Posted by Jane Bentley
Emerging from Chennai airport after flying 5000 miles in comfort with Emirates is a shock to the system, I’ll admit.
It’s 40 degrees for one thing. That’s f.o.r.t.y, my iPad displaying a worrying deep red colour when the temperature app boots up. But look past the predictable heat, noise and chaos that you expect on arriving in India and there are more similarities with Cardiff than you might think.
For one thing, a super stadium in the heart of the city is home to their own sporting icons. The Chennai Super Kings cricket team are Indian Premier League (IPL) champions and global megastars, who stare down from giant billboards all over the city, much like our Welsh heroes Warburton and Halfpenny.
Then there’s Chennai’s own St David’s 2 – a huge, sparkly shopping centre called Express Mall – where the city’s well-to-do can splurge on designer brands and sip skinny lattes.
And finally ACJ, the Asian College of Journalism, a respected and influential J-school that trains up next-gen journos in TV, radio, print and new media. And this is the main reason I’ve been catapulted here from Bute building.
Jomec has had a collaborative course running with ACJ for the past three years, but this was the first time we’d been invited to teach a short course in magazine making.
Every summer ACJ students specialising in print, TV & radio and new media can apply to come to Cardiff to complete their MA dissertation projects, with supervision from tutors here. Their courses match our own PGT journalism courses so the ‘twinning’ process works remarkably well. Plus the students manage to achieve good standards here, while taking advantage of everything Wales has to offer!
This spring, however, a new opportunity presented itself when ACJ’s dean of studies Dr Nalini Rajan invited myself and Tim Holmes over to teach an elective on magazines.
“Could we fit in two weeks?” she wondered…
We didn’t need much persuading. After some reshuffling and sharing of duties here we managed to squeeze in a 7-day mini magazine course during the April recess.
And so, with the ink still fresh on our visas and suitcases full of USB sticks, Powerpoints and print-outs, we jetted off to the breezy coastal city formerly known as Madras.
Hands-on hard work
In order to cram in the required units of teaching we tag-teamed an intensive week of ‘magazine-ness’ with 26 students pulled from across the various media strands. Days started early (for them) at 9am and consisted of lecture-workshops plus group and individual work throughout the day.
As well as creating the print magazines, they also had to create a development blog documenting the process and adding in multimedia elements. This maximized the skills of the students from new media courses who could add value to the print products.
So both groups took to Tumblr to create their behind-the-scenes narratives. Highlights include a making of video, a 4-D travel article made with Meograph, and an annotated front cover created with Thinglink.
Despite hitches such as incompatible PDFs, the lack of printers and ever-present mosquitos, the professionalism of the students was incredible. They rose to the challenge and relished all the quirky design, fresh story angles and creative treatments that ‘magazines’ do so well. And their feedback after the week? Mainly that the course should be longer…
So will Cardiff be willing to loan us out next year?