During the Festival of Learning week, the UNESCO Chair in Community Based Research & Social Responsibility in Higher Education (based at PRIA) was invited to attend the All India Media Educators Conference 2016, held on April 22nd, 2016 at Amity University in Jaipur. This was the second such conference organized in Jaipur by the Prof Sanjeev Bhanawat, Head of Department, Faculty of Mass Communications at University of Rajasthan, and Shri Kalyan Singh Kothari – an experienced media professional from Jaipur city, in collaboration with Amity University. Prof Budd Hall was the keynote speaker and Dr Rajesh Tandon the lead panelist for one of three plenary sessions, entitled ‘Knowledge Democracy and Ethics: Implications for Media Professionals and Educators’.
With more than 500 participants from 16 different states in India, from the fields of media studies and communication, media professionals and representatives from civil society, as well as educators and Vice Chancellors of three universities, the event held promise of being significant in addressing challenges and needs of Media Ethics and Responsibility in Social Development, which was the theme for the 3-day-conclave.
The delay in arrival of one of the chief guests for the inaugural session, gave an opportunity to Dr Tandon and Prof Hall for interacting with some of the panelists and Vice Chancellors. Dr Tandon and Prof Hall set the tone of the session, by changing the power dynamics between the speakers and the audience by bringing the conversation amidst the people on the other side of the dias. True to ‘participatory principles’, the tone of the discussion evolved from dreary to energetic over the short span of one hour. Needless to say, the audience was enthralled by this new and refreshing mode of engaging with experts! The other panelists in the plenary session included Professor Dhawankar from Nagpur University’s Department of Journalism Mass Communication, and BK KarunaBhai from Mount Abu’s Brahma Kumari Ashram.
While both Dr Tandon and Prof Hall stressed upon the keen importance of indigenous knowledge and validating people’s experiences in the form of knowledge democracy, Prof Hall also brought into perspective the important notion of respect being integral to being an ethical person. Dr Tandon, artistically wove Prof Hall’s words in a narrative on social change and knowledge gaps, and as a result, drew not only several claps and accolades from the audience but also left faculty students and media professionals with a new lens for perceiving their responsibility in the age of ‘information overload’.
Other speakers at the conference also spoke about the consequences of ‘citizen journalism’ in the new digital age of publishing information (or misinformation) globally with the easy click of a button; the learning that ‘actions have consequences’ should instill balance in reporting, and that if presenting a ‘byte’ a ‘counter-byte’ should also be supplied in the interest of steering clear of bias. However, as Prof Hall remarked over a cup of coffee, ‘which issues in social development are limited to only two sides?’