DO you get inspired by the energetic faces of news presenters or newsmen having direct access to the power corridors and who’s who of India? It can be motivating for many but news business is far more complex and different from these popular images. In recent years, technology has been the driving force in changing the media in big way. As Pratap Somvanshi, Senior Resident Editor with Hindi daily Hindustan, describes, “We get breaking news on mobile phone, share it on web, look for visuals on TV and the same get documented by newspapers. The entire spectra of media are in a race to get hold of masses.”
Of course this entire business of news reporting creates demand for media person in various domains like reporting, editing, production and in varied areas of interests like sports, politics, crime etc. Before deciding to build a career in journalism, it is crucial to understand different platforms like print or electronic media and required skill sets.
Do you have it in you?
A postgraduate degree or diploma helps you to start your career as a journalist. Most of the universities and their affiliated colleges do offer such programmes but only few media schools like Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), Jamia Milia Islamia, Xavier’s and Asian School of Journalism are well recognized. Since media schools are in themselves hardly a two decade-old phenomenon, journalists have traditionally been recruited on the basic of some essential attributes. This profession does not require knowledge like rocket science but if one wishes to make a career in the information-driven industry like news media, he should invest on enhancing knowledge, in depth understanding of significant issues and writing skills.
Even today, deep down inside I still believe that I would be more comfortable doing print. The joy you get from a byline, for me at least, is a bigger high than on TV on a daily basis. Given a choice, I will still go for print. But print doesn’t pay as much as TV.
Anand Pradhan, Associate professor at IIMC, New Delhi says that to become a good journalist one must have good understanding of socio-economic profile of our country, developments after Independence, and prevailing political philosophies. Basic study of liberal arts, social science and science will help you to be a jack of all and master of at least one, which is very crucial in the making of a successful journalist. Nowadays media organisations demand skills like editing, camera, scripting from even a fresher. Considering the limited number of good media schools in India many aspiring journalists opt for the traditional way of learning on the job. But this start from scratch is not easy due to the requirement of enhanced skills from the beginning.
Glamour v/s Passion
The glamour attached to journalism is not the sole reality of the profession. A lot of struggle and diverse kind of challenges are embedded in media jobs. But an aspiring journalist should not be attracted to the field just because of its glamour quotient. Opt for media as a career only if you really enjoy it.
Aspirants should not forget hard realities of journalism. As it is believed to be a glamorous job, it has a lot of competition and getting a break is not that easy. Secondly, but for some exceptions even the best talent can’t expect IIT/IIM like salary packages. Along with this there is pressure to get the big story, that too under tight deadlines.
Devinder Sharma, food policy expert and ex-newsman of Indian Express says, “No doubt that journalism is an exciting profession but there are lots of pitfalls. Everyday you have to prove yourself. Missionary journalism has changed. Now market is dictating the media.”
Platforms & Profiles
Editorial department of a typical media organisation has two basic domains - input and output. ‘Input’ comprises reporters and writers working on different beats (areas) while ‘Output’ has the responsibility to make inputs presentable. In newspapers, it is called desk where a team of editors select stories from the input, decides on its placing and way of presentation. Both domains are led by experienced people who work in close coordination with the chief editor.
In reporting, side profiles start with trainee journalists who then graduate to senior reporters, special correspondents and bureau chiefs. On desk there are junior sub editor, chief sub editor, news editor, resident editor etc. In news channels output team members are called producers. Though basic skills are almost same there is some difference in reporting and desk jobs. Reporter is an outgoing person who keeps eyes on his beat, meet people and file news stories while deskmen should have better language skill and subject knowledge. Besides, photo journalist/cameraman, graphic designer and cartoonist are also important profiles.
“I always try to do ordinary work in an extraordinary way”
Charul Malik, Anchor at Star News
Across the media spectra like Print, TV and Online, division of functions is largely similar but required skills and ways of working have changed over a period of time. Ajit Anjum, Managing Editor of NEWS24 says, “Unlike Print, in TV a reporter is engaged not only in news gathering but also in later stages of packaging and presentation. That’s why TV reporter must also have visual sense and ability to express in a few words. In output, producers are expected to be creative, spontaneous and imaginative.” He adds that presently, there is a dearth of talent in TV. Still not many people are working hard to acquire desired skills. The 24x7 nature of the television news makes it imperative for media persons to be ready for putting work at odd hours. Anjum also points out that while reporters are only expected to be master of their beat, anchors are supposed to know something about anything and everything.
Good Old Radio
“This is All India Radio. The news read by...” is something that reverberates throughout the country even today. Nowadays the spunky FM channels have gained popularity on the back of music-based programmes. But news still remains the monopoly of the public service broadcaster, as of now. The news room in All India Radio functions in almost similarly like that of a television channel, though the technology and product delivery differ. The job profiles are also similar. AIR also offers ‘News-on-phone’ and a news portal. But beyond news, the private FM channels and even community radio offer openings for those trained in journalism.
Select journalism domains
Auto & tech
Features & lifestyle
Education & health
Multitasking and multimedia
Internet has brought a new era in journalism. Now with the help of social networking sites Internet is providing power of mass communication to individuals. Most of the established media houses recognize the power of web and are working hard to make a strong presence on the web. It has created lots of opportunities for budding journalists who are tech savvy.
Panini Anand, an experienced journalist of new media and editor of community news portal www.pratirodh.com feels that the increasing role of computer and mobile screen in life is creating demands for journalists capable of multitasking. They should have abilities of a reporter, editor, and anchor, all combined in one.
Survival of the fittest
In India the Print media is expanding through the vernacular press. Though India has only less than 10% of Internet penetration, still it translates to 120 million people. TV continues to grow with the number of channels reaching 800 in 2010, with almost half of it being news and current affairs channels. Number of FM radio stations is also on the rise. The demographic fundamentals also favour growth but survival in this age of competition is difficult, despite an expanding market space for all the segments.
Raju Naresetti, Managing Editor of WSJ’s digital network, says, "Journalism degrees you get from Indian universities are, even now, not worth the paper they are printed on – most of the faculty wouldn’t know what to do in a newsroom if they woke up in one." Read full interview here.
Never underestimate the power of a Tweet; politicians have fallen and revolutions have risen. The CEO of Sun Microsystems tweeted his resignation, and this made international headlines. Today, reporters tweet live updates using text and photographs, be it in war zones or at film award ceremonies. Journalists with a large number of followers, use Twitter to trigger off debates, gauge public opinion and capture trends. News tickers feature reader tweets and print publications, in their Editor pages. In this day and age, for any media professional, being both vigilant and engaging on a social media platform like Twitter, is not a must. But could be the smart thing to do. Some journalists who Tweet:
Pritish Nandy @ PritishNandy
Journalist, poet, painter. Makes films. Goes to Parliament when elected.
N. Ram @ nramind
Jeff Glekin @ jeffglekin
India columnist at Reuters Breakingviews. All views are my own. Links and retweets are not endorsements.
Special correspondent, The Pioneer
Popular as Gopi among his colleagues, Gopikrishnan recently won Ramnath Goenka Journalist of the Year Award after last year’s CNN-IBN Special Achievement Award for his series of stories on the 2G spectrum scam, which shook the UPA Government and led to the arrest of several political bigwigs. Gopi shares his views on careers in journalism.
Q: How rewarding is a career in journalism? In terms of money as well as job satisfaction?
A. Journalism should be a career for those who consider it as a passion, rather than making money. But unfortunately several youngsters opt for journalism as road to get glamour after the arrival of 24x7 TV channels. I agree that in this career there is an element of glamour and heroism. The fall of a journalist starts the moment he gets carried away by the ‘so-called’ glamour.
Q: What is it that media schools rarely teach but is very important to be a good journalist?
A. Now it is necessary to get training in every profession. Meanwhile we should also remember the fact that most of the famous journalists have a degree in Journalism. Journalism is an art of communicating to the world about the things happening around you. The famous quote of Lord Northcliffe is worth remembering: “News is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress; all the rest is advertising.” Of course, now there is a tendency to club Journalism with Corporate Communication. This is not fair though it is a fact that a degree in Journalism would help in getting jobs in heavily paying Corporate Communication and Public Relation jobs in private and public sector.
Q: What attributes and skills do you find important for a journalist?
A. While I was a student my teachers used to say, the Biblical character – Doubting Thomas must be the forefather of journalists. Searching for truth and taking stands for humanity should be the core ideal of every journalist and for that you have to doubt and cross check each and every one and every fact before you publish.
Q: What’s your advice to budding journalists?
A. Humility and listening to all should be the basic quality, added with courage to carry forward. It is a profession for the fearless who can tell the truth with courage. Take on the wrong doers but without a trace of arrogance, always be polite to others.
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