Seven Questions
The Seven Questions Project, a brainchild of Tom Mangan, is an effort to turn the tables on journalists and ask them questions.
Sreenath Sreenivasan is an associate professor of journalism at Columbia University, where he teaches in the new media and broadcast departments. He's also co-founder of the South Asian Journalists Association, a group of 500 South Asian journalists across the U.S. and Canada. March 30, 1999
1 Share something about university students that never ceases to amaze you.
That they are willing to make enormous sacrifices of money, time and family obligations to LEARN. Most of them are not here to simply get a degree, they want to acquire new skills, think about our biz and STUDY.
2 What gives your new media students the most trouble?
Pacing themselves to meet the extra deadlines required in new media. Most are hardened print or broadcast journalists accustomed to banging things out at the last minute. But with new media, there's a whole layer of early, internal deadlines, "beta testing" and quality assurance that needs to be done.
3 What does a student get at Columbia that isn't available anywhere else?
To earn a master of science degree in journalism in nine months. Nine hectic, crazed months. Nine truly rewarding months.
4 With digital media technology evolving so quickly, how do you make sure you will know more about it than your students?
There's no way to make sure that happens. In fact, some of our students are real experts in certain fields, and they bring their knowledge to our class discussions, improving our knowledge base tremendously. An example: One student this year is doing his master's thesis on the new MP3 music format. There is no way I can know more than him about this topic, nor do I wish to. But we turn to him whenever we want to understand this new technology.
5 You've had a lot of prominent guests at the meetings of the South Asia Journalists Association. Name one among them you'd really like to invite back, and tell why.
I would love to have James W. Michaels back. Michaels, the recently retired editor of Forbes magazine, spoke to our group in January 1995. As a young wire service reporter, he worked in South Asia, covering the independence of the region from Britain, and he beat the competition to the news of Mahatma Gandhi's assassination. Over the following decades, he has visited the Subcontinent several times, watching its transformation. When he visited with us, he was able to talk eloquently about South Asia and his other experiences as a business editor. But I'd like him back now because the post-retirement Michaels should have even more interesting tales to tell about things he couldn't quite say before.
6 What would Americans who have next to no knowledge of India be most surprised to learn about it?
That most troubleshooting for US long-distance calls happens instantly via satellite in the Indian operations of the phone companies. Or that Freddie Mercury of Queen was Indian (he was of the Parsi faith).
7 Tell about an aspect of life in India that you wish could be packed up and shipped to New York City.
Hmmm, that's a tough one. Perhaps "autorickshaws," the three-wheeled scooters-on-steroids that offer an alternative to more expensive taxis. They are small and can zip along at about 15 miles an hour: perfect for rush-hour Manhattan.
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Copyright 1998, Thomas L. Mangan