Future of journalism depends on adaptation, professionalism: Dr Arefin

As the media has changed rapidly with the expansion of technology and social media, a media expert says the future of journalism depends on how journalists are trying to catch up with the changes and know their audiences.

In an interview with UNB, former Vice-Chancellor of Dhaka University (DU) Professor AMS Arefin Siddique said journalists must face the challenges of the 21st century with their professional spirit and the basic values of journalism.

He suggested the universities offering journalism and mass communication courses to upgrade their syllabuses and curricula so that the students can cope with the changing media environment. “Adaptation is important.”

Authenticity vital

Dr Arefin, also a former teacher of DU’s Mass Communication and Journalism department, said presenting facts and authentic information immediately is now the main challenge for the mass media.

“The media has to be faster in collecting information and processing it by its desk and making it presentable for readers and viewers as social media circulate information within seconds,” he observed.

Dr Arefin said social media can disseminate content directly but the mass media cannot do that without crosschecking it. “As the crude oil is refined in a refinery, crude information must be refined by the news desk of mass media for upholding the credibility and authenticity.”

He said social media creates sensation with unverified information, but mass media cannot confuse people using the social media information. “Social media can circulate information faster, but it can’t outsmart the mass media only because of authenticity. Journalists must follow the basics of journalism to overcome the challenges of social media and technology.”

Training must

Dr Arefin said the number of online portals continues to increase in the country so does the number of unskilled journalists. “It’s necessary to train those unskilled journalists so that they can perform their professional duties with accuracy and objectivity.”

Describing journalism as a discipline of verification where every skill matters, the ex-DU VC said journalists always work for finding and presenting facts.

“Despite having various limitations, I think most of our mainstream media outlets are playing their due role nicely. But we still have serious limitations about using the technology in journalism. We also lack enough, skilled, trained and experienced journalists to rightly verify information. So, we need to focus on training and education on journalism and in-house training for the media workers,” Dr Arefin said.

He said once there was only one state-owned television channel and radio station in Bangladesh. “Now there’re so many private TV and radio channels alongside many newspapers and online portals. “But most of our universities have prepared their courses and curricula considering the challenges and reality in the 20th century. We need to improve those by including many new things.”

Dr Arefin said the curricula of Dhaka University’s Mass Communication and Journalism department is being updated every year to connect students with the latest situation. “Still, there’s a room for improvement.”

He said all the journalism departments in other universities should focus on the expansion of information and communication technology in updating and modernising their courses and curricula.

Grammar hardly changes

“We’ve to keep in mind that changes may come in a language, but its grammar remains almost the same. When it comes to journalism, there may be changes in news presentation with the expansion of technology, but there's no option to budge even an inch from objectivity, accuracy, fairness and gravity under any situation at any age.”

He said fake news and alternative facts have now become a hot topic for discussions. “But news can never be fake... confusions have been created by adding fake to any news. We can call some information as news or unfact or disinformation. We’ll have to examine news as per its definition and grammar.”

Text to prevail

Dr Arefin said there has been much attraction to visual journalism today, but the importance of text has not waned. “There’s a division among the readers and viewers as many of them give importance to visual content while the others, especially the serious ones, still value texts. So, the media should give focus on both visual and text contents taking into account the readers and viewers.”

He suggested journalists remain aware of the distortion of photos and ensure their authentic messages. “We know a picture is worth a thousand words. So, the consequences of distortion of a picture in society are huge. There’s a relation between context and content in journalism. When there’s a gap between the context and content the readers can be confused."

In this age of Photoshop, the expert said checking distortion of photos is a serious challenge for journalism. “We know a picture tells the truth, but when the message of the picture is distorted it can mislead the readers. So, journalists should have knowledge about how to check the distortion of photos. There’s also a technical facility to stop the abuse of Photoshop.”

Press freedom

Dr Arefin said there is a direct relation between democracy and the mass media, and there is no alternative to strong media presence to strengthen democracy.

“Press freedom has been snatched at different times in Bangladesh, especially during the rule of military and autocratic rulers. “In terms of number, all types of mass media have increased significantly now in Bangladesh…the government has also taken different measures, including enacting the Digital Security Act (ICT), to stop the abuse of the ICT,” he said.

Dr Arefin said journalists have a reservation and different opinions about the act. “I think no act or law should be a barrier to journalism. This act should be applied for only those who try to confuse people abusing the ICT. If journalists present any information without any bad intention maintaining the ethics of journalism, but it creates some sort of repercussion among people, and they should not be tried under the Digital Security Act.”

Source: United News of Bangladesh


How Boibondhu's open-air book trade festival bonded readers in a February without Boi Mela

February is known as the month celebrating the love for language, with occasions like the International Mother Language Day and signature events like Amar Ekushey Book Fair. Despite the absence of the fair this year as it has been shifted to March due to the pandemic, a unique day-long event has quenched the thirst of the book-lovers in the city.

Boibondhu, a voluntary organization dedicatedly working to spread the practice of reading among the netizens, organized a day-long book exchange event at the Rabindra Sarobar, Dhanmondi this past Friday (Feb 26, 2021), which was joined by an unimaginable number of book-lovers from morning to dusk.

Describing the special event to UNB, Moheuddin Toha, coordinator of the Boibondhu Library, said that the event exceeded their target of exchanging 1,000 books among the book-lovers, which ended up recording over 15,000 books at the event titled "Boibondhur Sathe Boi Binimoy Utsob" (Books Exchange Festival with Boibondhu).

Boibondhu book festival Dhanmondi

"Our free, open-air book exchange festival at Rabindra Sarobar received an overwhelming response from the book-lovers who brought books from their collections to donate to the number of books on the display at the open ground and in exchange to that, they choose their desired books from the displayed collections," Toha described the festival format to UNB.

"We had a total of 1,800 books reserved in our display at the venue which was available for exchange, and we allotted 10 books each to exchange between each other. Our initial target was to record the exchanging of 1,000 books, however, thanks to the unbelievable number of participants at the day-long event which we organized just within a few days, we astonishingly recorded that more than 15,000 books were exchanged," Toha informed this correspondent.

A dynamic team of 75 volunteers ensured health safety guidelines at the unique open-air festival, assisting the crowd with hand-sanitizers and instructions to use face-masks, which almost 80 to 90 percent of the crowd properly followed, according to Toha. They also provided the crowd with tokens which allowed per person to exchange 10 books between each other and recorded the numbers.

open-air book festival

Despite being arranged within a considerably short period of planning, the day-long event got publicity over the internet through its similar-titled Facebook event. "I came to know about the festival from the event and came here with my friends. Although we thought of a minimized number of crowd, it is refreshing to see this huge amount of people here today, for the love of books," Raisa Tabassum, a college student, shared her experience to UNB.

Suzana Afreen Oishee, a student of Viqarunnesa Noon College who came to attend the festival from Jatrabari, said, "I am very excited and happy to see the amusing environment of the book-lovers in this kind of event, arranged for the first time in our country."

Maintaining patience in the large line of people, book-lovers joined the festival to hand over their favorite books to other book-lovers. "Though it is hard for me to exchange these beloved books of mine, which I sincerely adored - I have no regret to join this sort of unique activity and the jovial festival. Looking to collect exciting books from others, as well," Abdullah Usama, a student of Northern Medical, told UNB.

Boibondhu book trade festival

Not only the students, but the festival was also joined by many teachers, scholars, and guardians as well. Laila Arjumand Banu, a lecturer at the Department of Architecture, University of Science & Technology came to the festival with her daughter and shared her experience to UNB: "My elder daughter who is a student of Adamjee Cantonment Public School and College and younger daughter who is a student of class five and the Mohammadpur Preparatory School and College got to know about this festival from the Facebook event. We had many exchangeable books at our home which they brought here and exchanged with other book-lovers."

Moheuddin Toha told UNB that a small portable box-library was also established at the premises of Rabindra Sarobar during the inauguration ceremony on Friday, which will be there for the regular visitors. Boibondhu is aiming to set up similar libraries at 33 parks around Dhaka city, he informed.

The voluntary organization has been dedicatedly working to establish libraries across the country, a total of 53 till this reporting, which they started with an aim to spread the love of reading among the netizens since January 2018.

Boibondhu open book festival

So far, Boibondhu has established several mobile libraries at more than 35 buses in the city, a hospital at Agargaon in the capital, a community library at Kamalapur in the city for a community of transgender, and 3 saloons in 3 districts across the country. All these projects are voluntary and funded by volunteers, according to Toha.

With the success of the event that has received an overwhelming participation of people of all ages and all walks of life, Boibondhu is now aiming to initiate this festivity in other parts of the country, starting with Chittagong in March.

"As it was initiated for the first time, we had to face some difficulties in the process. Thanks to the participators, the event has inspired book-lovers in other districts and we are preparing to arrange the festival in Chittagong next month." Toha informed UNB.

E-commerce site Evaly, online book-selling platform Rokomari dot com, private fm radio station Radio Today and television channel DBC partnered with this day-long festival.

Source: United News of Bangladesh