepted by all concerned, in the University of Kerala, and it has not changed till now.
Let me note here with gratitude that several newspaper establishments in Kerala had suggested the idea of starting the Department of Journalism in the University in the 1970s; a couple of them took keen interest in providing the personnel and some basic equipment for starting a full-fledged department at the sprawling campus of the University of Kerala—some 600 acres of level ground spread over both sides of the National Highway (NH 47) in Kariavattam.*
A branch of the State Bank of Travancore, a Post Office, an electricity sub-station , a Corporation/Municipal water supply system, a canteen and several amenities including a teleprinter and telex for the Department, were provided under the initiative of eminent members of the Syndicate—especially Professor Dr. A. Abraham, a nationally and internationally well-known professor of botany and an outstanding researcher. Thirty-odd departments of the then University of Kerala were moved to the new campus. The departments of English, German, Library Science, Russian and a few other subjects continued to function from the Paal’ayam Campus along with all administrative offices.
During my term as Professor of Communication & Journalism, I got cooperation from all concerned, but from early days, I was aware of some fundamental problems:
- There were no regular classes most of the time. Faculty, except for three M.J.s from the same Department, were not regular, despite their earnest and sincere COMMITMENT to responsibilities, and their willingness to shoulder them in imparting training in reporting, editing, and broadcast journalism. The in-breeding of the members of the Faculty was not a healthy thing to happen, Dr. Eapen used to observe now and then. He was right; there was need for inclusion of teachers from other backgrounds in the regular faculty. Many students who were specially admitted on the recommendation of certain newspaper editors (quota admission) worked on their regular job but occasionally visited the department, They could not be part of the mainstream who were expected to submit assignments on time, make journalistic errands according to specific instructions from the Departmental Head, could not fulfil their duties as regular students. And they felt discriminated against when they lost their marks for assignments, etc. This led to the creation of bad blood and ill will between some students and the teachers.
Meanwhile, two additional staff were recruited by the then V.C. : K. V. Ramankutty joined the Department as Lecturer. He had an engineering degree from India and a Master’s degree in Film Studies from the Ohio University, USA. The other addition was R. Vijayaraghavan who was a student of the first batch. Vijayaraghavan had considerable experience in the field of journalism; he was selected as an Editorial Assistant in charge of the Department’s practice journal, The Reporter.
(ii) The Nine Researchers’ Wonder“
A couple of years after my taking charge of the headship, six students of the first M.J. batch in the Department (including three teachers of the Department) registered under me for the degree of Ph.D., besides three outside candidates: Mr. Amjed Ahmed, H.O. D. of the Department of Communication &Journalism, University of Calicut; Ms Balakrishna Lalkar, at that time Editor of Grihalakshmi, Calicut and Ms R. Chithira of a later batch MCJ batch) The three last mentioned got their doctoral degrees whereas the first nine including the three teachers in the department discontinued their work. They could not turn in assignments or meet at regular intervals despite my frequent prods! It has remained a mystery.
I am glad that two more researchers registered after my retirement and one of them, Fr. Dr. K. C. Francis of the Don Bosco College of Arts and Science received his degree in 2013.. The other, Ms. Sangeetha Unnithan is hopefully completing her research some time this year or early next year.. However, I am not fully satisfied with my own research activities in the Department, although several research scholars were guided by the HOD who followed me, Dr. K. Subash, got their doctoral degrees in subsequent years. There is, however, much more to be done in research in the coming years. Dr. Subash is also retiring in a few months. New staff will join and the show will go on.
The facilities for detailed academic studies of RTF (radio, film, and television), and printed newspapers and magazines were expanded. The role of the social media and all aspects of the new media and their social relevance were discussed in class. For a change, our classes were open for free and frank discussions, with occasional inputs from experts in the field; and no student could escape the habit of asking questions. The relevance of looking at journalism and communication as parts of sociology, and social science was examined in detail whenever an opportunity arose. All media studies are, and ought to be, part of sociological studies, I used to stress. Let me review briefly the overall changes brought to the Department’s teaching, research and practical activities during 1982-1992.
The Department has seen the retirement of the three or four M.J.s of the first Batch, my own retirement as HOD and V.C., and the addition of new staff Mr. P. V. Yaseen, Dr. S. Harikumar and Ms……………… on the Faculty. The strength of the students continues as 50 (two batches) and the Department is set on the path to progress,
A Brief Overview of the Societal Importance of Journalism:
According to many historians, the Acta Diurna (literally,” Journalism of the Day) in Rome under Julius Caesar was the very first news bulletin in the world. It was a handwritten newspaper pasted every day in the Roman Forum, a public market-place where citizens assembled for trade and general purposes. Some historians are of the view that printing from wooden blocks or metallic types started in the 10th or 11th century Peking under a Chinese or Korean man named Li Pi. But printing from “movable types” originated in Germany by an enterprising goldsmith of Mainz, namely, Johann Gutenberg in 1450.
It is said that this new technique of printing revolutionized the art or science of one-way communication in Europe because knowledge, which until then was the prerogative of classical philosophers of Greece and the Mediterranean region and preserved in sheepskin scrolls and parchments in handwritten or manuscript form was printed on paper and stored in bound books. Gradually, libraries in Europe became dependable repositories of knowledge which was further improved upon by the universities. This led to a revolution in the gathering, preservation and dissemination of knowledge in various parts of Europe and the Americas. London, Amsterdam, Brussels and other cities of Europe became great centres of printing and preservation of old knowledge, and new information. The Universities and colleges in Boston, New York, Philadellphia and New Jersey became great centres of learning. The northern -most part of the Continent of Africa, namely Egypt, particularly Cairo and Alexandria became important centres of stored knowledge and its dissemination through great Universities. The Ivy League universities of North America—Harvard, Pennsylvania, Brown, Columbia, Yale, Boston, etc., became great centres of scholarship.
Among the English colonies, in the United States, the first newspaper was Publick Occurrencs both Foreign and Domestic , established in Boston in 1690, although it lasted only for a brief period since its editor, Benjamin Harris (1673-1716) was arrested and imprisoned after the issuance of four issues. The question of press freedom was a very serious matter for all those who loved free expression of ideas and the absolute freedom of expression of political, social and religious dissent. Other editors such as John Peter Zenger were arrested in 1735. Similar cases attracted the very serious attention of the men who drafted the American Constitution declared in 1776, whose first amendment states in clear and absolute terms that the American Congress “shall not make any law that abridges the freedom of the press.” The media in the U.S. thus have absolute freedom and it is rarely that anyone questions media’s freedom. But it is to be noted that the freedom of the media means the freedom of the people to voice their dissent and question the majority, even when the people may make an error of judgment.
After the U.S., it was probably India where a printed newspaper in English had arrived. The Bengal Gazette or Calcutta General Advertiser was perhaps the second oldest English newspaper established in a British Colony. It was founded by an ex-official of the English East India Company in Calcutta on January 29, 1780, although it too lasted only for a short period of 18 months. That too was folded because its editor, James Augustus Hicky, earned the displeasure of the first Governor-General of the East India Company, Warren Hastings. Hicky published something scurrilous about Mrs. Hastings and he was forced to wind up his publishing ambitions in India, and return to England. In the history of journalism all over the world, publishers and printers, reporters and feature writers had to incur the displeasure of administrators for their bold ventures in expression of their frank opinions through newspaper columns. This phenomenon has not undergone any substantial change in subsequent centuries?
Journalism and the Industrial Revolution
A journalist is a generalist, not a person with deep, specialized knowledge in any one particular subject. The journalist should have a general grounding in the correct use and usages of the language he/she uses; besides fundamentally correct information about various concepts in the language, basic popular science, history, politics, sociology, religion/s and the important scientific ideas that guide the people of his country/state/locality. He cannot afford to make errors in spelling, names including initials, designations, relationships of the individuals who appear in his article (report, feature. etc.). There is no excuse for the mistakes he commits in these basic areas. He should have a good grounding in General Knowledge. Of course, there are dangerous pitfalls which the journalist has to avoid as otherwise his position in society will be jeopardized.
A famous newspaper is credited with an infamous mistake one of its reporters made in hurried reporting. The reporter failed in his most fundamental duty—-checking the dictionary. I am referring to the reporter who mistook “sleepers” for sleeping human beings, instead of “railway sleepers.”The sleepers that were washed away at the time of a national flooding, were not human but wooden contraptions over which dozens of train locomotives usually rolled on safely. When the teleprinter brought the news that hundreds of sleepers were washed away, the reporter built his story on the wrong assumption that many humans that were sleeping were washed away in the floods! The newspaper reporter mistook those wooden sleepers for humans! That earned a bad name for the newspaper, and people still remember the incident, even after more than a century!
There are umpteen examples that I can cite from the immediate past and the current present! But I do not want to do it. The brain-treasury each individual carries must contain correct information. At least the reporter should not hastily conclude his report without re-checking, re-reading or reference to the dictionary, supposedly the most dependable treasure-house of correct meanings and alternative meanings.
We consider that IR started in 18th century England and spread to all the colonies of the British Empire during the past three centuries. IR, like economic development, is an ongoing process. The state of knowledge regarding the IR keeps on evolving. Some processes that commenced in the 18th century are either lost altogether or drastically improved as time progressed. The sociological consequences of certain methods of manufacture and consumption have had serious consequences during the past centuries. Pesticides are an example. Insecticides, disinfectants and mild chemical lotions were of great use for the safety of human beings and humans, especially patients have benefited greatly from some of those substances, although Endosulfan in recent years in Kerala, and methylisocayanate (MIC) of the Bhopal tragedy of 1984 , did not benefit mankind; instead, they proved highly disastrous to it. But the point I am trying to stress here is that journalists have to be aware of the disastrous consequences of certain types of scientific, industrial and medical development. All development is not safe to man or his environment. Journalists should have a keen and watchful eye; they should have a third eye concentrating on the safety of chemical and medical products and processes. Many thousands in different parts of the world have perished because of the perilous consequences of folidol, thalidomide, methylisocayanate, and endosulfan.
Another area that requires keen journalistic attention in the modern world is blind religious faith and superstitious practices. There are hundreds of reports in every medium, be it newspaper, magazine, radio or television, on blind worshippers and practitioners of superstition. Dozens of people get killed because of such practices. Journalists have to take up such incidents and go deep into scientific investigations seriously. Serious scientific temper and the habit of raising scientific questions and attempting to arrive at scientific conclusions must be part of the reporter’s journalistic repertoire. To bank on the conventional wisdom theory that reporting science is not profitable to the media owners because the public is not interested in science reporting is not a sound proposition. Anything written with deep interest and sincerity, in a simple language style that is appealing to all readers will certainly be received with enthusiasm by the general public.
Despite the fact that the use of eye-catching, sensational headlines and yellow-colour cartoons and the heavy use of illustration proved profitable to newspaper owners during the Spanish-American war in the closing years of the 19th century, editors and publishers found that journalism could be an inspiration for progress. Muckrakers and anti-trust crusaders during Theodore Roosevelt’s time supported clean journalism, and journalists in the early part of the 20th century found the importance of supporting socially and economically beneficial reports and features very effective in reaching socially productive goals. The dangers of the nuclear technology have been written about ever since the great and instantaneous nuclear decimation of millions of Japanese citizens during 1945. But they have not been effective preventers of nuclear proliferation for military purposes.
The use of the nuclear generation of power has not exceeded 15% even now in any nation. Some European countries have abandoned the use of nuclear energy and some others have decided to reduce its use gradually every year. Many of them are opting for solar energy and India and the southern states of the U.S. plus the South American nations have to take up the production and use of solar energy in a big way in the coming decades. It is regrettable that the big energy companies of the world are ignoring this vital aspect of energy production in the world and promoting the proliferation of nuclear energy despite the experience of Japan where in March, 2011 the biggest nuclear energy producing unit in Fukushima underwent one of the biggest nuclear accidents in the world (the earlier big nuclear accident occurred in Russia in 1986). The Three Mile Island Accident in 1979 was a serious accident in the state of Pennsylvania in the U.S., but fortunately the nuclear reactor did not burst despite popular fears to the contrary. Germany has already pledged to reduce her dependence on nuclear energy, although Britain, France and India are still doing everything to expand nuclear energy.
The world has to re-evaluate the good and bad aspects of scientific progress in the light of what Mahatma Gandhi once spoke about the deadly sins of “science without humanity,” and “politics without principles.” Helen Caldicott, an Australian medical doctor, a pediatrician, wrote movingly her scientific treatise in 1970, Nuclear Madness where she gave the medical consequences of nuclear energy, especially to children and the proliferation of cancer in the world; and yet, the big businessmen and industrialists are still standing firmly on the side of the politicians who promote nuclear energy. Journalists have to take up this issue more seriously and produce articles, features etc. in newspapers, and programmes on radio and television. It is not enough for journalists and publishers to write about space science and alternative forms of energy; they have to analyze more deeply the scientific aspects of the hazards of the nuclear technology and its effects on genes, mutagens, chromosomes and on human and animal genetics.
But all journalists have to recognize that their writings and radio/TV productions face curtailing interventions from wealthy and influential industrial magnates, government authorities, military, religious and corporate bigwigs who have from very early times tried to determine what should appear in the media. For example, the big newspapers with very few exceptions have protected the promoters of nuclear energy. Even in the U.S., many political, military and industrial authorities have been charged with news manipulation and clear and dangerous interventions in media performance, despite media owners’ open declaration that they cannot be influenced by anyone. Committed journalists and communicators have to be aware of the extra-media influences on media workers.
A New Era in Journalism—The Audiovisual and the Two-way Media :
The new era, namely, the Audiovisual, began in the second decade of the 20th century, first in the U.K. and Europe and then in the U.S. when Radio and Television appeared there. What is significant here is that the non-Western areas of the world saw the advent of the audiovisual within a decade or two, whereas printing and printed forms of communication took more than a century and a half to appear in non-Western countries after their first appearance in Europe. This only means that the world had progressed technically and technologically during the immediate decades following 1450, the year of Gutenberg’s invention of movable types. Hicky’s Gazette appeared in 1780, that is almost three and a half centuries after Gutenberg, but the All India Radio was started in 1927 or so, whereas the first U.S. radio station KDKA of Pittsburgh appeared in 1920. Television was started in a small way in New Delhi in 1959 whereas TV had its beginnings in the U.K. in the early 1920s, and in the U.S. in the 1930s.
The newsreel used to be shown before the commencement of every film in the UK and the USA. The film captured the attention of audiences in the U.S. soon after the invention of the moving pictures by the Lumiere Brothers (Louis and Auguste) in Paris, France. The radio and the cinema inaugurated the audiovisual era in a big way in the UK and the USA. The Lumiere shows were inaugurated in the Bombay Talkies a few months after they commenced in Paris in 1895. The transfer of technology took less and less time as the technical and technological conditions of the world improved rapidly.
Dada Sahib Dhandiraj Govindaraj Phalke (also known as D.G. Phalke) learnt the art of movie-making from London and his Raja Harishchandra was shown in Bombay on May 3, 1913; it was shown in temporary movie sheds in various parts of Maharashstra. Although this movie is considered the first Indian movie, there are historians who give that credit to a pair of film-makers, N.G. Chitre and R. G. Torney of Bombay who made Pundalik (1912), a film based on the life of a holy man in Maharashtra. Phalke, however, is considered the Father of the Indian Movie Industry and he is remembered for his pioneering contributions to the art of science of movie-making in India, because Phalke took steps to establish a studio in 1913 soon after his return from England with plenty of enthusiasm and dedication, besides a stock of raw film and a perforator for making holes on the edges of film strips. He believed that “Indians must see Indian images on the Indian silver screen.” *
*See the author’s Growth and Development of Mass Communication in India, New Delhi: National Book Trust, 2003 for more details.
In those days movies were silent. The first sound movie or talkie, viz., Al Jolson’s Jazz Singer in the U.S. ended the silent era in October, 1927. Silent movies continued in India for another decade; the first Indian talkie came out on March 14, 1931. It was Alam Ara made by Ardeshir Irani.
The first Malayalam movie is considered to be J.C. Daniel’s attempt in 1928 or so, although we are more familiar with Kamal’s recent production , Celluloid, a filmic re-construction of the history of Daniel’s life and work, since his entire film was destroyed by mistake by his youngest son as a little boy. It is now widely accepted that Vigatakumqaran, Daniel’s silent moview of 1928 was indeed the first movie in Malayalam.
Soon after Daniel’s work, there came Marthanda Varma, a historical film, by T. R. Sundaram. It was mired in legal problems about copyright of the script and its filmic ownership; so it was not released for public viewing. Then came out the first talkie in 1938, Balan (pronounced Baalan), which was for a long time considered the first movie in Malayalam. The first movie, namely, J. C. Daniel’s silent movie, Vigatakumaran (The Lost Child), was brought out in 1928 and it is treated very well by Kamal, the famous movie director in Malayaalam.
Balan was certainly the first talkie, but there are cine historians who consider that the real first movie in Malayalam was Jeevita Nauka (Boat of Life) with features still noticeable in the most modern movies. Whatever that be, Malayalam movies were from the beginning reflectors of social life as it happened in the three Malayalam-speaking regions of the State, namely, Travancore, Kochi and Malabar. The Government of Kerala has done well in instituting the J.C. Daniel Prize for a person every year, who has contributed the most for the growth and development of the Malayalam film.
The radio became a strong medium in Kerala during Dewan Sir C. P. Ramaswamy Aiyar’s time during which time an All India Radio Nilayam started functioning from Vazhuthacad, Trivandrum in 1946. Soon radio stations appeared in Alleppey, and Kozhikode. There are several radio relay stations in Kerala now. The first Television Station was inaugurated at Kut’appanakkunnu in September 1985, and now all the major media are serving the entire region of Kerala through their main and sub- centres.
Journalism Education in India: As already mentioned, the first journalism school was started in Punjab with the active interest of a professor who had received journalism education in Missouri in the early part of the 20th century. R. P. Singh who took a Master’s degree in journalism from Missouri returned to Punjab and started a department of journalism in 1941. Then appeared departments of journalism in the universities of Calcutta, Poona, Lahore, Mysore, Nagpur, Andhra (Waltair) and Madras. There were also attempts by great personalities such as Annie Besant who started a school to train journalists in Adayar, Madras. But many such private attempts did not last long. For good reason, the departments started in the Universities continued and many of them are still extant.
Journalism itself is a comparatively new-generation faculty in India. The first schools of journalism were established in the U.S. in the early part of the 20th century. As stated before, The first University in the U.S. to start a Department of Journalism was the one in Missouri in 1908. It was soon followed by the Columbia University School of Journalism in New York in 1912. The 1960s saw the big proliferation of journalism education in many parts of the U.S., and we in Kerala were not far behind, because we established a Department in 1977. Soon other departments of journalism appeared in Calicut, Kannur, Kottayam and Mangalore, although Mysore, Bangalore, Chennai, Poona, Bombay and other prominent cities in the south and northwest had departments. Ahmedabad, Banaras, Berhampur, Bhopal, Bhubaneswar and other northern cities also had departments or schools of journalism. Assam, Mizoram, Shillong and Shimla have universities with Schools or Departments of communication and Journalism now.
We cannot escape the conclusion that communication and journalism have become important university subjects of education; and university/college-trained journalists are now occupying important positions in all branches of the media of communication. Some of our graduates from the Department of Communication & Journalism in Kariavattam are occupying prominent positions in big English and local language newspapers, radio and television. Our goal should be to send out well-trained media personnel to the far corners of this great country to take up social, political and economic issues of national importance and make our media more socially conscious and relevant, instead of making them copycats of media in other countries. Journalists and communicators in India have a special responsibility to use their education and talents to transform society for the economic, social, political and cultural development of the least and the lowest, the silent majority, and make more aware of their human rights and social responsibilities.
Communication studies occur in a hundred or more of the 600 universities of India. There will be greater scope for it, if it embraces more aspects of one-way communication—advertising, public relations, photography, advanced printing technologies, new and improved methods of broadcasting and telecasting, media business management, and the theoretical aspects of communication. But all our educational institutions, including departments of journalism should do all they can to preserve certain fundamental principles relating to equality of humans, human rights, respect for all religions. We should also strengthen our efforts at two-way communication that is gaining ground all over the world without becoming silent sufferers of inhuman wrongs perpetrated by certain powerful and advantaged sections of society that ignore the teachings of the great builders of India. And above all, our goal should be to use communication for better and more meaningful global human understanding and harmonious living on Planet Earth. Kerala journalists have a special responsibility in this because they belong to a State with the highest literacy, including media literacy and the highest media-diffusion in India, comparable even to the state of affairs in many advanced countries of the world.
The Department has succeeded in creating outstanding print journalists, ad film producers, radio and television programme producers, newspaper correspondents, TV and Radio discussants and participants, media researchers and executives, famous singers, film directors and even film actors! And the University is quite proud of all the alumni of the Department—from 1977 to 2016, a period of almost four decades!
**About the author
Former HOD, Dept. of Communication & Journalism (1982-1992),former Vice-Chancellor (1992-1996), and UGC Professor Emeritus (1996-1998), University of Kerala. He was a Senior Travel Fellow, Association of Commonwealth Universities (1985-86), London, and Adjunct Professor of Communication, Temple University, Philadelphia (1975-1982), Senior Visiting Lecturer, University of Pennsylvania, (1985-1986) and Visiting Professor at various universities in India, including those of Banaras, Bangalore, Berhampur, Bhubaneswar, Bhopal, Calicut, Dharwar, Kottayam, Mangalore, Madras, Mysore, etc. Some of his important books are: Mass Communication Basics, Kochi: Kerala Media Academy, 2014; Public Relations in India (SAGE, 2011) Mass Communication in India: A Sociological Perspective (SAGE, 2005); Growth and Development of Mass Communication in India (in English, Hindi, Marathi, Tamil), NBT, 2003; Advertising Basics (SAGE, 2004).[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]