J-Term 2022: The Media, Climate Change and Other Calamities

Bhaktapur, Nepal Earthquake Destruction

Kunda Dixit, publisher of the Nepali Times, explains the role of media coverage during natural disasters in his J-Term 2022 class at NYU Abu Dhabi.

The publisher of one of the largest English-language publications in Nepal, Kunda Dixit goes in-depth on the importance of his latest J-Term class titled “The Media, Climate Change and Other Calamities.”

During the class students will analyze coverage in the mass media of disasters: both sudden catastrophes and slow-moving crises. They will examine how the social web is transforming the way citizens receive, disseminate and react to information.

“My course is really multidisciplinary, and I am a journalist. So I hope to give students an opportunity to test and taste a broad range of subjects including how the media functions, the role of social media, and the urgency of addressing the climate emergency and other global calamities,” Dixit said.  

Students will look back at calamities through human history, and how technology has determined the way the world got to know about them. While earthquakes and floods are natural, death from disasters are often human-induced.

The media, Dixit said, can make this distinction, and function as an early warning system, but does not do such a good job.

He says he tries to illustrate that concept with examples from the real world. He says the way in which disasters were covered in the past were all determined by the kind of communication technology that was available at the time.

This concept allows students to understand the role of media during these disasters and the role the media can play in not only covering the event but also serving as a source to save lives.  

As for J-Term and being back in class, he said many of his students were excited to be back to in-person education. 

“They had missed being in a classroom face-to-face with other students and the teacher. And since we are also taking up different forms of communication as part of the syllabus, they have got to understand first-hand the limitations of mediated interaction,” he said. 

The class will ask students several questions. How can the media better address global emergencies like the climate crisis, or future pandemics so that society is better prepared ? The media needs to push justice and equity in its own response, but is restricted by journalism rules. How can the attention span of the media and the lifespan of stories be extended? What to do about disinformation and fake news? What can be the role of communication in inducing urgent, inter-generational human behavior change to address threats to the biosphere during the anthropocene?  

Students will interact with other NYUAD J-Term courses in Abu Dhabi, go on field trips, read books, watch recent films, and hear speakers on Himalayan ecology, culture, and climate impact. Here is a conversation with the world-renowned journalist. 

“The exposure of J-Term helps open many doors: academic, personal. Students hopefully get a better sense of what they want to do, what they want to specialize in, and after learning about the various kinds of crises that the world faces, see how they can help find solutions from their chosen fields,” the Nepali journalist said