Breaking news and headlines in any media captures the attention of the public, spurs debates and sometimes ends up being an important landmark in history. Everyone understands the importance of news dissemination. Hence you have community/ nieghbourhood newspapers, B2B mags besides the usual potpourri of daily/weekly newspapers, tabloids etc. This has also extended to our campuses – all of us would have contributed something, be it paintings, story, poems or a news report, to our college/ school newsletters. It was a matter of pride to get published in your campus journal. These very journals, though, have undergone a sea change – they are no longer the testing ground of students’ writing skills. Most of them take their role in college seriously. With current affairs, hard news reportage and analyses of college policies, these journals mirror our daily newspapers and offer a better understanding of students’ perspectives than any talking head.
With three/four issues every academic year, VJ News was started in 2009 at Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute (VJTI), Mumbai, with the sole purpose of reaching out to the students. The eight-pager is distributed to students free of cost and an online PDF version is sent to the faculty and alumni. “We are also responsible for maintaining the college’s decorum. So there is indeed a certain set of basic rules that we follow,” says Smit Mehta, a second-year mechanical engineering student and chief executive editor of the paper. The paper functions under the Debate and Literary Arts (DLA) society of the institute, thus the general secretary of DLA automatically becomes the chief editor, who then appoints a deputy editor. The two will then select the team. Stories that are directly related to VJTI like collaborations, conferences, fests, profile of an eminent alumni, student and faculty achievements and awards are published in the paper. Since there is a gap of two months between each consecutive issue, the students find it easy to manage studies and work for VJ News.
The website of VJ News has student chapters for all first-year students. It publishes information about the college, faculty, infrastructure, societies, committees, etc. This is a marketing strategy that they adopt to introduce the paper to new students. Since they have a website, social networking sites are used only for informing students of upcoming events, seminars and conferences. The team has a meeting once a month and decided a theme for the coming issue. Smit explains that the first issue every academic year is always an introductory issue. They publish all the new rules, policy, issues, courses, details on students who are in training or are placed.
The paper is distributed throughout the college by the members of DLA during their breaks and is completely funded by the college. VJ News has an average readership of more than 3,000, which increases to 4,500 during VJTI’s national-level fests. Major issues have not been covered in this three-year-old paper, as there aren’t any, claims Smit. He says, “The institute has a grievances’ cell through which students submit any issues or problems that they face. This has been very effective.”
Khalid Jaleel joined Jamia Millia Islamia University, Delhi, in 2010 to pursue a MA in political science. He saw that there was no communication channel in the college and each department was its own island. With no credible source of information, rumours spread and he felt the need to do something about this than just complain. “The idea of me walking into the VC’s office and asking them to start a college newsletter, as I felt there was a strong and urgent need for one, seemed impractical. The only option was for me to start an independent student journal,” says Jaleel, who is currently reading for his PhD in political science.
Two years since its inception, Jamia Journal (JJ) is a popular website among students with almost 4,000 visitors a month, 612 subscribers for their Facebook page and more than 50 followers on Twitter.
Jaleel proudly says, “There are almost 15,000 students in the university and every student who has access to internet knows about JJ. We do not advertise the journal on campus due to a strict policy in the university, but it has proved itself to be very effective.” JJ has a group of voluntary writers. It does not receive any financial help and serves as a platform for students to express themselves. He opines that this opportunity and the ability to express oneself is a reward in itself. “Aspiring writers hone their skills and have fun as it is a completely student run enterprise,” he says.
Campus reports on seminars, student activities, profiles, opinion pieces, human interest stories, movie and book reviews and poems are published. Student democracy is a major issue as the university banned the student’s union in 2006. This is regularly raised in JJ. Opinionated pieces on politics and social issues are the most read and most contributed sections of the journal. JJ keeps away from criticising an individual professor, but if there is a problem with the whole administration, it will publish an article on the issue. Coordination happens through emails and Facebook.
Though JJ members have enough freedom to cover all campus news, it does not receive any support from the university. “Our efforts are highly appreciated by the administration and faculty, but only in the form of words,” says Jaleel. All expenses for the journal are borne by Jaleel and to strike a balance between work and study is a problem as he takes care of the entire technical work. Running an independent journal is self-taught through trial and error, observes Jaleel.
With a simple motive to let everyone know ‘what’s happening inside the college’, Monday Morning (MM) was initiated as an e-newsletter at NIT Rourkela in 2006. Campus news, departmental news, alumni, interviews, debates, training and placement tips are a part of MM. Says Raunak Thomas, a third-year BTech student and one of the chief coordinators, “MM has always helped in bringing out the right on to limelight. The newly constructed Vikram Sarabhai Hall of residence had a lot of issues. We highlighted these issues again and again until there was no more water shortage, good LAN ports, etc.”
Balancing work and study is easy for the 35 members as they devote three-four hours to MM daily. The members also treat this job more as a hobby than obligation. Sunil Kumar Sarangi, director of NIT, uses MM to communicate his ideas on a regular basis. Raunak says, “The director has always been supportive and instrumental for our growth. We have not criticised anyone more openly than him but he has never missed a single interview for the column, ‘Director’s Desk’.” MM has a faculty advisor who makes sure that the issue is published on time, but the college on no account enforces censorship of any kind and allocates `20,000 annually for the newsletter. With almost 8,000 hits per week, Placement Life and Director’s Desk are the most read columns. They also have sections like ‘Discuss Section’ and ‘India and World’ which carries informative articles on non-campus news. Lectures, foreign tours, internship tips/opportunities for students, fresher’s day and other events are reported.
MM’s singular success has been is helping the institute overcome a lot of internal issues. “We ran an article on child abuse in the mess at one of our residential halls last year. The chief warden immediately checked every mess so that children under the age of 14 are not employed,” he informs. Anti-professor tirades do no find much space in the paper, as the students don’t face any major problem with the faculty.
Both in print and online, DU Beat proves to be an effective means of communication for students of Delhi University (DU). With an editorial team of 25 from different colleges under DU, the journal maintains a balanced perspective to suit all students. Says Urvi Gupta, editor and third-year economics honours student, “We are an independent news journal and have the freedom to experiment with different writing styles and types of stories.” The eight-page weekly focuses on news on campus such as student union elections, rallies, events, cultural programmes, fresher parties and fests. Opinionated pieces on national and international issues are published. Investigative reports and discussions on sports is also a part of DU Beat. Reports on status of medical facilities, effectiveness of counselling and other serious issues are investigated by the students.
“The journal is famous for ‘Sex Amma’ which is a question and answer column about sex and relationships. The column has been famous since its inception in 2007 as it combines humour and sex,” says Urvi. The journal is kept interactive as stories are updated on the website every day and an online debate is held weekly. The stories are also linked to their Facebook page that has received more than 6,000 likes. The story ideas, selection and research is all done by the editorial team with a weekly meeting to decide the stories.
Dhaval Gupta, director of DU Beat and marketing head says “Funding comes from the university. We also have tie-ups with organisations like Cool Age and AIESEC. We also partner with college fests and conferences to gain more publicity.” DU Beat has brought students across the university together. Everyone gets to know what is happening at each college and are confident that the authorities will be informed of student grievances through the journal.
The Fourth Estate
The campus magazine of IIT-Madras, The Fourth Estate was started in 2000. They cover all campus news, write articles on different subjects, publish interviews and accomplish the aim of a college magazine, which is to deliver information to students. The magazine is managed by an editorial team and other students can also contribute stories. Articles on local, national and international issues are delivered with humour and wit. Feature articles on life at the institute, stories on JEE, women-related articles, stories on cars and gadgets, interviews of authors, CEOs and industrialists are published. One can also read opinionated pieces on current education-related issues. The online news portal is called The Fifth Estate and runs along the same line as the campus magazine. It has popular columns like campus placements, internship stories, travelogue and exclusive interviews. The column, Summer stories online is like a blog where students write about their travels, has fun articles with student’s opinion and internship stories. Interviews of Senapathy ‘Kris’ Gopalakrishnan, co-chairman of Infosys, Dr Dhananjaya Dendukuri, chief executive officer and founder of Achira Labs (a Bangalore-based start-up), Phaneesh Murthy, IIT-M alumnus and CEO of iGate Patni, eminent IIT alumni and IIT professors have also been published.
The Scholar's Avenue
With a vibrant campus life, balancing work and study is a not a problem for the editorial team of The Scholar’s Avenue (TSA), the official newspaper of IIT-Kharagpur (IIT-KGP). Issues of national importance like naxalism and the Kashmir crisis have been featured in the paper. With eight issues every academic year, TSA has a readership of 8,000. “We are eagerly followed by students and faculty alike as we are the only significant media body on campus. Students look to us to cover any important happening/issue on campus and any disagreements find a strong voice in the paper,” says Chirag Tibrewal, a final-year student and chief executive editor of TSA.
All the fourth years in the 32-member team automatically get appointed as editors and fifth-year students become executive editors. Anybody can volunteer to work with TSA and there is no proper hierarchy. Campus happenings, analysis and reports of various activities such as inter-hall dramatics, sports and other competitions that take place throughout the year find a place in paper. Bhaat Avenue and Guest Avenue are the most popular columns. The team also conducts surveys and acts as a ‘party organ’ during campus elections by posting videos and campaign notices on website. “We don’t have a regular section for students to contribute their article in print, but we do have an internship blog for students. There is also a plan to start a comprehensive opinion blog by inviting articles from students,” says Chirag.
The team mostly works online with a Google group that serves the purpose of general discussion. Story ideas and work allocation is firmed up during a monthly meeting. Distribution is done through the local newspaper vendor to students on campus and e-copies are sent to alumni all over the world. He says, “We have a popular YouTube channel where we upload videos of on-campus events, right from creative competitions to election speeches. The latter has gone viral, putting us on the ‘top channels’ list during the peak season.” Chirag also informs us that the student response has been encouraging as this has become a platform for all events and important happenings on campus. They have a Facebook page with more than 5,000 likes. Disagreements and criticism are voiced strongly and seriously. Though students have more flexibility and scope for creative output, motivating everyone and ensuring that they achieve significant coverage is still a challenge.