Thursday, June 28, 2012

Culture of Discourse in the Media Sphere

Yam Bahadur Dura
'Knowledge is power'.  This world famous quote by Sir Fancis Bancon, an English author and philosopher (1561-1626), speaks itself about the importance of knowledge.
 Knowledge makes people aware of what's going on around them.  It gives people better understanding of both spiritual and worldly matters. The more knowledge we have got, the more advanced and insightful we can become.  That's why knowledge is so important in our lives.
Media sphere - one of the sections of knowledge industry - has a lot to do with knowledge. It makes its livelihood by selling information and knowledge. Its main traction is knowledge. Media sphere is one of the players of 'knowledge economy ' and it is a prolific industry in this modern era.
Last year, I had got an opportunity of attending annual conference of Association for Education Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) in St. Louis, the USA. The four-day long (August 10-14, 2011) conference made me realize that media sphere needs a higher level of discourse for its own wellbeing. This year, the AEJMC is going to celebrate its '100th anniversary' on August 9-12, 2012 in Chicago.
I found the AEJMC conference to be special in terms of discourse regarding different subject matters of media sphere. At the conference, I met so many well-dressed gentlemen and high-heeled ladies with depth of knowledge. They were media educators, media practitioners, well-known authors, communication experts and researchers and were discussing on different aspects of journalism, social media, teaching pedagogy, mass communication and media industry.
A wide variety of papers were presented at the conferences.  Constructive and lively discussions were going on. Paper presenters were bombarded with questions and comments. But, there was no personal attack, no subjective comment. Their dealings and behaviors were really and truly professional, which were guided towards the discourse on different aspects of media sphere. 
At the conference, along with many Americans, I met some Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian students who were PhD students at different universities in the USA. I met those Americans who had already visited Nepal were willing to talk about Nepal. Among them, I met one American lady who could speak in Nepali. In a nutshell, they all were knowledge hungry people.
 Several parallel sessions were going on. There was nothing in the field of media that had not been discussed at the conference. Everything under the sun was talked about at the conference. I thought this is the right way to make the points clear, and this is how we can we make better understanding among ourselves.
The conference has given me an opportunity of evaluating myself and media landscape of my country. I felt that I have got a long way to go and I am yet to brush up my caliber in my field that I am associated with, and so is the case with media landscape of my country.
Like other areas of knowledge industry, media industry (sphere) also needs a wider horizon of knowledge for its better understanding and better functioning. 
My perception is that Nepali media sphere - media educators, media practitioners, and media entrepreneurs - lacks culture of discourse.  The culture of discourse assists to minimize differences and to bridge gaps and to develop a sense of consensus. It creates an environment of openness, wherein everyone's voice can be heard. This is part and parcel of a democratic society as well.
 Martin Chautari , an organization mastering in media research and discourse, has been making some efforts  to break silence by organizing 'media conference' every year since 2010 in Nepal. This is a laudable job. However, this is not enough and is like a drop in the ocean. We need to scale up such activities that promote the culture discourse in the media sphere.
Higher level of discourse can open up avenues for knowledge.  The more we share our knowledge, the more we get benefitted ourselves. The more we interact, the more we get enlightened. The more enlightened people are there in the society, the more happy and peaceful society we construct.
The culture of discourse generates knowledge and consensus, which are essential for the betterment of everyone. It hampers no one but creates informed citizenry. This can paint a rosy picture of Nepali media sphere and that of Nepali society. Let's promote the culture of discourse for everyone's wellbeing.

[Courtesy: Media Newsletter (July, 2012)]